Are tattoos against God’s will or not? It seems like this question is becoming more and more prevalent. However, unfortunately there is no cut and dry answer. There may be those of you who say ‘but what about the law God gave to Moses in Leviticus 19:28 where it clearly states that “You shall not… tattoo yourselves.”’ Surely that is a cut and dry answer? Yes, for the Israelites in the time of Moses and before the time of Jesus, that was the answer.
For God’s people in that time, it was God’s law that his people shall not tattoo themselves. In the old testament God pursues his holy nation and woes them into being holy, setting themselves apart from all other tribes and traditions. Coincidently, tattooing yourself was a practice observed by the Canaanites at this time. God what his people to be blameless, spotless, holy.
God still requires us to be holy as we read in Leviticus 11:44 and then again in 1 Peter 1:16 “Be holy, because I am holy”. We as New Testament (NT) believers have something that the Israelites did not have Jesus and his fulfilment of the law. For many NT believers this law still holds true and should be observed, however there are those who believe that Jesus has set NT believers free of the legalism of the law, in fact John sees Jesus in a vision where it sure seems like he has a tattoo, look at number 4 in our list.
We have compiled a list of scriptures that speak on tattoos:
1. Leviticus 19:28 ESV
You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord.
2. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
3. 1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
4. Revelation 19:16 ESV
On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
5. Ephesians 5:10 ESV
And try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.
6. 1 Corinthians 10:23 ESV
“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.
7. Deuteronomy 14:1 ESV
“You are the sons of the Lord your God. You shall not cut yourselves or make any baldness on your foreheads for the dead.
8. Romans 1:24 ESV
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,
9. James 4:14 ESV
Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
10. Psalm 139:1-24 ESV
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
Whether you believe that the Old Testament law against tattoos should still be obeyed, or that Jesus has set us free of the legalism of the law and through him we appear spotless and blameless before God. The most important thing to remember is that each and every one of us has a personal relationship with God.
It is in this relationship where God will tell us what he wants from each of us. On a personal level. If it so happens that the Lord has told you to abstain from getting your body tattooed, then that is what he requires from you. From someone else he might want them to get a tattoo, in order to be used in the way and place that the Lord needs to use them for his Glory. We must at all times remember that each person is on a journey with God and we are not to judge their journey or relationship with God.