Q: #108. Is it a sin to have a tattoo?
By: Steve Shirley
A: There are several places in the Bible that appear to say this is wrong. Two of the more prominent are:
(Lev 19:28) Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord. (Most other translations say "put tattoo marks on yourselves" instead of "print any marks.")
(Deut 14:1) Ye are the children of the Lord your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes.
The main reason why God apparently condemned this practice of tattooing one's skin was because it was done by the heathen and pagan people around them. He also did not want them to practice "cutting" one's skin, which was also done (See: 1 Kin 18:28 for an example). God wanted His people to be totally separate from the godless people that surrounded them and their customs.
There are some people who believe that when the Bible says people should not "cut or mark their skin," it isn't referring to tattoos like we have today. I do not believe history bears this out.
I also think these points should be considered as far as getting a tattoo.
Our body is the Temple of the Lord (1 Cor 3:16-17)(1 Cor 6:19-20)(2 Cor 6:16). Should we deface that Temple by putting tattoos on it?
God uniquely created each of us just the way we are. It seems to me that if we feel we need to tattoo ourselves to make us look better somehow, we aren't totally happy with the body God gave us.
We are told to do ALL for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31)(Col 3:17,23). Is God glorified in tattooing?
Tattooing tends to draw attention to oneself, and I believe the Bible teaches we should always be trying to put attention on God and not on us. (This also includes such things as flashy jewelry, provocative clothing, etc...)
Do some non-Christians we are trying to reach consider tattooing evil or wrong? I certainly believe so. Should we do something that could potentially harm our witness? (1 Thess 5:22) Abstain from all appearance of evil.
I know there are some who believe that getting tattoos is possibly a way to get an opening to witness to people who may tend to have them more (i.e. bikers, gang members, etc...). I guess this is possible, but I would also ask the question, "Did Jesus change His appearance to reach people?" I see no evidence of this in the Bible. Jesus' words and actions were what changed lives, not altering His appearance to "have an in."
Ultimately, I don't know that the Bible says tattooing is sin, but in my opinion, when we weigh the positive vs negative aspects of it, I see the negative as far outweighing the positive.