Tattooing: Should a Christian Mark Their Bodies?

Bill Brinkworth

The word “tattoo” is not in the Bible. However, there are many principles about taking care of the bodytaught in the Bible that pertain to what some today call “body art.”

An outer layer of skin, the epidermis, is always renewing itself. Inner cells of this layer work to the outside within 14 days as outer cells die off. To keep a permanent marking, tattooists inject dye into a lower dermis that will permanently stay marked on the body.

A tattoo of “I love Hilda” is going to be there long after you are married to Martha. There are ways to remove them. Laser and pulsed light techniques can break up the ink. The painful five to ten treatments can cost as much as $250 to $850 each treatment. Some chemical lightening processes claim to fade them by as much as 93.7%. However, six percent of a skull and crossbones may not be too impressive to your boss when you are a 40 year-old short-sleeved executive. The flesh markings will remain as long as you live. They will last even after the skin has lost its elasticity, places sag and the pigment has lost its clearness and no one is really sure what your tattoo says.

Marking of the body has a long history. Danish museums display tattoo needles from 500-2000 B.C. Remains of an Egyptian priestess, who may have lived between 2160 and 1994 BC, had tattoos on her arms, legs and other places. Mayan mummies reveal it was done in their culture. A frozen, 5,000 year old body of a Siberian man had over 57 tattoos. Many past cultures marked their bodies. Originally, tattooing was identified with ungodly practices.

Moses had to deal with marking of the bodies when he had to deal with other heathen practices his people apparently committed. Leviticus 19:28 commands, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.”

God required His people to “…be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy (Lev. 19:2).” As a child of God, we are on the winning side. We have the promise of victory. Why should we even want to appear like the losing side or keep up with what they do? They should be trying to look like us, not the other way around.

No longer is tattooing only the practice of drunken sailors or faraway heathens. It is everywhere – among our children and young adults especially. The 1999 Butterfly Art Barbie helped get young children introduced to body marking with a doll that had a butterfly tattoo on her stomach. Even Christians today permanently change their appearance with these inkings.

A Christian is one who is to be “Christ-like.” To be Christ-like is to be separated from the world as II Corinthians 6:17 states: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” Many are robbed of the power of God because they touch, wear, drink, think and live an unclean life. Certainly, unrighteousness is not restricted to just pigmenting one’s body.

It also seems whatever God desires us to do, Satan encourages us to do the opposite. God said, “I made you in my image.” Satan wants to change that image. God wants us to be proud of being a male. Satan wants to confuse it so all sexes look alike, work alike, have the same responsibilities and thus confuse their sexuality. God wants us to serve Him only, and the enemy wants us to serve our things, others, or ourselves.

God wants us to live a clean holy life. The opposition makes it freely available to live a debased, immoral life. On and on the battle rages to get us to do the opposite of what God wants us to do. God desires us to remember we are created in His image and to treat His creation with respect and appreciation. Satan wants us to do what does not please God.

It certainly is not popular in today’s world, but when we are not happy with what God created and think, and change it, we are showing God that we know better — be it piercing a face to “beautify” it, decorating heavily with jewelry or even tattooing. I believe it is not the time or money spent in making the “improvement” that is as much wrong as the “heart” behind making the change. God knows the heart and the reasons for what we do.

A European man was not happy in being what he was; so he completely tattooed his body to give himself the appearance of a leopard and lived on an island alone like a leopard. He certainly altered what God had given him and was sending a clear message to his creator.

The Bible tells us, if we are saved, that the body God gave us is a holy temple which He indwells. Satan wants to change or destroy that temple any way he can.

God says take care of our body; our temple. All through history, Satan influenced many to destroy their temple. Early Aztecs and other ancient peoples committed human sacrifices. Worshippers of Molech sacrificed their children in his fiery orifice. Many have taken their own life, mutilated or altered it. Satan really does not have that much imagination. You can see his trail of intervention, as many people through the past and present have wanted to harm their bodies.

The devil-possessed man of Gadarenes wanted to destroy the creation God gave him. The devils controlling him led him to cut himself and to hurt his body. When Jesus cast over 1,000 demons out of him, they quickly left and led over 1000 swine to “hogicide”. Destruction was their intent, and it did not matter whom they hurt.

Satan even tried to get Jesus to harm himself when He tempted Christ to jump from the high pinnacle of the temple. Destruction of one’s body is one of Satan’s evil plans.

If he cannot directly get you to damage the temple, Satan has subtle devices, including many to change the body you are not happy with. Discontentment can quickly lead to Satan’s ultimate desire that we destroy our body, so there is no hope of getting saved. If we are saved, he desires that we leave such a terrible testimony of Christ that others will not want to get saved.

Tattooing is something that a Christian should not have any part in doing. Marking one’s body will certainly not make a saved person unsaved. It will, however, identify us with the world, which we are to separate from and also ruin our testimony for Christ. This practice also alters, harms our bodies, and desensitizes our respect for the perfect creation God gave us. It is one more thing the world is offering from which we should be separate.

"God gave you the body He wanted you to have. Don't alter it!"

dv 7/16

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