Is it Okay for Christians to Have Tattoos?

Today, I’m posing one titillating, stirring, mind-bending (or if I’m being honest semi-mediocre) question for you to mull over and answer. Don’t leave me hanging.

How do you personally feel about tattoos? Do you have any? Why or why not?

This one could be a great discussion, so join in. Lay your answers on me…

43 thoughts on “Is it Okay for Christians to Have Tattoos?”

  1. I believe the old testiment laws forbidding tattoos were a specific set of laws to set apart the Israelites when they were in a foreign land. They were to be SET APART in all ways, and that included what they did with their bodies.

    Now before I get shot down too badly, keep in mind (from what I understand) tattoos were on the same level as trimming the edges of your beard – which meant if you had facial hair you were gonna look like ZZ Top. It seems perfectly fine to trim beards these days, so why the uproar??

    Personally — I think this is one where Satan is just twisting people into separate “camps” to cause division. Because really, deep down, do you honestly believe that even if you have been close to God your whole life, and lived your belief 100% that some ink in your skin will cast you into hell? A mark on your physical body (which is destined to die anyway) will somehow forever tarnish your soul — even if you’ve had a close relationship with God your entire life? Somehow that doesn’t fit with the God I’m getting to know — the God that LOVES first, not based on my adherence to a set of hoops to jump through

    And I’m sorry if I come off somewhat offensive/defensive. I’m fighting hard to shake off many years of legalistic belief. God IS Love. He cannot be other then that.

  2. Of course it’s wrong, and don’t you dare cut the hair on the side of your hair or trim your beard either!

    I don’t have any tattoos. Not because I think it’s wrong, I just haven’t found anything I want to put on my body forever.

  3. I’d rather have compassionate and caring people with tatoos in my church, instead of the old church ladies who do nothing but whine, complain, and gossip about everything they don’t like in the church.
    The OT should have forbidden women’s church groups………..

  4. I’m actually planning to get 2 Timothy 1:7 on my wrist. It’s the verse I stand on. I also believe it will be party of my ministry?


    When I’m sitting across from a broken woman that wants nothing to do with God, but looks at my tattoo and asks what it means, I have the opportunity to tell her about our God and how much He loves her.

    1. I have 2 Timothy 1:7 with a cross of nails on my hip. It’s a great verse to be reminded of on a daily basis. Yay you!

  5. First, the commenters so far have the right of it in pointing out that most of the verses used to prohibit tattoos are taken out of context. Leviticus, of course, but (as a person who has 10+ tattoos myself) I’ve also been smacked w/ 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.”

    The problems with using these verses are numerous. First, in context, Paul is talking about sexual immorality, not ink. Second, in the Greek, the “Your” is plural (ya’ll), while “body” is singular. So not “My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” or “All of your individual bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit” but “All of your single body is a temple” – Paul is referring to the Body of Christ.

    So if I were to have sex with a prostitute (which is what Paul’s talking about), I’m dragging the rest of my spiritual, corporate church body into that adultery.

    Nothing to do with tattoos.

    For what it’s worth, the best discussion I’ve seen prohibiting tattoos is in Matthew Lee Anderson’s book “Earthen Vessels” (my review:

    He argues for recovering a sense of the Body as a fundamental aspect of our being, rather than an accessory we can modify at will. His argument has all sorts of implications for tattoos, plastic surgery, even piercings and hair dye. Hair cuts and fashion, for that matter.

    Anderson doesn’t exactly condem tattoos, but he does raise an important question: WHY does someone get a tattoo? Certainly there can be holy and unholy reasons for inking up.

    Personally, my tattoos are an extension of my faith. An outward sign of the scriptures and theological positions most meaningful to me.

    1. Im so sick of people bringing up that verse. I ink my body to show everyone gods word. Doesn’t it say in the bible, to spread his word? Well that’s just our (us people with tattoos) way of doing so. At least for me it is.

  6. “Whether you eat, drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

    I have 4 tattoos. The first 3 were stupid attempts at rebellion that I’m currently paying a ridiculous amount of money to have removed. They’re dumb and I hate them. The third, however, is scripture and it is in Greek. Because it’s in Greek people ask me what it says and it opens up a door to share the Gospel with them. One such opportunity went from a casual encounter with a stranger at McDonalds to months of emails and texts with said stranger, after which she surrendered her life to Christ. All sparked by a silly tattoo.

    So, I say like everything else it could be a good or bad thing. I will discourage my kids from getting them, but if my 75 year old Gramma wants to get a Jesus fish on her ankle, I say go for it. All things are permissible, not all things are profitable.

  7. I agree with what Andrew P said about the importance of reading the scriptures in context. The same chapter in Leviticus that forbids tattoos also forbids wearing cotton/polyester blends and trimming your beard. Unless you follow those laws too, don’t try to tell me that tattoos are evil.

    I do think that one should examine one’s motives before getting a tattoo, not to mention considering its permanence. Sundi, Jr., and Nikki got tattoos for good reasons that help them to share their faith. Some people get tattoos because they like being a canvas for beautiful art, and I (as an artist myself) don’t think that’s a bad reason. I don’t have any tattoos myself (because, like Brian said, I haven’t found anything I want to put on my body forever), but I have no problem with them on principle.

    1. Agree completely, Erin. The same people who bring up “that verse” most likely couldn’t quote anywhere near the 600+ OTHER law verses in Leviticus. And if they don’t know them, I’m reasonably sure they’re not living by them.

  8. I don’t think they are wrong to get unless the content of the tattoo is offensive or something you’ll regret.

    I have been working as a youth pastor for the last 12 years. I unfortunately, will never forget the time one of the adults from the church came in before a youth service and wanted to share with me the evils of tattoos. He told me that while he was in the navy, he had a couple of tattoos that he now regretted. Before I knew what was happening, he turned around and pulled of his shirt.

    Now, I would guess this gentleman was around 375 pounds. Not a little guy. On his back was the most distorted, hairy tattoo of a classic cartoon devils head you could ever imagine. But that’s not what will be forever stuck in my mind.

    When he turned around, it was all I could do not to laugh at the battleship across his chest that had turned into a banana as he gained all the weight since the navy. Now I can’t see a banana or a battleship without chuckling to myself.

  9. My opinion on tattoos – I think God has bigger things to be concerned about…like our hearts. I don’t have tattoos because they’re not my thing. My husband has two tattoos and I think he’s pretty amazing.

  10. I have several large tattoos, including 2 that relate directly to my faith – a stained-glass rose window and cross on my shoulder inspired by a church window I saw while touring with a music ministry, and an old-school heart with a swallow on the inside of my forearm with a banner that says “True Love 1 John 4:19”. My husband and I got the heart tattoos (yes, we’re huge dorks and have matching tattoos) as wedding gifts to each other, and as a reminder that the only way we can love each other is because God loved us first.

    The cool thing about having tattoos (as a girl, anyway) is that I’ve found them to be a great asset to ministry. For example, when I was on the road doing missions, I was in homeless shelters and prisons where my tattoos opened the door to conversation with guys I wouldn’t normally have a lot in common with. My weirdness actually made me more relatable and approachable, and allowed real conversation about life and faith to happen. (I was also shown some pretty rad prison-made tattoos of crosses, the name “Jesus”, etc. Such a privilege to see what God’s doing in dark places like that!)

    Oh, and in addition to tattoos I also currently have a partly shaved head. If I took the old testament at face value I’d be screwed. So here’s hoping that God’s okay with tattoos. :)

  11. Tattoos are for sinners. Unless you only get a small one…on your wedding finger instead of a ring. ;-)

  12. It’s fashion. It’s an icky fashion, but it’s fashion. I don’t think it’s sinful, like living in unrepentant sin. For some, they say it helps them with their testimony. The tats open doors that would otherwise be closed to them. Ok, but I still think they are icky. It’s gonna be so funny in the nursing homes in 50 years. Hilarious. :)

  13. I am personally against needles unless it involves medical procedures or giving blood, so if it involves me, I vote “no” on the tattoos. There are so many Levitical rules that we, as Christians, don’t follow. And Paul is pretty adamant about living under grace, not the Law. Somehow, I think God’s grace covers tattoos.

  14. I sure hope so. I’ve got 2. Got one alone, went with my 21-year-old daughter to get tattoos together, and my 18 yr old has a scripture verse on her foot.

    My dad would not have approved. But he’s in Heaven now, so I’m thinking he’s got the God’s-eye view…looking at what’s really important, not ink on the skin.

  15. Well as God looks on our heart and not our outward appearance then God loves those who have tattoos. I don’t like them personally but what I like or don’t like has no barring on the question. We all have tattoos of some sort. You just can’t see mine as they are not on my skin. When we come to realize we need a Savior, we may have all sorts of stuff that has been with us for a long time and Jesus doesn’t say “Come to me when you have gotten rid of all your stuff”, no He says “Come to me now and we will work on the stuff”. I like that. So is it ok for christians to have tattoos, well I guess it is up to whoever wants one. Marge

  16. What is so amazing about all of the posts thus far, is people are giving their opinion based upon whether they think it’s right. For all practical purposes, I could care less what anyone thinks. Everyone has omitted the most basic principle found in the Word of God. By the way, I would ask all of the “cheap” grace people here, “Is not Levitical Law applicable today?” Is not “all Scripture given by inspiration of God and therefore profitable?” It’s amazing that because NT believers are under grace, that all of a sudden we just throw the OT out. Remember, the OT is all about grace as well. Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Levitical law called the children to be different than the world in which they lived. No, it did not apply to every area of their life (eg. since the world ate food, the children of Israel were not allowed to eat food – that’s foolishness). The principle for them is the same principle for us today. Is my life going in a different direction than the world in which I live? 1 John 2:15-17 should be the verse that we should be talking about. Tattoos, therefore should be considered under the “worldly” heading not “Levitical Law” heading. Does a tattoo reflect the world or the Word? Do not allow the fact that evangelism is the tool by which we use to support the use of tattoos. If that’s the case, then we can allow evangelism to justify any worldly influence. Please do not write me off, just consider the “worldly” element of tattoos. By the way, I have in no way judged anyone’s motives for getting a tattoo, just judging who’s influencing who – the Word or the world?

    1. Brian I agree with you, I feel that people just give their opinion and not what the word of God says. I liked the question you posed: “Does a tattoo reflect the world or the Word?”

      Here is a scripture I wanted to show, of Jesus praying to the Father for us, that we are not of this world and should not do the things of the world.

      John 17: 16-19
      16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

      to be sanctified means:
      to make holy; set apart as sacred; consecrate.

      this is what God has always wanted; for his people to be set apart from the world, to be Holy.

  17. A tatoo has a message. Being Christian I have a meage for te entire world. Does my tatoo support or contradict the mesage Jesus gave me to tell. Tatoos are put on animals as a brand to identify the owner. Any marks on my body should be the marks of Jesus- we are slaves to Christ, right? It’s not an issue of ink and skin.

  18. I was tattooed when I was in the Navy as a young man. I found Jesus Christ AFTER my Navy days – They did not fade when I handed over my wrecked and ruined life over to the Lord. Today I use them like gospel tracts. I get to tell others the difference in my life between “then” and “now”. To the legalists I have read here – what would you say to me about my tattoos? Also I have not gotten another one in all these yeas (38 Years)

  19. I don’t have anything against christians who have tattoos, I think tattoos are one of those things that its between you and God like tithing, the new testiment doesn’t command us to tithe but we are encouraged to be generous.

    One thing I would say to those who get tattoos is: what is your intention?

    God is concerned with our heart, now this is now a cop out answer, I mean we really need to examine our hearts about our intentions, do we just want to have a tattoo so people can see it and say its cool, or do we want to have a tattoo that is a constant reminder of what Jesus has done for us?

    Tattoos were used by pagans and was considered mutilation and that is why God didn’t want his people have tattoos, God wanted his people to be different than the nations around them. People often say that we no longer life under the law, so the scripture in the old testiment is not for us? But living under grace and not under the law does’nt mean we don’t follow the commandments, it means that there is a lamb who has died once for all our sins, we don’t have to make atonement for our sins. Living under grace means the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life.(Romans 6:23). God still wants his people to be separate and I think that over the years the things of the world have slowly crept its way into the lives of those whom God has called, so much so that these things seem normal.

  20. I totally agree with Andrew. I to am trying to cleanse myself from legalistic teachings. The Old Testament writings meant something totally different than we think it means today. Satan loves confusion, the Bible also talks about that. Lets love one another right where there at and leave the judging up to the Lord. Amen!

  21. Brian, I understand what you are trying to say in regards to how we feel about something as opposed to what the scripture states. However, we must understand scripture in light of who was writing it and to whom it was written. In the case of Hebrew scripture, (as opposed to Old Testament since that implies no longer relevant)the law was written for the Jewish people not for the goy or gentiles. We often hear the phrase in Christendom, “I am no longer under the law but under grace”. The problem with this phrase is that we as goy or gentiles were never under the law to begin with. Hence the reason we find such difficulties in the 1st century with what to do with those coming into the fold. The 1st century believers were mostly of Jewish decent and had difficulty with the gentile believers and so they met and formulated the Noahide law found in the book of Acts chapter 15. There were 7 in which Paul and the others felt could be applied to those who were non-Jews. Now, don’t get me wrong, can we learn and apply Hebrew scriptures to our lives? Yes we can. But I find that when we begin to look at what we are, and are not suppose to do as believers, we need to carefully weigh what is written. Also, grace was available in Hebrew scriptures as well as in the “New Testament”. Jews did not, contrary to many, look at works being what made them righteous in the eyes of God, but by His grace. Levitical law was given not as a taskmaster.
    On another note if I may. We so often look at Christianity as a set of do’s and don’ts. Romans 12 is often taken as telling us not to do certain things that are considered “worldly”. However, looking at our world to day and at when Paul wrote this along with who he wrote it to, it tells of something far greater than what we do on the outside. Our world is a very selfish, hate-filled world as was the world Paul lived in. We are to be the opposite of that world. We are not to “think of ourselves more highly than we should” but to be and to show mercy. What we put on our bodies is not to be as important as how we reach out to this world which should be with love,compassion, humility, gentleness, kindness, tolerance, patience…
    The church as a whole (I know I am speaking in generalities) has done more damage by condemnation of those who are different and not like “us”. Christ was and is different and He too was condemned by the righteous religious population yet He remained compassionate,tolerant,kind….
    Blessings to you all for engaging in this discussion and may we be more concerned with how to love than how to judge.

    1. The topic of this discussion is “should a Christian get a tattoo?” Therefore, with this as the background, anyone who had a tattoo before they were saved is not the discussion. Whether, someone was a drunkard, blasphemer, murderer or any other sin is covered by the blood of Christ and thus they are a new creation in Christ. Again, back to the topic at hand, should Christians get a tattoo? The answer to that is in light of my choice of yoking up with the world or the Word. It is my decision based upon the Word of God not my preference. If a believer chooses to get one does not condemn them to hell, but it does reflect poor decision-making. As believers in Christ, may we reflect the character of Christ – holy, pure, separate from sin!

      1. Brian,
        I am in agreement with you in that we are new creations in Christ. I am however saddened by the judgmental attitudes of some…not what I have seen here among these posts. My point is that quoting from Levitical law as reason not to have a tattoo must be looked at in light of who that was written to. Also that we at times put too much emphasis on the outward opposed to heart which is what Christ admonished us to look at. Also agreed that if a believer chooses to have a tattoo certainly does not condemn them to hell but I would have to disagree that it is poor-decision making and that it can reflect Christ let alone open up discussions as mine has multiple times (I have a cross with Micah 6:8 under it).

        1. Brian, why is it poor decision making? Does the ink make a difference in a persons character? Does that make them less of a believer? I’m getting one soon. No Christian references, but will have my family’s names. Jesus was all about family’s. Does that make it a poor decision?

  22. I was going to have a tattoo of a disco ball applied to the underside of my eyelids so I could go clubbin’ anywhere any time, but then I thought…nah, it would be more fun to have a tattoo of a Visa or Mastercard on my forehead, then I thought…that would be ridiculous…

    …I believe that a tattoo is just evidence of life. I have scars from scraping myself up over the years that I didn’t intend to get, but they’re there. They don’t change my heart. I could consider a tattoo just an organized oops…of course, there is the aspect of the oops that makes me not like them so much…but I can’t put my finger on it. I’d never get one, but not because I don’t want you to have one. Go for it…but know that it will be there forever.

  23. I love my tattoos and have no regrets about any of them. Two are representative of my faith. One is representative of my marriage, which is tied to my faith. And these daily visible markers have been great reminders that both my faith and my marriage vows are things that I will struggle with and struggle for but will never give up on.

    I’ve found that apart from a small group of people who take offense they have been mostly well received by people. They have opened up doors to conversation about their meaning. Honestly, many many conversations.

    They seem to fit in well with the culture in which I live and work (being a missionary in Tonga where most people have tattoos and it’s part of their cultural identity). Lots of Tongan people comment on them and like that we have common ground and invite themselves over to watch me get my new one. It’s probably been more helpful in creating relationships, this showing off my tattoos, than my terrible attempts at Tongan grammar!

    I don’t think God cares so much about tattoos, as long as they aren’t representing anything unhelpful. I think God cares more about the faith of the person, tattooed or not.

  24. For myself I do not have one (yet). The Old Testament is talking about a form of worship when it is talking about tattoos and we live under the new covenant we no longer have to follow the levitical laws. That being said I think that one should think long and hard before getting a tattoo. My personal conviction is that you should want the same thing for at least a year before getting it and if you do you should be able to cover it with standard dress if needed IE no neck face or hands for guys. Also when I was living at home it was a rule that my mom made that while I was living at her home I could not get one. In this case the bible is clear “Honor your mother and father.” The third peace of wisdom that I heard on this was from a friend when I asked. The friend said that you should wait until you are married as the two become one and you do not want to needlessly do something that could cause conflict. In conclusion IMHO get one if you want just be wise about it.

  25. lol! I was contemplating getting a tattoo just this morning. A small one on my palm “The Lord’s” (Isaiah 44:5) because that will never change!

    Thanks for the discussion!

  26. Per leviticus 19:28, getting a tattoo is a sin. Although we do not live by the letter due to Christ’s crucifiction, the New Testament does not nullify the Old Testament, but rather the NT allows us to fulfill the OT. However, If you prayed and heeded God’s answer, I doubt any Christian would get a tattoo because it is a sin. Personally I don’t care one way or the other, it’s only my job to love you as I love myself, love the Lord with all my mind, heart and soul and to decrease so He can increase.

  27. I’ve been told through my Christian upbringing that it is not good to permanently mark your body because it is God’s temple. I believe our body IS God’s temple, but I don’t believe it is wrong to have tattoos. I see it as a form of personal expression.

  28. ‘You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19:28

    Okay. So don’t do it. Simple. God’s grace does not nullify His Holiness. God’s grace merely covers our sins in not upholding His Holiness. People tend to confuse the two.

    I have 17 tattoos. Some before Salvation, some post-Salvation. Not a one of them is a witnessing tool, a testimony, or useful for anything other than bringing attention to myself especially when I am around uptight Christians who fuss and fret about The Law and yet do not remove their women from their homes when they have their periods, and who eat their steaks medium-rare with blood in them.

    Have tattoos become one of those asinine ‘cutting-edge, extreme Jesus, cool and hip’ requirements? Oh yes. Having an image of Jesus tattooed upon your body could easily be construed as idolatry, since how can any of us paint/draw/sculpt God? Pagans do that kind of thing with their false idols, don’t they?

    I’m past really giving two shakes about tattoos on Christians. It’s tired. It’s tedious. People only get tattoos due to narcissism and the need for attention. Myself included. If you believe otherwise, you’re kinda silly. Next thing you now, getting lashed with a cat-of-nine-tails ala Roman style so you can have cool scars on your back like Jesus, and then having spikes driven through your hands/wrists will be the new cool and hip thing to do to show your faith. Yeesh.

    You kids, with your faux ‘hawks, trendy clothes, and “Jesus” tattoos…you’re making yourselves look silly. When Jesus first saved me, Christians thought I should minister to bikers and punk rockers because of my appearance. Seriously? So we should endeavor to look acceptable to the world so they will receive Jesus better? Oy.

    Nicole, you really are a button-pusher, ain’t you? :)

  29. Yep, I have one – just one. Although it was part of my mid-life crisis seven years ago, I’ve never regretted it. :-) In fact, I even got a little mileage and some cash out of it when an essay I wrote on my experience was published in an anthology of women’s stories about their tattoos. Plus I got a (published) poem out of it. And a Facebook profile photo. So it was all good. ;-)

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