Should I Get A Tattoo?

Should I get a tattoo? After all everyone else seems to have one. They’re everywhere these days and given they seem to have hit the mainstream, it does beg the question; should I get a tattoo? Outside the church, as well as within. Brand new Christians and seasoned believers alike all seems to have a tattoo somewhere on their body.

Should I Get A Tattoo?

Photo courtesy of "lemondeparvosyeux"

They can be a reminder of the past, or a declaration of a future. Tattoo’s have different meanings and significance to everyone.

Should I get a tattoo? Read on for my thoughts on the subject.

While they may be part of modern society, not everyone likes them. Some would say they have definite rebellious, or even pagan significance. To these people they are much more than just ink on skin.

Others find them beautiful. They view their body as a canvas and their tattoos are art.

While I’m not considering a tattoo, I do know people that are. I’m often asked what I think, and whether I believe it’s something we as Christians should be doing to our bodies. Hence this post.

Should I Get A Tattoo?

To answer this is not as simple as you might at first think. Like many issues for us as believers, there’s not a clear, one size fits all, answer.

Most people have an opinion one way, or the other, but many haven’t thought through why they think the way they do. Often we’re strongly influenced by our upbringing, family or friends, or even the culture around us, but we haven’t seriously worked through the issue for ourselves. Nor have we considered it from God’s perspective.

It’s easier to take on the thinking of others, rather than form our own conviction. It’s easy to act rashly and do as we feel in a moment of abandon or emotion.

What’s needed is a considered position.

If you’re asking; ‘should I get a tattoo?’ or if you’re trying to work out what your understanding is, then there’s a number of things you should seriously consider.

Should I get a tattoo? Here’s 6 questions to answer before you do;

1. Should I Get A Tattoo? What does the Bible say?
As you read the word of God, diligently seek to understand whether it prohibits, allows for, or promotes us as Christians inking up our bodies.

Look for specific verses, or passages, that speak about the subject and also those that speak of related issues. For example, don’t just do a word search for “tattoo” and think that’s enough. Some of the related areas to think about might be things like;

  • The body as the temple of God – what does this mean?
  • Our lives are not our own – does this have any implications?
  • Being a slave to Christ – where does this fit in?
  • God’s redemption of all creation – is tattooing working for, or against this?

These are just a few thoughts to get you started. The idea is to look for the overall biblical pattern when it comes to our bodies and how we are to view, and treat them.

When you do find verses that specifically relate, don’t rush into an interpretation, or read them in isolation. For example, Leviticus 19:28 says;

Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.

This looks fairly straight forward at first glance, but within context of the chapter we find it’s not so easy to make a simple judgement. Don’t try to make this say what you want it to, no matter which side you’re on.

It’s better not to be too quick to take one verse as condemnation of tattoos, or to write off a verse as Old Testament, and therefore not applicable to us in the new covenant.

Look at the verse within it’s wider context and diligently seek to grasp how you are to understand, and apply, all of it. After all, these verses are in our Bible for a reason, so let’s not abuse, misunderstand, or ignore them.

2. Should I Get A Tattoo? Will it offend anyone?
For some people tattoos are offensive, in and outside the Church. From this perspective, you as a Christians need to consider who, if anyone in the world you live in, will be offended by you getting a tattoo.

Now days, we like to think that it’s the offended persons problem if they don’t like something we do. “They can get over it” is a common phrase I’ve heard people say. But the New Testament is fairly clear. As far as we’re able, we’re not to be offensive to people by our behaviour. For brevity I won’t go into the whole context here, but one example is found in 1 Corinthians 10;

‘So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.’ – 1 Cor 10:31-33

It seems a fairly clear Biblical ideal that we need to think through our actions in light of other people. Our decisions should not be based solely on whether we want to get the ink done, but (at least in part) on how offensive it may be to those around us. We also need to consider what the repercussions of this offence may be and whether we’re prepared to live with the potential to continually offending people.

3. Should I Get A Tattoo? Who will it influence?
No matter who you are, we all have a sphere of influence. Some larger than others, but we all influence other people. When it comes to making the decision to get a tattoo, we need to consider what this decision communicates to those around us and how it influences them.

An example of this might be the youth leader who is thinking about getting some work done. Without him, or her, even saying anything about it, the ink will speak for itself. You’re best to consider who, and how, you’re going to influence and if this is okay with you and your conscience. As a youth leader you will obviously need to also consider the parents of the young people you lead. The same goes for Pastors, worships leaders and anyone in a Christian leadership position.

4. Should I Get A Tattoo? Is it wise?
I realise this is a highly subjective question. Therefore, you may not be able to know objectively if the decision to get a tattoo is wise or not. So, seek Godly counsel. Speak with those Godly people in your life and ask them for their advice.

The risk you take in doing this, is that they tell you something you don’t want to hear. This is a good thing and will help you to understand your true motives and reasons for wanting to get the tattoo. The right people will, at the very least, work through the topic with you and help you to come to a thoughtful, prayerful, decision.

5. Should I Get A Tattoo? Why do I want to get it?
Again, you may not be able to work out your true motive. Sometimes we’re more influenced by the culture around us than we would like to admit, or even realise. Could it be that it is a rebellious decision, or perhaps a result of low self esteem? Are you trying to impress someone, or to fit in? Consider carefully your motive and take the time needed to be sure that it is not based on peer pressure, emotion, or any other short term decision making mechanism. After all the ink will be with you forever, so you don’t want to end up regretting it.

6. Should I Get A Tattoo? How does it reflect my hope in Christ?
This is a big one for me. I’m always trying to use this question as a gauge for my decision making in all areas of life. To explain; I often ask myself what my choices communicate. After all, everything says something. So, what does me having a tattoo communicate? In what way does it show others that I am not my own, that my hope is in Christ, that one day I am believing for Him to return, that on that day He will restore all things, that those who are in Him will rise from the dead and their bodies will now be resurrected? In this case; How does me having a tattoo, or not having a tattoo, help me to share the gospel, the truth about who God is, and what He has done in me?

Should I Get A Tattoo?

At the end of the day, getting a tattoo is not a salvation issue. But, with all this in mind, we need to remember that our lives as Christians are not lived in isolation. Like it, or not, we live in community. Our thinking and actions must be informed by the community of faith we’re a part of and the way this community has lived and outworked faith in Jesus for thousands of years.

If getting a tattoo is more about looking good, fitting in, being cool, low self esteem, or even just getting something you want, just because you want it, then you’ve missed the mark. Likewise, if you consider the questions listed above and come to the considered place of conscience free ink, then it’s not for others to judge.

With serious consideration of the Bible, prayer, and thinking about these 6 questions, guided by the Holy Spirit and your conscience, you’re sure to create a personal conviction about this issue, one way, or the other.

Question: Are you asking yourself, Should I Get A Tattoo? Do you have one already? How did you come to the decision to get it? Add your comments below.