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  • Writer's pictureAsk Pastor Adrienne

Piercings & Tattoos: Sinful?


Dear Pastor,

Are tattoos and piercings wrong?


These days, tattoos and piercings are as common as the body parts given over to them. Our bodies have become canvasses of expression and voices of declaration. What was unthinkable a century ago is now acceptable if not encouraged by our fashion trends. Tattoos and piercings have become the marks of one’s uniqueness via ink and awl.

Your question is often debated in Church culture and with varying results. To one branch of Christianity, these things are forbidden and considered the sinful defacing of a human form. To another branch, tattoos can tell stories about life with God; testimonies and devotions. They become a type of evangelical tool. Some argue that piercings are a simple case of cultural differences rooted in ethnicity, not a statement against conformity toward rebellion. (Heck, even God seems to sanction piercings as he swooned over his beloved Jewish people: “I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your hands and a necklace around your neck. I also put a ring in your nostril, earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head” (Ezekiel 16:11, 12, NASB1995.)

Yet, believers in Christ must at least approach these permanent, scarring practices with caution, even so. Why? Bible readers agree that Jesus fulfilled the Law of Moses when he died…he even declared this fact before his death. (Matthew 5:17) As a result, we must pay attention to one Old Testament verse in the Bible: “I forbid you to shave any part of your head or beard or to cut and tattoo yourself as a way of worshiping the dead” (Leviticus 19:28, CEV.) It is the only verse we have which addresses the issue of body ink and it forbids it. Yet within that Levitical command is an attack on the practice of shaving! So what is a Christian to do? The answer is always the same when it comes to God and our controversial subjects: What’s in your heart?

Those who determine to pierce and ink themselves must also be mindful of the fact that they will answer to God about it one day. The motivation behind our actions is where the rubber always meets the road with him—he’s looking for quality of character, not choices in fashion. That said, the Apostle Paul brings us a key insight for reference: “You surely know that your body is a temple where the Holy Spirit lives. The Spirit is in you and is a gift from God. You are no longer your own. God paid a great price for you. So use your body to honor God,” (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20.) The Lord will be interested to know what agendas, emotions, or intentions lurk behind the graffiti of the temple of the Holy Spirit. Why are you seeking a permanent mark on your flesh? Is it a peer-pressured event taking place on a spring-break holiday with herds of friends doing the same? Does the piercing or tattoo disfigure you in a way that satisfies your anger or rebellion against authority or even God? What are you really saying and doing as you hop up on the table to pay for a permanent change to the body God gave you?

The Lord determined our freedom to choose on topics like this. Unfortunately, the Bible is either silent, conflicting or condemning, so we are not receiving clear-cut instruction there. God is looking to us to determine our paths regarding piercings and tattoos. The Apostle Paul also said: “We are allowed to do anything, but not everything is good for us to do. We are allowed to do anything, but not all things help us grow strong as Christians” (1 Corinthians 10:23, NLV.) Your version of “Christian” determines your lifestyle choices and fashion sense, and you will answer to God like every one of us will.

My take on the whole thing (after living long enough to make really big mistakes) is to avoid any permanent, life-altering decisions unless I know for certain my God is in it.

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