I went to the local natural foods co-op recently. The store was busy and hunting an empty space in the parking lot was like navigating a Volvo and Prius dealership. Once inside I saw several hipsters sporting tattoos. These days, tattoos are featured on a wide assortment of body types and on both genders. I’m from that stodgy generation that rarely saw a tattoo on a human body. When we did see a man sporting a tattoo, he was usually in the military. Don’t get me wrong, I think some dudes and lassies quite capable of using the tattoo as a fashion motif that makes them look über-cool. But I am puzzled by the prolific tattoos on the bodies of Christian young adults. This got me wondering if it is a sin for Christians to tattoo their bodies.
I found only one reference to tattoos in the Bible. In Leviticus 19:28 it says: “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.”
All right, well, that was in the Old Testament (I mean old-school Old Testament) so we wonder if it applies to modern Christians. I’m not sure but I suspect the Leviticus tattoo prohibition is likely referring to tattoos that had some connection to pagan worship. As long as modern Christians don’t tattoo themselves with a tiki god, it is probably not a sin. But I can’t let you whippersnappers off the hook that easy. Allow me to share an example of a serious flaw with one type of tattoo.
A friend recently told me how her twenty-something son had tattooed both his arms. This upset her. When she learned that her son had his arms tattooed with her name and his father’s name, she was even more incensed. Her son told her he tattooed her name on his arm to show her respect. She was not impressed. She told her son, “You mark your arms as a sign of respect? You want to show me respect? Get a college education and find a professional job with honor; that will show me respect.”
I think she’s on to something. From my perspective as a parent, I delight in the ambition, education, creativity, and loving spirit of my adult children. If they tattooed my name on their body I doubt I would brag about it to my fishing buddies.
Christians can tattoo crosses, Scriptures, and “Jesus” on their bodies, but I’m not sure it delights the Lord as much as simply growing in ways that please Him. Yeah, tattoos are cool, they tell stories . . . I get it. But inquisitiveness, integrity, creativity, maturity, and love are much deeper (more eternal) than a tattoo.