A few topics that have become popular now seem to fall under grey areas in Scripture. Tattoos are gaining popularity amongst teens worldwide. The Food and Drug administration conducted a study that shows as many as 45 million Americans having a tattoo. A 2009 study shows that 25% of people from ages 13- 25 have at least one tattoo. With this cultural fad on the rise, Christians are asking:
Does God find it acceptable to have a tattoo?
Recently, several CCA students have gotten “inked”. One of the newly “tatted up” students is sophomore Chase Knox. Sometime in December 2011, after talking to his parents, Knox received their permission to have his tattoo done at the top of his ribs. The tattoo represents his life verse which says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” His experience at the parlor was nerve wracking but his nerves were quickly deflated when he found the experience mostly unpainful. “I wanted a tattoo because I think it is a cool idea to have my life verse on my body permanently,” said Knox, who is content with his tattoo and doesn’t plan on getting another one.
God asks believers to set His words like a seal upon our hearts, and Knox’s permanent reminder of Christ’s strength brings to mind the legality of tattoos, especially Scripture tattoos.
Bible teacher, Mr. Bill Schott, shares his view on the subject, helping clear some of the misconceptions that exist when Christians against tattoos quickly reference Leviticus 19:28 that reads, “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the Lord.”
From a glance at this verse, the message seems clear that tattoos are off limits; however, to fully understand the verse one must understand the context and the background and history of the time. Schott explained, “If we know the context of Leviticus 19:28, we find that the passage demonstrates God forbidding Israel’s participation in pagan religious practices.”
During that time, people would cut themselves for the dead with the belief that the dead could use their blood for “life beyond the grave.” The Hebrew word “qa aqa” describes this as literally the cutting of the body. However, for today’s purposes, tattoos are for décor of the body, as opposed to the ritual cutting for the dead.
“I believe the issue of tattoos falls under the domain of Romans 14. Here Paul tells us that we are free from the Old Testament ceremonial laws thanks to Christ’s satisfaction of these in our lives.” Schott continues, “Paul brings matters like this under the jurisdiction of the believer’s conscience. Therefore, I would follow Romans 14 on this.”
Mr. Schott also points out that most of us are minors under the age of 18. We must honor our parents, and, if they are opposed to the idea, it is the end of the discussion. Schott suggests that before getting a tattoo, teenagers should take into consideration some questions Pastor Chuck Gerwig, a youth pastor at the conservative Santa Cruz Bible Church in Santa Cruz, California, proposes. (See blue sidebar)
During an online interview, Gerwig said, “It’s (tattoing) like an outward symbol of the inward truth. For years tattoos were considered wrong. It was considered sinful,” he added. “There’s obviously been a big shift in the culture. This generation, I believe, is asking more questions than prior ones.”
No matter how much you rationalize it, at the end of the day, tattoos are still debated among Christians. While some people would say “it’s what’s in you, not on you,” that should declare or define your faith, others are quick to voice their opinion that it is simply a body decoration. And while that may be true, there are also many consequences of getting “marked”: spiritual, health, social.
FACTS ABOUT TATTOOS
People who get tattoos run a risk of acquiring any number of deadly diseases, including Hepatitis C and AIDS. The reason is the needle that is used to tattoo punctures the skin 3,000 times a minute. In an hour, that would be 180,000 times that puncture wounds provide a potential path to a deadly disease. Not only that, but it is also well documented that tattoo shops are not regulated by the government to uphold medical standards.
Many tattoo artists do not inform their clients of possible infection from the needle or the ink. The Mayo Clinic sounds a warning about commercial tattooing: “Few states have hygienic regulations to ensure safe tattooing practices in commercial tattoo parlors, and even fewer monitor and enforce standards”. To learn more about these facts, go to: www.mayoclinic.com.
If you are considering getting a tattoo, perhaps the questions to ask yourself are:
- Am I legally of age to get a tattoo?
- What are my motives for wanting a tattoo?
- Am I seeking to glorify God or draw attention to myself?
- Will my tattoo be a source of contention for my loved ones?
- Will getting a tattoo cause me to disobey my parents?
- Will my tattoo cause someone who is weak in the faith to stumble?
- Will I still want this tattoo when I get older?
- What if my future mate doesn’t want to look at this thing for their whole lifetime with me?
- Is this tattoo plainly visible, since of course people will be prone to judge me on this (future employers?)
- Does this image bring glory to God?