What does the Bible say about tattoos / body piercings? (Updated Version)

The Old Testament law commanded the Israelites, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:28). So, even though believers today are not under the Old Testament law (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:15), the fact that there was a command against tattoos should raise some questions. The New Testament does not say anything about whether or not a believer should get a tattoo.

In relation to tattoos and body piercings, a good test is to determine whether we can honestly, in good conscience, ask God to bless and use that particular activity for His own good purposes. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). The New Testament does not command against tattoos or body piercings, but it also does not give us any reason to believe God would have us get tattoos or body piercings.

An important scriptural principle on issues the Bible does not specifically address is if there is room for doubt whether it pleases God, then it is best not to engage in that activity. Romans 14:23 reminds us that anything that does not come from faith is sin. We need to remember that our bodies, as well as our souls, have been redeemed and belong to God. Although 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 does not directly apply to tattoos or body piercings, it does give us a principle: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” This great truth should have a real bearing on what we do and where we go with our bodies. If our bodies belong to God, we should make sure we have His clear “permission” before we “mark them up” with tattoos or body piercings.

What about body piercing, tattoos, and the like? Although tattoos were at one time symbols of rebellion found on the bodies of prison inmates and motorcycle gangs, these skin markings have now gone mainstream. The present mantra is that the human body is a canvas on which can be painted anything one pleases. We live in a sadistic, rebellious culture that wants to show that it can despoil the body. The early church was right when it saw tattoos as a desecration of the body. In the Old Testament we read, “ ‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord’ ” (Leviticus 19:28).


Can a body covered with tattoos glorify God? Some young people, who thought the answer to that question might be yes, are changing their minds. One young woman I met said, “I’d give anything to have these tattoos removed, but they are permanent, and I had them done before I was saved. Now when I look at them, they are a reminder of my past life, which has been forgiven. I see them as my ‘marks of grace.’ ” Yes, they can become marks of grace.


Women have worn earrings from earliest times. But today, we not only have earrings for men, but nose rings, lip rings, and navel rings. Never mind that tongue rings have been known to put poisons into the bloodstream and create grooves on teeth. Recently on the radio I heard a report about a Nebraska boy who holds the record for body piercing; the total, I think, was 135.


It is not my intention to make a definitive yes or no statement about these modern trends. It is, however, my express intention to say that today’s emphasis on appearance and the lengths to which people are willing to go to be noticed are signs that our culture’s values have drifted far from the security that comes from knowing God and submitting to His ownership.[1]


[1] Lutzer, E. W. (2002). Who are you to judge? learning to distinguish between truths, half-truths, and lies (169–170). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

6 thoughts on “What does the Bible say about tattoos / body piercings? (Updated Version)

  1. Pingback: What does the Bible say about tattoos/body piercings? | The Road

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