Today’s edition of “Now THAT’s a Good Question!” comes from an email I received late last week.
The email (direct quote):
“I was wondering what your view on tattoos was. Are they wrong to get? What does God think about them?”
Say it with me: “NOW THAT’S A GOOD QUESTION!!!”
How did I respond???
Here ya go. . .
Thanks for your question. You have asked a REALLY good one for sure.
The short answer is this: No, it is not wrong to get a tattoo. You will not go to hell if you get a tattoo. God will not be mad at you if you get a tattoo. God might even like a certain tattoo you may choose to get.
I must say, however, a better question to ask is, “Is it WISE to get a tattoo??” In other words, though it may not be sinful to get a tattoo and though some tattoos may be used as a tool to witness to others; I cannot say for certain that it is the wisest of choices to get a tattoo. Again, it may be wise in some circumstances. But – you know as well as I do: tattoos are permanent; yet people and their preferences change. What may be REALLY awesome today may be SUPER dorky in 20 years. What is trending now may be frowned upon in a decade. What you may want to show everyone today may be ridiculous when you are 60 years old.
You can get a new shirt.
You can buy a new hat.
You can get a new car.
You can even get new hair.
But you cannot do anything with a tattoo. It is there. Forever. Like it or not, it’s with you – until you die.
So, before you tat yourself, be sure to answer the question: “Is this the wisest thing I can do with my body?” It may be. However, there’s a good chance it just ain’t. If you choose to get one, or already have one, I would love to see it. I won’t judge or condemn. I’ll probably even say, “Wow, that’s awesome. . . did it hurt?” As I already said above – it is not a wicked or evil act (depending on what and where of course).
For me, however, it won’t be happening. I know myself too much. I change preferences like I change socks. So Matt Pearson won’t be getting a tattoo. For me, it just ain’t smart. In college I liked Garth Brooks, Hootie and the Blowfish, and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Can you imagine if I got a few tats related to those things? Oh. My. I can picture it now: On my right forearm a Timberwolf in basketball clothes eating a Cowboy Hat wearin’ Blowfish. I’m thinkin’ it’s a good thing I didn’t get one.
Besides – I don’t like pain OR needles.
Two more thoughts before I sign off:
First, never forget that our testimony for Christ should be on our faces and with our words. People should not have to look at a tattoo to know we are Christians. They should see it in our actions, in our joy, in the way we serve others, and in what we say/what comes out of our mouths (See Ezekiel 37:26-27 & Galatians 5:22-23). Be careful not to use the excuse, “I am going to get all tatted up so people might know Jesus!” That’s nowhere in the Bible. God might and can use it, yes. But that’s not the primary means by which He has chosen to ‘make disciples of all nations.’ A heart that has been transformed by the Spirit of Christ and words that proclaim the Gospel message is how it will happen.
Second, someone will be quick to point out a law in the Old Testament about getting a tattoo. Leviticus 19:28 clearly says to not tattoo your body. Leviticus, as you know, is an Old Testament law book. If someone were to use that verse to say that it is a sin to get a tattoo, however, they would also have to agree that it is a sin not to dig a hole with a shovel every time they go to the bathroom (see Deut. 23:12-13)!!!!
There are laws in the Old Testament, in other words, that were specifically for the Israelite nation living at that time and place in history.
A good treatment of how New Testament Christians should treat the Old Testament law can be found in chapter 9 of the book How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Doug Stewart.
Consider this summary of ‘Dos and Don’ts’ from their book:
1. Do see the OT law as God’s fully inspired word for you.
Don’t see the OT law as God’s direct command to you.
2. Do see the OT law as the basis for the Old Covenant, and therefore Israel’s history.
Don’t see the OT law as binding on Christians in the New Covenant except were specifically renewed in the NT.
3. Do see God’s justice, love, and high standards revealed in the OT law.
Don’t forget to see that God’s mercy is made equal to the severity of the standards.
4. Don’t see the OT law as complete. It is not technically comprehensive.
Do see the OT law as a paradigm – providing examples for the full range of expected behavior.
5. Don’t expect the OT law to be cited frequently by the prophets for the NT.
Do remember the essence of the Law (10 Commandments and two chief laws) is repeated in the prophets and renewed in the NT.
6. Do see the OT law as a generous gift to Israel, bringing much blessing when obeyed.
Don’t see the OT law as a grouping of arbitrary, annoying regulations limiting people’s freedom.
Thanks for asking. I hope this helps somewhat.
What do YOU think? Agree? Disagree? Something else you would add? How would you have counseled this inquirer?