Do you have a tattoo?

I asked the question this morning on twitter and facebook, “Do you have a tattoo?” research shows that 1 in 5 Americans have one.

We all know there is GREAT debate in the world over whether someone should or should not have a tattoo. There have been times in life “brief times” that I have wanted one. Once was when I saw a fellow clergyman who had the Cross and Flame on his arm and it really looked good. It was in good taste and it was representative of something that meant much in his life. It represented his commitment to Christ and his commitment to The United Methodist Church.

The second time I wanted one is when a fellow Christian made a public comment that we needed to befriend those people who are not like us and make us uncomfortable and added, “those people who have tattoo’s.” I told Misty soon after that, “I have never really wanted a tattoo, but I really want to go get a big one now.” However, it was with mixed reasons that I wanted one this time.

What does the Bible say?

Leviticus 19:28 NLT

28 “Do not cut your bodies for the dead, and do not mark your skin with tattoos. I am the Lord.

We could debate all day long on this but here are my understandings. This verse 28 refers back to verse 1 & 2 which read, 1 The Lord also said to Moses, 2 “Give the following instructions to the entire community of Israel. You must be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.

So God is speaking to the Israelites and giving them instructions on living a HOLY Life. It is very obvious to me in verse that God is speaking to those who are cutting and marking their bodies in relation to the DEAD. In the verses throughout Leviticus chapter 19, there are many things that God gives us that pertain to life here on earth and are referred to again and again throughout scripture. Leviticus 19:28 is not one of them.

Neither is Leviticus 19: 5-8

5 “When you sacrifice a peace offering to the Lord, offer it properly so you will be accepted by God. 6 The sacrifice must be eaten on the same day you offer it or on the next day. Whatever is left over until the third day must be completely burned up. 7 If any of the sacrifice is eaten on the third day, it will be contaminated, and I will not accept it. 8 Anyone who eats it on the third day will be punished for defiling what is holy to the Lord and will be cut off from the community.

Leviticus 19: 9-10

9 “When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. 10 It is the same with your grape crop—do not strip every last bunch of grapes from the vines, and do not pick up the grapes that fall to the ground. Leave them for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the Lord your God.

Leviticus 19: 13b

“Do not make your hired workers wait until the next day to receive their pay.

Leviticus 19: 19b

“Do not mate two different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two different kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven from two different kinds of thread.

Leviticus 19: 20-22

20 “If a man has sex with a slave girl whose freedom has never been purchased but who is committed to become another man’s wife, he must pay full compensation to her master. But since she is not a free woman, neither the man nor the woman will be put to death. 21 The man, however, must bring a ram as a guilt offering and present it to the Lord at the entrance of the Tabernacle. 22 The priest will then purify him before the Lord with the ram of the guilt offering, and the man’s sin will be forgiven.

Leviticus 19: 23-25

23 “When you enter the land and plant fruit trees, leave the fruit unharvested for the first three years and consider it forbidden. Do not eat it. 24 In the fourth year the entire crop must be consecrated to the Lord as a celebration of praise. 25 Finally, in the fifth year you may eat the fruit. If you follow this pattern, your harvest will increase. I am the Lord your God.

Leviticus 19:27

27 “Do not trim off the hair on your temples or trim your beards.

It amazes me that we can take the one verse on cutting and marking your bodies and say OK, this is still in play today in 2011 and just automatically disregard the other ones I have listed here.

We have to take Scripture as a WHOLE. We must take Genesis through Revelation and mine the riches of Scripture. There are truths that relate to all time, there are truths that related to a specific time and place described and related to us in scripture and there are ways that we can understand it all.

God in this passage of scripture was is specifically dealing with the pagan religious rituals of the people living around the Israelites. God’s desire is to set his people apart from other cultures. The focus here is prohibiting worldly, heathen worship and witchcraft. God forbids his holy people to engage in idolatrous, pagan worship and sorcery which imitates the heathens. He does this out of protection, because he knows this will lead them away from the one true God.

It’s interesting to observe verse 26, “Do not eat meat that has not been drained of its blood,” and verse 27, “Do not trim off the hair on your temples or trim your beards.” Well, certainly many Christians today eat non-kosher meats and get haircuts without participating in the forbidden worship of pagans. Back then these customs were associated with pagan rites and rituals. Today they are not.

The best question I would know to ask is this, “Why do I want a tattoo”? The answer is between you and God. I do not believe the Bible in Leviticus mandates NO Tattoo’s. I believe the scripture is clear here. For those who want to say this is a mandate, I sure hope you do not explain away the other verses stated above. And, before you blast me for this post and some will, take the time and do the work and give a good defense for the context of this passage and tell me how you can possibly say that God will not allow tattoos today but he will allow the numerous other things in this passage such as planting two kinds of seed, the cutting of the hair, and two different kinds of threads.

Further, if you make the argument of the Body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and you eat anything that is bad for you, then don’t force this argument of anyone. If you drink soda, eat chocolate, Twinkies, cookies, sweets, ice cream, if you are over weight, if you are too skinny, etc, etc, etc, then don’t make the argument of the Body being the temple as a valid argument.

Love in Christ and I mean that. I am just tired of people who God loves being condemned for having a tattoo. I do not have one and I do not want one. But I love a lot of people who have them and God loves them and we can argue all day but I do not find in the Bible that God says you shall not!

Remember my Major Guidelines.

If God teaches in scripture in context, that it is wrong, then don’t.

If you are not an adult, you respect your parents or guardians and follow their guidelines. Respect of parents is required by God.

If you are an adult or if your parents have given you freedom to choose and good guidance, then the choice is up to you. I do not see anywhere in Scripture where your decision to have a tattoo or not to have one is condemned.


Here is the Three Minute Thursday that I did several weeks ago on the subject. Look for another one soon.

4 comments on “Do you have a tattoo?

  1. January 26, 2011 Dave Grant

    My thoughts exactly. (by the way, I have 3).

  2. January 26, 2011 Drew McCraw

    Thank you Ronnie! So many people have questioned me getting a tattoo and throwed Leviticus 28:19 around a lot and they don’t realize what the other verses are saying

  3. January 31, 2011 Dustin Montgomery

    Absolutely agree Ronnie! You know that I have one, it’s not a great big secret. Keep it up!

  4. January 31, 2011 Kim Lawson

    Even though I’m not fond of them, like you I love a lot of people who have them. Personally I like change too much to want one myself. But I do have my ears pierced, which I thing the same scripture gets used to condemn as well.


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