Recently on FB, I’ve noticed ads for new tattoos, labeled NOTW (not of this world). These tats are targeted toward Christians who would like to express their Christianity by proclaiming it on their body.
1. Are tattoos forbidden in the Bible?
A. The Bible does speak directly toward tattoos in Leviticus 19:28, which says, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves.”
Like all Scripture, the context gives the best answer.
“Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it.
Do not practice divination or seek omens.
Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.
Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.
Do not degrade your daughter by making her a prostitute, or the land will turn to prostitution and be filled with wickedness.”
Overall, Leviticus 19 is specifically speaking of how one should not worship. Eating bloody meat, cutting your beard, cutting yourself, and selling your daughter (among other things) were all used in pagan worship. Surely, it would have been wrong for God-followers to get these tattoos if they were associated with idolatry. [Read more about the Christian argument not to get a tattoo here.]
B. At the end of Revelation, the Bible states that Jesus has defeated the beast, and “on his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:16).
When I first saw this verse, I was kind of dumbfounded. In Bible classes, one is taught to take the Bible literally unless you have contextual reason to do otherwise. And most religious people in my circle take the book of Revelation very literally, and it clearly says that Jesus has a name written on his thigh. I will note that the passage doesn’t say if it’s a tattoo or a sharpie, but the verse is there, nonetheless.
2. Are tattoos wrong by association?
This question is much harder to answer. And it probably has a lot to do with what generation you’re from. You may associate tattoos with biker gangs, felons, hippies, or the trendies on the east side of town. I completely understand if you think tattoos are wrong if you got them during a time in your life when you were apart from God. The permanency of tattoos can certainly serve as a reminder of bad choices and sin that we have committed. It is only natural for those same memories to surface when you see another person’s tattoo. Like many things, you really have to make a personal call and decision on this.
- Based on Scripture, tattoos (and trimmed beards) were forbidden in the Old Testament when they were associated with idolatry.
- Jesus has “KINGS OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” written on his thigh.
- Tattoos can remind people of past sin.
So what about those NOTW tattoos?
- Be careful about getting one. If you are going to proclaim on your body that you follow Jesus, you should be ready to act like it and defend it.
- If you’re going to get a tattoo, get something that is original and isn’t a fad. Remember WWJD and the Tasmanian Devil?
- If you’re hesitant about getting a tattoo, you can just get the window sticker instead.