Religion Roundtable: Are tattoos sinful?
Dec 07, 2013 | 2335 views |  0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Glorify God with your body Is it a sin to wear a tattoo, even if the tattoo is religious in nature? I have a slogan that I use when teaching the Bible: “Don’t believe anything that I say, but prove everything that I say by the Bible.”

Israel was commanded: “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves … I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:28). Now, even though the New Testament doesn’t say anything regarding tattoos, the fact that there was a command against tattoos should raise some questions.

A good test is to determine whether we can sincerely, in good conscience, ask our Father to bless and use these particular activities for his own good purposes. The Bible says, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore glorify, or honor, God with your body” (1 Cor.6:19-20). Since your body belongs to God, you should make sure you have his clear permission before you mark it up with tattoos or body piercings.

An important principle to remember when dealing with issues the Bible does not specifically address is if there is room for doubt as to whether it’s sinful, or whether it pleases God, then it’s best not to engage in that activity, for conscience sake. Romans 14:23 reminds us that anything that does not come from faith is sin.

Bob McClain, Living By Faith Ministry, Oxford

Not sinful, but should not be taken lightly

In general, the Catholic Church does not believe that tattoos are sinful. The action of applying ink to one’s skin via tattoo is neither morally good nor evil. The prohibition against tattoos in Leviticus 19:38 is interpreted as a prohibition against some of the tattooing practices of Israel’s neighboring nations. So how does someone decide if a tattoo they are contemplating is appropriate?

First, the content of the tattoo needs to be examined. Is it something holy and beautiful, or is it something offensive to God? Does it uphold human dignity, or is it something degrading? A tattoo of a cross to remind you that you follow Christ might be fine, but an image of something evil would be problematic. The subject matter can be sinful even if the process is not. But even if it isn’t sinful, it still may not be a great idea.

Second, anyone contemplating a tattoo needs to ask themselves why they want one. Getting a tattoo because it’s beautiful is a better motivation than getting one to draw attention to yourself. Tattoos are essentially permanent additions to one’s body that should require some thought. The content of a tattoo and the motivation for getting one are really the determining factors. Ultimately, we need to remember that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit — and should be treated as such.

Bryan Lowe, Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church, Anniston
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