The Christian Broadcasting Network

  • CBN'S MINISTRIES
  • Give To CBN
  • Partners
  • Jobs
  • Log In or Sign Up

Family Matters

About this Blog

Linda Mintle, Ph.D. is a licensed marriage and family therapist, author of 16 books, a national expert on family issues and the psychology of food and weight. She's an assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School, a national speaker, writer, and news contributor.

Related Links

Visit Dr. Linda's Web site

Friend Dr. Linda Mintle on Facebook

Follow Dr. Linda on Twitter!

CBN.com's Family Section


Are Tattoos OK for Christians?


What do you do when your teen or young adult sports the latest naval design or ankle creation? Faint, yell, or try to rub it off (Trust me, it doesn’t work. They are permanent). Let’s face it. When we were kids, the only guys who had tattoos drove Harleys, spit nails, and didn’t shower for days.

Personally, I don’t understand wanting anything that invites pain. Yes, I had my ears pierced at 17, but I begged the man to stop after the first one was punctured. After I regained consciousness, I was perfectly content to stop the madness. Unfortunately, the single-pierced ear had yet to come to the fashion forefront.

My problem is I don’t find tattoos attractive. Who wants to wear blue all the time or have the same picture on their skin every day? Even I change the art in my house after so many years. 

And help me with this: What happens when you tattoo “Ricky” on your ankle and marry Jim? Or what do you do at 65 when Mickey Mouse is no longer your hero? 

All that aside, many parents have asked how to respond to the popularity of piercing and tattoos without alienating their kids. The scripture often quoted is Leviticus 19:28, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead, and do not mark your skin with tattoos. I am the Lord.” So what does this mean?

In Leviticus, God was talking to His people, telling them not to tattoo as a way of separating them from the larger culture. The entire chapter is a filled with moral and ceremonial laws. Everything from shaving around your head to when you can eat fruit is mentioned in that list of being set apart. The theme is to live a lifestyle of holiness that honors God. Tattoos and piercings were used to mark the dead for pagan burial.          

But what about Christian tattoos? Aren’t they a witnessing tool? For many kids who come out of a life of sin and are radically saved, a Christian tattoo such as “Blood Bought” is a counter message to their previous life of sin. If we focus on the legalism of the issue, we lose the bigger issue of radical surrender to Jesus.

In the New Testament, Jesus always brought the issue of the law down to a matter of the heart. As Paul says in I Corinthians 6:12, “I am allowed to do anything"—but not everything is good for you.” The point then in dealing with our kids isn’t should we or shouldn’t we, but what is in the heart.              

Christians need to consider their motivation for wanting a tattoo. If the motivation to get a tattoo is to conform to this world and fit in better, bring attention to self versus glorify God, disobey parents and cause the people around them to stumble, then it is not a good idea. For those who are radically saved and new in Christ, the motivation may be to witness to those who are lost. The bottom line is you have to judge your heart against the Word. God knows your heart and your motives, so an appraisal of motivation is needed. 

Parents, don’t make tattoos a reason to alienate your children. God’s love is unconditional. We need to love everyone regardless of how they look. But we also need to teach our kids about the Word and encourage them to do all things to please God. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and should glorify God. This includes a host of lifestyle behaviors, not just tattoos.  

Bottom line, quoting a verse in Leviticus does not cut it because that same chapter talks about eating fruit in only the fifth year, cutting the edges of a beard, shaving your hair, etc. These verses are meant to separate God’s people from pagan worship. Talk to your kids. Review the medical issues involved, such as the permanency of the decision (removal is possible, but expensive, painful, and does not always work). Ask if they would want this years from now, if it would be an issue in getting the job they want, and what is motivating the decision. Getting a tattoo is one of many acts that need clear a discussion of heart issues, not legalism.

For more medical information and concerns about tattoos, see Dr. Linda’s blog “Do Your Homework on Teens and Tattoos and Piercing” at www.drlindahelps.com. Click on Parenting Help, Older Entries until you find the blog post.

Print      Email to a Friend    posted on Thursday, October 14, 2010 5:43 PM

Comments on this post

# RE: Are Tattoos OK for Christians?

What about all the Scriptures that say, "you are not your own." and, "know ye not, ye are the TEMPLE of the Holy Ghost?" There are still a lot of NT Scriptures that are more against having tatoos than your wishy-washy argument for them (or at least to rationalize them). It is not just an OT issue. And, also you could have talked more about the medical issues. The devil hates our bodies. Most pagan cultures deform, tatoo, or pierce their bodies. These practices stop once they become Christians (even without someone saying it's wrong). We are made "IN THE IMAGE OF GOD." And, there are much BETTER ways to witness than tatoos (if that is your rationalization).
Left by Saoirse on Oct 15, 2010 6:55 PM

# RE: Are Tattoos OK for Christians?

I wento the Army straight out of High School 133lbs and 18 yrs old. So when I was in Fort Hood in 1957 I was a litle homesick si I got a tatoo that says Mother and I still have it. But won't when I get my new body. I know Mom will understand when I meet her in Heaven. She is waiting for me!Love u MOM!!!
Left by Stephen R. Ecsedy on Oct 15, 2010 8:14 PM

# RE: Are Tattoos OK for Christians?

I appreciate the article and the viewpoint. Personally, a hidden one, wouldn't be so bad. What I don't care for his all over body tattoos to where that's all U notice. I also wonder how there beautiful young women don't understand that their tattoos detract from their appearance on their wedding day. Have they thought about getting old and how that tattoo will look on a skin that is sagging? Like U said, what about names that no longer mean anything later on. My eldest daughter has " The property of ........." across her back up by her shoulders in LARGE writing. The man is dead. No, she hasn't been walking with the Lord. I just think it needs to be well thought out before having it done. Most likely U will have it the rest of UR life. I, for one, like change.
Left by jazz on Oct 15, 2010 8:48 PM

# RE: Are Tattoos OK for Christians?

My grandfather (born in 1900) decided at a young age he wanted to be the tattoo man in the circus. From what I saw growing up, he did not have any body real-estate left for another tattoo. My father said the tattoos also were on private areas of his body. When he had a stroke and was in the hospital, I got to see more than I wanted. Believe me, tattoos are not nice looking on some buff dude. They look horrible on a dying 68 year old man. When he did die, my parents would often say; "I wonder what the undertaker thought?" It may be a morbid reason for limiting tattoos, but I would never want an undertaker checking out "my junk".
Left by JoelCalderone on Oct 16, 2010 10:06 AM

# RE: Are Tattoos OK for Christians?

Linda Mintle makes tattos a trivial matter. She writes bubbly and cute and clever, but the issue is demonic. A huge message in the NT is that we now belong to Jesus who purchased us; and we are the temple of the Spirit of God, and told not to desecreate our temple. We are told not to even give a hint of unrighteousness. Tattos glorify the ways of the world, the ways of the unsaved crowd, they do not glorify God or Jesus. As a Christian counselor, I can tell you that demons work in the realm of thought and acute suggestion to drive Christians to ungodly activity. I surely wish that CBN.com would be more careful about who and what they publish. This column by Mintle makes tattoos a non-issue; when tattoos scream that "I belong to the world." In short, they look like the devil...
Left by tomwinfield on Oct 16, 2010 10:10 AM

# RE: Are Tattoos OK for Christians?

I agree with the above comment left by Tom. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, why on earth would we want to desecrate God's temple????? We are to be a Light to the world, sometime we are the only Bible people see; we need to represent our God with righteous behavior. Not the same behavior as the lost, we are SAVED, show it!!!!!If the tattoos came from a previous lifestyle, that is a witnessing tool, but for a Christian to walk into a tattoo parlor is wrong.
Left by jrileyx2 on Oct 16, 2010 10:27 AM

# RE: Are Tattoos OK for Christians?

Did you ever notice that the more pagan a nation is the more tatoos and piercings its population has? What does that say about America?
Left by Bouton on Oct 16, 2010 4:39 PM

# RE: Are Tattoos OK for Christians?

As usual, evrybody has an opinion. I guess we'll just have to wait and see if GOD will send us to hell for having a tattoo. I will be your friend, hang out with you and pray with and for you and your tattoo's. I am not qualified to pass judgement. I certainly am not qualified to tell you that you are demon possesed because you have a tattoo. doesn't it say to not cut your side burns or something? Sure glad I can't do anything to lose GODs love and my salvation! Something about a cross or?? I forget.
Left by bill on Oct 16, 2010 9:35 PM

# RE: Are Tattoos OK for Christians?

We need to remember that there are three types of laws in the Old Testament: ceremonial, civil and moral. Under the new covenant, only moral laws apply to Christians. The prescription against tattoos in Leviticus is ceremonial, and thus does not apply to Christians, just as circumcision and dietary rules don't apply.

Second, Song of Song 8:6 is an example of placing a permanent mark on your arm or chest to show affection and possession for another. (A "Mom" tattoo perhaps?)

Third, Rev 19:16 says that Jesus will have his title tattooed on his thigh when he comes in glory for the final battle.

The bottom line is that tattoos are an "open-hand" issue, and just like other open-hand issues, it is up to your conscience what is best for you and what will bring glory to God in your life. Just like everything else, it is a question of your heart and motivation. Tattoos (like rock music) are neutral and up to the individual whether or not they are used for good or evil.
Left by Jon on Oct 16, 2010 11:39 PM

# RE: Are Tattoos OK for Christians?

I tend to agree with Jon, even though I personally do not like tatoos; I think they are ugly, painful, and expensive, so why do it?

Man looks at the outward appearance, God looks at the heart. Something to consider...
Left by gracefortoday on Oct 17, 2010 11:04 AM

# RE: Are Tattoos OK for Christians?

The bottom line is tattoos are wrong according to Leviticus 19:28. Why do we always try to justify everything? We are we always sooo accepting of the world's ways of doing things? The bible says that we are in this world but not of this world. There are so many things that we as Christians do that tarnishes our witness, that causes even our saved brothers and sisters to fall. IT IS NOT ABOUT US! We need to walk in the Spirit and be led by the Spirit and we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. At the same time we are called to be all things to all people that we might win some. We may change our methods within reason, not the message. We are to walk circumspectly as the days of Jesus's coming are diminishing. Pray for discernment so that we may know who or what is of God, which would help us in our decision making. Remember we are being watched at all times...
Left by Vanessa on Oct 17, 2010 5:31 PM

# RE: Are Tattoos OK for Christians?

I've been a Christian for well over 20 years - since youth. Tattoos are very much recognized now, even in the Christian culture and I have had my outward and inward debates about them (scripturally speaking of course).
In my opinion:
1) I disagree with a few post-replies here about this 'columnist' taking the issue lightly. That is not what I got. I think it 'does' concern her and she wants people to understand that just because they have a tattoo, it doesn't necessarily condemn them to hell. She did mention it is important to understand the medical and spiritual reasons behind tattooing.
The only law Christians are bound to is the 'law' of love for Christ in not to offend him. The law in Leviticus states alot more than just cutting ourselves and was made quote unquote, for the 'Jews' (JON mentioned this in his reply a few replies ago).
2)I understand what she meant by those radically changed Christianity. People that are full of passion and zeal, are going to do such things.
Left by walker198 on Oct 18, 2010 12:16 AM

# RE: Are Tattoos OK for Christians?

In essence, I do not support tattooing, but I do think it is worldly. Our bodies are beautiful enough as they are and any attention brought, should be brought to the 'creator'.

However, we live in diverse world and many come to Christ in many different ways, I'm not going to condone or consent to anyone getting a tattoo, but I'm not going to 'condemn' them either. Adults should be respected as much and focusing on what is truly important, gives more-way for God to deal with the smaller details... {Keep your 'Faith}
Left by walker198 on Oct 18, 2010 12:21 AM

# RE: Are Tattoos OK for Christians?

The topic here was "Is it OK." There are Scriptures you could use to "ok" it, if you really wanted to. But, the question should be, "Is this pleasing to the LORD?" (Ephesians 5:10) I was NOT talking about judging someone. Certainly, tatoos will not keep people out of heaven. Instead ask, "What kind of life witness will you have?" "Do you really bring glory to the Lord by having graffiti on your body?" (1 Corinthians 3:16) Only God knows a person's heart and motivation. But, if someone does the same things as worldly people do and there seems to be no difference between a Christian and a worldly person, how can that be a witness? How many worldly people have "Christian" tatoos? Jesus said, "By their fruit, you shall know them." (Matthew 7:20)
Additionally, there are physical issues with tatooing and body piercing that can cause life-threatening diseases. I personally know someone who got hepititis C from thisthat attacked his liver and he almsot died. He still suffers it.
Left by Saoirse on Oct 18, 2010 4:37 PM

# RE: Are Tattoos OK for Christians?

The cutting of the flesh referred to in Leviticus dealt with the observance of a pagan practice. If we are to insist tattoos are wrong then we should also insist that no one shaves or have haircut. The fruit you said was to be eaten every five years was a one time instance. It could be eaten every year after that. The first 3 years of the tree's life the fruit was not to be eaten. The fourth year was dedicated to the Lord. After that, the fifth years and all other years afterward the fruit could be eaten. The human body of the believer is the temple of the Holy Spirit but the only thing that defiles it is sexually immorality. The temple of God mentioned in 1 Cor 3:16 refers to the local church body NOT the believer's body.
Left by Steven Shannon on Oct 20, 2010 1:30 AM

# RE: Are Tattoos OK for Christians?

Jesus is returning with a tattoo on his thigh...Revelation 19:16
Left by Steven Shannon on Oct 20, 2010 1:32 AM

# RE: Are Tattoos OK for Christians?

Tattoos aren't "OK". Period. It is written. The body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. This therapist is trying to rationalise something that is banned. I wish people in high places such as herself, with a PH. D. especially, would take a firm stand on issues and quit rationalising everything. Next it will be "OK" to be a "little bit homosexual". Enough already, let's honour the Lord 100%. Thank Him He also provides a way for tattoos to be removed!
Left by vmw7777777 on Oct 20, 2010 8:50 AM

# RE: Are Tattoos OK for Christians?

I know people that go to a Foursquare Gospel Holiness church and you are judged the minute you walk in with any makeup on. I would hate to see what a tattooed person would feel like in there. I felt uncomfortable with makeup on(not hardly any) and didnt go back. If an unsaved tattooed person came in and was given funny looks or no one talked to them, they wouldnt go back and might not ever be saved. God judges hearts and i think we should be happy when tattooed people show up in our churches if they are truly looking for Jesus. Someone who was a reular member at that church told me not to go with makeup on because they would call me Jezebelle. What kind of "holiness" church would try to judge anyone who entered that wasnt exacly as they are? We are trying to save souls,not their fashion sense.
Left by robinleigh131 on Oct 20, 2010 10:05 PM

# RE: Are Tattoos OK for Christians?

The Bible does state in Leviticus not to have tattoos but there are many laws that the Pharisees used to glorify themselves & not God. Jesus spoke to them many times about this. I agree that not all tattoos are good just as not all foods, tv programs, books, internet sites & so forth are not good for us either. God judges a person by their works but our works and/or appearances do not get us to Heaven. Only faith in the Lord Jesus & his blood covering our sins gets a person to Heaven. My husband has 2 tattoos that he has gotten since becoming a Christian. His are not a witness tool, but something he wanted & not due to anyone else's influence. He is a wonderful Christian who loves His Lord. We should just be thankful that our God through His Grace can look past all our flaws & see the blood of His Son, Jesus.
Left by NORRIS95 on Oct 21, 2010 5:49 PM

# RE: Are Tattoos OK for Christians?

All of you that are anti-tattoo need to consider your pharisaic hearts, put aside your religion, and start loving Jesus and his people. This clip says it better than I ever could: http://www.youtube.com/user/mhcseattle#p/a/u/1/mSiukCCxJtM

The whole clip is worth watching a couple times. For tattoos specifically start at 8-minutes in.
Left by Jon on Oct 25, 2010 5:43 PM

# RE: Are Tattoos OK for Christians?

If you are truly a Christian your church - and you - should welcome everyone with love and open arms as Jesus would have - tattoos or not! What about people that are tattooed and pierced before receiving Jesus? They receive Jesus and they can become the best witnesses for the lost kids on the streets because they can relate - they've been there. I think it's a personal issue between you and the Lord. I just had a tattoo and it is an angel (it doesn't show w/clothes on) in memory of my nephew that was violently murdered. Does this make it wrong? I don't believe God will punish or be angry with me for this. I think we need to get our priorities straight about loving people as they are just as Jesus did.
Left by Ursula A. Serini on Oct 27, 2010 2:28 PM

# RE: Are Tattoos OK for Christians?

Tattoos can be a great way to express oneself or to remember a loved one or a special time. There are many positives to tattoos for many people. However, sometimes people do have tattoo regret and with today’s technology tattoos don’t have to be permanent. Laser tattoo removal is extremely effective on most types of tattoos and is a great option for tattoo regret. It’s the safest and most effective form of tattoo removal on the market. If you are interested in tattoo removal visit http://www.oregontattooremoval.com and review frequently asked questions and before and after pictures.
Left by ortattooremoval on Nov 09, 2010 6:47 PM

# RE: Are Tattoos OK for Christians?

i would never say anyone who has a tattoo is going to hell. who are we to judge God is the only one who will judge you. i have a tattoo on my shoulder and it is a cross which shows my faith in the Lord. i didnt get it becuase of peer pressure or outside influences. i think we as a ppl need to stick together and not judge one another. the Lord sees what is in our hearts.
Left by bri on Feb 02, 2011 8:54 AM

# RE: Are Tattoos OK for Christians?

In the past, I have seen tatoos that are cool, and at one time toyed with the idea of getting a small one myself. But not long ago, I was reading the Bible and, if I remember correctly, it said not to put a mark on your body. I assumed it meant tatoos. I may be wrong about that. But I no longer want a tatoo. It is a personal decision for others, so I won't judge them.
Left by joycey04 on Feb 17, 2011 10:32 AM

# RE: Are Tattoos OK for Christians?

I keep seeing a theme that God can send me to hell. I'm confused. I am born again, baptized, I have tattoos with my favorite scripture..covered. I thought we were all sinners, sin was apart of our life on earth and we were supposed to try not to sin and to please God. I thought Jesus died for our sins to save us from Hell. So can someone clear this up for me before I get my next tattoo praising the Lord?
Left by Kimberly on Nov 27, 2012 2:53 PM

# RE: Are Tattoos OK for Christians?

Ok well names are never a good idea for a tatt unless in is Jesus. I personaly have 5 a fox on my ankle which I love foxes , good reason but long story, I have pepe le pew the looney tunes skunk on my back which I like it but not thrilled about, a celtic cross with indian/native american feathera to show my heritage a shamrock on my left wrist to honor my husband cause I cant keep a ring on my finger(i lose them alot) and my last one I got this year cause my life had changed for the better with god though the devil loves my mind U put God be with you and protect you un hebrew letters on my forarm so EVERYONE I shank hands with, hand money to whatever Im basicly giving that saying to cause its on my right arm and Im right handed. I love it and feel no shame for it. I feel God gave me premission on that one cause it was an out of the blue idea and I hadnt had the money for a tatt in a long while so like said above its a "heart felt thing". Peace love and God bless
Left by Lil Leslie on Mar 15, 2013 1:24 AM