By their fruits ye shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?  (Matthew 7:16)

Churchmouse Campanologist receives a fair amount of searches from readers looking for guidance on tattoos.  Many young churchgoers are enticed by the fad for sporting Bible verses or Christian symbols on their skin.

Kevin Cauley of the Berryville (Arkansas) Church of Christ has a helpful article entitled ‘Are Piercings and Tattoos Wrong?’  He gives several reasons, supported by New Testament texts, why Christians should avoid this practice.  I’ll summarise these below, but please take the time to read his article in full.

Firstly, ask yourself why you would like a tattoo or a series of piercings:

– Is it to attract attention?

– Is it to falsely glorify God or His Son Jesus Christ?

– Is it to look ‘cool’ or tough?

Last year, I cited Leviticus 19:28 as a reason against obtaining a tattoo or piercing.  Of course, you may say, as Christians, we are under the New Covenant.  Yes, that’s true, but the Lord prohibited idolatry and commanded His people to avoid it.  The nations surrounding Israel were renowned for their idolatrous practices; wearing tattoos and piercing the skin formed part of their worship and ritual.    

Similarly, the books of the New Testament enjoin Christians to a life of modesty and separation from worldliness. We are still under the 10 Commandments and, as such, idolatry is forbidden. Permanently decorating one’s skin or piercing it extensively would appear to go against this instruction.  When we pay such close attention to our flesh, are we not idolising and worshipping ourselves instead of the Lord?

Secondly, please give this procedure serious thought before undergoing it. Reflect on your path to Christ in light of your confessions of faith. Mr Cauley helpfully provides a selection of verses on the Christian life, some of which follow:

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  (1 Corinthians 10:31)

‘Therefore come out from them and be separate,’ says the Lord.  ‘Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.’  (2 Corinthians 6:17)

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  (Philippians 2:3)

For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.  (1 Thessalonians 4:7)

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4)

For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. (1 John 2:16)

Finally, what happens when you’ve outgrown your tattoos? Nearly a year ago, I wrote about tattoo removal, another topic about which I receive search enquiries.  Since then, I have spoken to a local esthetician who says that the tattoo removal creams in the UK work better than lasers because they are gentler and remove all dye colours. 

In closing, tattoos and piercings remind me of the old adage, ‘Act in haste, repent at leisure’.  What seems such a great idea at the time, especially when we’re young and impulsive, doesn’t age very well.  Think of people who have names of their boyfriends or girlfriends tattooed in prominent places — then they break up and start dating someone else.  Something to consider before nipping into the tattoo parlour.

If you’ve read this and still wish to go ahead with permanent skin decoration, please take a few moments to read the Mayo Clinic’s lists of related risks and precautions, which can include scarring, hepatitis and even HIV.