Your Questions Answered: Tattoos and Taboos

QUESTION: What is your stance on tattoos and the religious taboo associated with them?

I usually stray away from controversy, but since you asked, I’m happy to share my thoughts, though I’d like to stress that last component: These are the opinions I’ve formed regarding tattoos, however, I know that there are some religious traditions and Christian denominations that don’t agree with me.

I personally do not have any tattoos of my own—but it is not for religious reasons. I don’t believe tattoos are in and of themselves evil or sinful. My decision is based solely on the awareness that my aesthetic tastes are ever-changing and I doubt that when I’m a grandmother, I’ll still want a tattoo peeping out, however symbolic it was to me decades earlier.

Why don't I believe that tattoos are inherently bad? Well, we must remember that even Jesus said that it’s how pure our hearts are on the inside, rather than how pure we might look from the outside—appearances can be quite deceiving. I think we can get hung up on the wrong things when we start worrying too much about our outward appearances and neglect the state of our hearts.

Having said that, I also don't think tattoos are automatically right for a given Christian, either.

Instead, I feel like tattoos can be one of those subjects that falls into what I like to call “the eating meat” category, à la what Paul talks about in Romans: “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.” (Romans 14:5-6)

Essentially, when it comes to eating meat—and what I feel like also pertains to tattoos—each Christian is free to eat or not eat meat according to his own conscience, but either choice ought to lead to giving thanks to God. 

While I don't believe that a tattoo in and of itself will defile you, I do believe you should seek God about it and move forward only when you have "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding" regarding it and are "fully convinced in [your] own mind." In other words, for some it might be right for them to get a tattoo, but for others it could be wrong. It is here where folks must exercise wisdom and seek God.

For instance, I know there believers who are able to use their tattoos as a witnessing tool, where people will ask them what it means and they can share the Gospel. And for other believers, their tattoos are simply a personal reminder to them of God’s love and presence in their lives and a permanent encouragement to them of their faith.

However, I got in touch with one of my friends who plans to be a foreign missionary in the future and has a Bible verse tattoo. I asked her about this and she provided another perspective to consider—not whether tattoos are evil or sinful, but how they might be a stumbling block to others in sharing the gospel: "Just knowing that there can actually be people who would be turned off to the gospel that I preach because I have markings on my body, this has given me conviction to not get anymore tattoos," she said.

Then there are those, who see tattoos as defiling our bodies, what we ought to treat as God’s Holy Temple.
Obviously, the subject is wrought with varying opinions that all present valid points to the discussion.

Whichever choice you make—to tattoo or not to tattoo—it ought to bring you to glorify God. I also believe that if you do get a tattoo, consider how the tattoo itself might glorify God. Not that it has to be a cross or Bible verse, but, given that it is permanent and likely highly visible, it it should be (in image and body placement) intentional, tasteful, pleasing to the Lord and approached thoughtfully and prayerfully.

In essence, whether it’s tattoos or anything else, we must not lose sight of what is the utmost importance, and that is point to Jesus and his sacrificial love.

What Other Questions Do You Have For Me?
Recently, I invited you to ask me any questions you might have that I could answer in upcoming posts, whether it's follow-up regarding anything I've written about in the past, curiosities regarding any of my personal experiences, or your general blogging questions. In the following weeks I will continue to respond to your questions, so please feel free to ask any that come to mind in the comments below or send me an email


  1. Carmen- I love that verse! I've never heard it, but it DOES clear up A LOT of questions that christians are often "on the fence" about. You answered this beautifully.

    I think it's interesting to think, though, that for some- tattoos may make you more approachable to people who aren't Christians. It may actually HELP your witness. I remember sitting on the DC Metro one summer and just sort of thinking, "Holy cow, I am on the DC Metro...alone." And when I looked to my left, I saw the bicep of this very large man sitting next to me with a cross tattoo that said, "Resting in the shadow of the lord" or something like that...I don't know if he was a Christian or not, but it certainly made me feel better.

    Bravo for such a great answer!

  2. I have a tattoo and it is so special to me. On my inner wrist on my right hand side is the word JOY. What makes it so special is that it's in my mothers handwriting. It reminds me daily in a physical tangible reminder that Joy is what I'm looking for in life, and in the years to come when my mother is no longer here on earth with me it will be a daily reminder of my mother, a woman who lifted me up and wanted only the best for me. A woman who glorifies God and daily prays that His will, will be done in my life.

    It's absolutely a personal choice, for me it was about discovering that I couldn't live without the tattoo, not finding something that I could just live with :)

  3. Excellent answer and I totally agree with you!!

  4. Thanks, friends! Holly and PJ, you also added great additional perspectives and thoughts to the conversation, and I appreciate you taking the time to share them! :)

  5. P.S. To PJ -- I love the fact that your tattoo is in your mom's handwriting. That is really touching and sweet! Such a beautiful tribute and a much-needed daily reminder to always seek after the JOY, which can sometimes be hard to remember during the daily grind!

  6. Carmen- You are such a great example of a modern day Christian who still stands firm on what the Bible actually says without taking it out of context. What an awesome post!

  7. Very cool and clear thoughts on a controversial topic! It's great!

  8. I love that you answered such a controversial question! I think it is important to not judge a person with a tattoo, even if you may think it is wrong. Essentially it is between the person and God! And what better way to demonstrate true love for others (loving them even through disagreements)!


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