Getting my ears pierced was a big deal at my house. Despite years of begging, my mom made me wait until my tenth birthday. When I (finally) hit double digits, my mom planned a special trip to Walmart, where I picked out the most sparkly pair of fake diamond studs available and let the sales clerk poke holes in my ears.
My grandma said I looked like a gypsy.
I thought I looked more like a princess.
I never once considered what God thought.
We’ve had many requests for us to tackle the subject of tattoos and piercings over the years. It’s a subject I’ve avoided writing about, because I want to steer this ship away from legalism and avoid giving the impression that following Christ well means putting checkmarks on a list of dos and don’ts. But … it is important to put the messages of our culture through the filter of God’s Word to see how they hold up. The world increasingly says that we have the right to do anything to our bodies that makes us feel beautiful and accepted, including piercings and tattoos without limits. But what does God’s Word say? Let’s find out.
It is always helpful when digging for biblical truth to check out the big picture rather than pulling out just one verse. If we start looking for answers to this specific modern question in the Old Testament, we find some surprising info.
There are several passages that indicate that piercings, including nose rings, were permitted by Old Testament law.
In Genesis 24:47, Abraham’s servant did something strange when he found a wife (Rebekah) for Isaac.
“Then I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose and the bracelets on her arms.”
In Exodus 32:2, Aaron asks the Israelite women and children to remove the rings from their ears so he could form the golden calf. Later in Exodus 35:22, Israelite women gave their earrings as an offering to help build the Tabernacle.
Clearly, if we were young women looking to please the Lord in Old Testament times, we could come to the conclusion that piercings were a-okay.
What about tattoos? The answer to that question is pretty black and white.
Leviticus 19:28 says, “You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD.”
There are probably a lot of cultural references to unpack there, but let’s skip to the bottom line—tattoos are a no-go. And just so we don’t dismiss the “you shall not tattoo yourselves” part of the verse by assuming that it was just some person saying it, this verse ends with the bold statement “I am the LORD.” This is God’s standard.
These verses lead to the initial conclusion that piercings are acceptable but tattoos are not. But we can’t stop the discussion there. As I thought through this topic, I kept thinking of questions that go beyond what the Bible says specifically on the issues of tattoos and piercings and dig into some bigger, heart issues addressed in the Word.
If you are considering a tattoo or a piercing, here are some questions I’d encourage you to ask:
Is my desire for a tattoo/piercing rooted in rebellion?
Proverbs 17:11 warns, “An evil man seeks only rebellion, and a cruel messenger will be sent against him.”
Do I want a tattoo/piercing to draw attention to myself?
Romans 12:3 says, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith God has assigned.”
Does getting a tattoo/piercing honor my parents’ wishes?
Exodus 20:12 says, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.”
Do I want a tattoo or piercing in order to look more like the world?
First John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
Is the purpose of the tattoo or piercing to get attention from boys?
Romans 14:13 says, “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”
Does getting a tattoo/piercing help me glorify God with my body?
First Corinthians 6:19–20 says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
Have I thought through what the people I respect think about tattoos and piercings?
Romans 12:17 says, “Give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.”
My hunch is that you will find that tattoos and most piercings aren’t a wise choice if you filter them through these questions and verses. That is not to say that God cannot use someone who is tattooed or pierced. Thank goodness He doesn’t wait until we look and act perfect before He starts to work in our lives (that would be a long wait). But when we put tattoos and body piercings under the microscope of God’s Word, I think we find that in general, the benefits don’t outweigh the risks.
Since tattoos and piercings are permanent decisions, it is worth doing some research on your own before determining your stance. Here are a few great resources on the subject I would recommend checking out.
After doing your homework on these issues, hop back on the blog and tell us what you think.