10 Questions to Ask Before You Get That Tattoo
Tattoos are really trendy these days. It seems like just about everyone is getting them, Christians included. Among young people, tattoos have become a common and accepted form of self-expression – something that was unthinkable in my grandparent’s generation. Biblically, Christians have the freedom to get tattoos. The only place tattoos are expressly forbidden in Scripture is in Leviticus 19:28, which is applicable only for priests of Israel in order that they would not be identified with a pagan religion. Other than that, it is a matter of personal conscience and conviction. So it is not necessarily a sin to get a tattoo.
At the same time, with the business of tattoo removal increasing 440% in the last decade, it is obvious that many people who are getting tattoos are not really thinking it through. I think it is better to be responsible ahead of time than to rush into making a decision that could be a mistake. Alas, here are 10 questions to ask yourself before getting inked.
- Is this financially responsible? Tattoos can be really expensive. The more you get, the bigger they are, the better the quality, and the more colourful they are all increase the cost. It is wise to ponder if getting a tattoo is a good use of the money that God has entrusted to your care. Could the money be better spent another way? Are you in a financial position with extra cash, or are you taking money away from important financial obligations? Are you robbing God of offerings or failing to be generous towards others? It is good to ponder such questions.
- How will this affect my employment? More and more employers are becoming flexible when it comes to employees with tattoos. But someone with tattoos that are not easily coverable will inevitably be cutting themselves off from some employment options. This may or may not be a big deal, but don’t overlook it.
- What is my motive for getting this tattoo? Sadly, some people get tattoos to be cool. I suspect that a lot of the tattooing going on these days is for this reason….which is a really crappy reason for doing it. If you are going to put something so permanent on your body, at least have a good reason for it!
- What does this tattoo say about me? Tattoos are mostly a form of self-expression, which is totally fine. The problem is that people change, and what you want to express today might not be what you want to express tomorrow. Be cautious when you decide what you want the world to see about you.
- Am I drawing undue attention to myself? The Bible’s admonition to live a peaceful and quiet life (1 Thessalonians 4:11), as well as the instruction to be more focused on our inner self than our appearance (1 Peter 3:3-4), is hard to square away with tattoos. Are you just trying to draw attention to yourself? Is your tattoo in a place that is going to tempt another person to lust? These are questions worth asking.
- Will this bring glory to God? Everything we do should be meant to bring glory to God (1 Corinthians 10:31). It is easier to justify getting a tattoo when it has a “Christian” meaning or symbolism to it, but I don’t think that necessarily means it automatically brings glory to God (see questions 1, 3, 4 and 10). You can put a Scripture on your arm but still be dishonouring God. Even though you may have the freedom in Christ to get a tattoo, that does not alleviate the need to ask God what he would have you do.
- How will this affect my family? Does your spouse support the idea? Do they find tattoos unattractive? How will you explain it to your children? How will you handle their future desire to get a tattoo, should they want one? You should have good answers to this questions ahead of time.
- How will it look as I age? The reality is that (God willing) you will get old and wrinkly. Many tattoos don’t look very good in the later stages of life. Are you ok with that? Do you want a stretching and distorted image on your body for the last 15 or 25 years of your life?
- Am I being impulsive with this decision? My personal feeling is that if you really want a tattoo for all the right reasons, you will want it a year or two from now as well. It’s a good idea to wait a while and let the idea simmer before running out and getting ink. Waiting a while just might deter you from making a mistake.
- Am I hindering my ability to reach others for Christ? A lot of Christians get tattoos in order to create a cultural bridge, or to have a built in conversation starter with non-Christians. I get that. But at the same time, tattoos will cause some people to not listen to what you have to say. Older folks who are more traditional might have a harder time taking your faith seriously. Even more so, some cultures are strongly opposed to tattoos. Who is to say that God will not ask you to become a cross-cultural missionary in a place like that? Or what about trying to evangelize in a closed-country with a visible tattoo of a cross? How can you know if God may send you to a place like that in the future?
I’m not against tattoos outright. But I am against people getting them without taking time to prayerfully and carefully think it through. I would encourage you to consider these 10 questions and see where the answers might lead you.