Ink on Skin

by Robert Flores

Note: I have many friends (Christian and non-Christian) who have tattoos. I don’t love them any less for having tattoos. The following is my understanding of Scripture.

“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Romans 8:5-9)

• God’s Take on Tattoos

Consider what God says about tattoos: “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD”. (Leviticus 19:28) God only has to say something once for it to be obeyed. But, for some reason God gives a similar commandment to the priests (the pre-Christians, so to speak): “They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in their flesh.” (Leviticus 21:5)

• Old Worship

Tattoos have been around for 6,000 years. They are nothing new. They weren’t anything new when God gave His Law to Moses, either. God never meant for people to cut themselves and make art on their bodies. Tattoos are a defilement against His own image.

• Barbaricness

One can always tell the barbaric-ness of a nation by the amount of tattoos on people. It seems like most people in America have tattoos on them. Tattoos, throughout history, have indicated a barbaric nation. Add to that child sacrifice (i.e. abortion) and you’ve got a nation that rivals the Aztec empire.

• Worship of the Body

Tattoos are a religion. Yes, even for non-religious people. Making markings in one’s body is a form of worship, for whatever a person’s God is. Whatever a person worships, that’s what they put on their bodies as tattoos. What kind of spirit does it take to worship an idol? An evil spirit. What kind of spirit does it take to worship an idol by cutting into your own flesh? An evil spirit.

• Statements Made Tattoos

There are different facets of having a tattoo. For many people, it is a sense of pride that says, “Hey look at me!” For other people, it is a religious factor that says, “Hey, look at what I worship!” Tattoo’d people can sometimes be likened to a religious community that bonds and says, “Hey, you have tattoos, too?” For some people, getting a tattoo is a rebellious action that says, “You can’t stop me, God!” For other people, a tattoo is an idolatrous statement that says, “I’m going to worship anything but you, God!” For some people, a tattoo is a defilement that says, “Look what I’m doing to the body you gave me, God.”

• God is Anti-Tattoo

Is it any wonder why God is anti-tattoo? It’s because tattoos take people further away from God. Once something is engraved on you, you’re stuck with it. You’re forced to worship it. If you ever wanted to not worship your idol one day, it doesn’t matter; it’s on you forever (laser surgery, notwithstanding). Tattoos show what is inside someone’s heart: idolatry and sin. But tattoos are also the end-result of what one’s sin leads to.

• A Blood Pact

Tattoos can sometimes be a contract with your god. It’s a contract made in your own blood. Tattoos require a lot of blood, pain, sacrifice, time and money to acquire. How does it feel when you see your own blood seeping out of you when the needle is puncturing your skin? How does the pain feel when you are sitting in a chair for hours for a piece of artwork to be done? God says, “The life of the flesh is in the blood”. (Leviticus 17:11). Tattoos basically take your life (i.e. your blood) and give it to your idol (whatever visual representation you want for that idol).

• Where’s the Uniqueness?

Have you ever been around a large group of tattooed people? I have. My workplace contains about 90% tattooed people. Many of which have gotten tattoos before, during and after prison. I’ve seen a lot of tattoos and I have to say, they all pretty much look the same. There are tribal ones and skulls and names and pictures of women. For the girls, its hearts and stars and butterflies, etc. The tattoos are typically all in the same places: arms, back of arms, necks, legs, etc. My question is: wasn’t the point of tattoos to be unique? Instead, tattooed people all look the same. In their search for uniqueness, they have blended into a nebulous whole. They look like a bunch of savages. Tattooed people look like they just came out of the jungle. Why? Because markings and tattoos are what uncivilized people do. Or, let me put it another way: tattoos are a result of a culture that does not know God.

• Halloween and Tattoos

Most people who love celebrating Halloween also are people who have tattoos. Tattoos are basically a “Halloween” all year long. I’ve noticed a few common things between those with tattoos and those who love Halloween. For example, both are a celebration of “self”. Halloween and tattoos say to the world: “I am my own person and I am proud of it.” But it’s only external. Tattoos only cover up skin. And Halloween only covers up skin. It’s almost as if these types of people are trying to hide themselves from the world. They, perhaps, don’t really want anyone to see who they are on the outside, so they hide themselves with tattoos and costumes, as a scare tactic, to get people away from them. They know they are ugly on the inside, so putting ugly art on their skin, or putting on an ugly costume only seems fitting to them. But their heart, unfortunately, is uglier than any tattoo or costume they could every imagine. Jesus says in Matthew 10:26, “For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.” One day all people, whether they have tattoos or costumes or a business suit on, will stand before God on Judgment Day. Your heart will be opened up that day and revealed for all to see. Who will pay your punishment? Your tattoo artist? Your local Halloween store? Nope. Only blood can pay for your sins. Blood is nothing new to tattooed people; it takes a lot of blood to put a design on your skin. Salvation takes blood; it takes sacrifice to pay for your sins. So, I ask you, why not put your faith in Jesus’ blood to save you? Quit relying on your own blood and your own weak efforts to cover your sins. Only Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary will renew your heart. Once that happens, you no longer will have to have an ugly heart anymore (though you might regret having ugly designs on your arm). You will be cleansed and all ugliness in your heart will go away. Though life won’t necessarily disappear of all problems, Christ promises one day to rid the universe of all ugliness. He says this in Revelation 21:4, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” That is a Kingdom to look forward to. All skulls and devils will disappear. Jesus also says in Revelation 21:8, “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” That is the current destination of all those who don’t love Christ. But that destination can change. Turn to Christ for your bloody sacrifice.

• Redeem the Time

Paul writes in Ephesians, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16) Tattoos are but another distraction to the Christian life. Do Christians need another distraction to not follow and love God with one’s own heart, soul, mind and spirit? Do tattoos edify? No. Do they damn? No. But they don’t’ edify. They are useless. A Christian needs less distractions in life; not more. We are to “redeem the time” not squander it. Much time is spent planning out a tattoo’s design, the drawing go fit, the making of the appointment, the inking of it, coloring of it, healing of it, admiring of it, discussing it with others, touch-ups in the future, etc. What a waste of time, energy, breath and life. Tattoos are pointless because they are a distraction that takes your resources away from Jesus.

• Christian Tattoos

If God said don’t make cuttings in your flesh (Lev 19:28), does that not include Christian tattoos? No. It includes them, too. I don’t think God cares if it’s a beautiful picture of Jesus, or a Celtic cross or a thorn of crowns–God says, “No”! He doesn’t want your tattoo and He doesn’t need your tattoo. He knows your tattoo will never evangelize. In fact, to the world, a Christian with tattoos is an oxymoron. Tattoos are for godless people, not Christians. The world know this inherently. So, why are Christians getting tattoos to “be like the world” to “evangelize the world”?

• Look at Me or God?

If you are a Christian, why would you give blood, pain, sacrifice, time and money to something that says: “Look at me!” Shouldn’t your God-given resources be given back to God; not you? The very nature of a tattoo is, “Hey look at me! Look at how cool I am!” Therefore, the concept of a “Christian tattoo” is oxymoronic. It is a laughable concept that says on one hand, “This is for God” and on the other hand, “This is for others to worship me”.

• Adding Value

For many people, tattoos are a sign of insecurity. If people were secure with themselves, then why not leave their body the way it was designed? Tattoos add nothing to a person’s value, but nonetheless millions of people hope that it will. Somehow, they believe the lie that they can add beauty to their already beautifully designed body. Somehow, they think they can upgrade their body to something more than what God Himself knit in their mother’s womb. It’s sad that people’s whole faith is misplace in some ink in the skin.

• Evangelism for Idols

Anyone with a tattoo is a walking billboard for what they worship. A tattoo’d person never has to say what he worships; just look at his tattoos. He is an evangelist for all his idols.

• Cutting Yourself

Cutting yourself is a sign of idolatry. Putting ink into your skin and bleeding out is a sign of idolatry. This is worship at the highest (basest) level. And some Christians don’t think twice about getting tattoos. They see nothing wrong with getting something written in their skin, as a testament to their body. They don’t see anything wrong with making a temple to themselves. Oh sure, they say that it is for God—Bible verses, crosses, Hebrew characters—but is it really?

• Self-Mutilation

Tattoos are a form of self-mutilation. God doesn’t care if it is “art” or that it is a “Christian tattoo”. It is against his design to put something on your body that he didn’t put there. Self-mutilation is an act of worship to the god of “Me”. It is noted though history that pagan religions practiced tattooing as worship. It is not worship of God; it is worship of man.

• Branding Cattle

Tattoos remind me of branding, like branding of a vehicle (a sticker). Tattoos also reminds of me of branding cattle. It’s ironic that tattoos are supposed to make one “unique” but, instead, they initiate someone into a worldwide cult. It’s not unique. All tattoo’d people are the same, with the same tattoos and same look to them. Tattoos promise uniqueness but, instead, one just winds up being branded like cattle. Uniqueness would be leaving your body alone, the way God intended it.

• Demons and Cutting

The demon-possessed man who lived in the tombs had carvings in his flesh, akin to tattoos. Mark 5:5 says, “And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.”

• Tattoos and Devotion

Getting a tattoo is a sign of devotion. It is a religious right to whatever religion you want to be a part of, whether sports or family or gangs, etc. Tattoos involve pain and it is a sign to the world that “this guy really is devoted to this (fill in the blank).” Unfortunately, as “permanent” as tattoos are and how “permanent” devotion is, humans aren’t devoted. How often have ex-lovers had to be “covered over” because that devotion no longer exists? How often have names of sports teams and brands been covered over because that isn’t who that person is anymore? Humans are fickle. To be devoted to a god– like a soft-drink or a brand– is foolishness.

• Hungry for Something Real

Those who desire tattoos are hungry for something real. That want something real in their lives, something they can feel and touch and be a part of. They are in fact, searching for God. God is more real than any tattoo ever could be. Tattoos promise to be with you for the rest of one’s life, but they fade and go away; Jesus never goes away. Tattoos are not permanent, and God is. Tattoos promise to bring true happiness, but only Jesus can do that. Tattoos are a poor replacement for worshiping God.

• My Personal Portfolio

People look at their own bodies as a portfolio of idols they worship. They treat their bodies as display cases for the objects of their worship. They use their bodies as billboards. God didn’t design our bodies with that intention. Our fleshly bodies aren’t portfolios, display cases or billboards. They were designed exactly how they were meant to be. We are born without tattoos. We are born in the image of God. What else could my body possibly need?

• Jesus didn’t have tattoos; why should any Christian?

• Can’t Take Them With You

You can’t take your tattoos with you. Your tattoos will rot with your body when you are dead. They aren’t eternal. They will start decaying the moment you take your last breath. So much for “always” being a fan of something.

• Carnally Minded

Paul says, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (Romans 8:6.) I can’t think of anything more carnally minded than inking one’s own skin with a tattoo design. Tattoos are the complete opposite of being spiritually minded. Unfortunately, being fleshly minded is rampant in the Church; not just in the world. A Christian tattoo is an oxymoron, as a Christian is to be spiritually minded not carnally minded.

• I’m Unique, Too!

When you look at a tattoo no person, you are looking at something barbaric; not civil. Christians look like barbarians if they have tattoos, regardless if their hair is parted and they are dressed up nicely. Tattoos are a reflection of barbarism; not self-expression. Look, as an artist, I understand wanting to be creative and unique and stand out, but looking like a godless native doesn’t do it. You can be unique without writing on yourself. You can be creative without marking your skin. You can stand out from the crowd without cutting the body God designed for you. Self-expression should not be harming yourself. Self-mutilation should never supercede God’s design. If God wanted you to have tattoos, he would have put them on you already. A person’s skin should never be the showcase for one’s idols.

• Tattoos Teach Kids Discontentment

Hey kids, look at my idols on my arm. What do tattoos teach kids? Not to be content with how God made you? To do something to your body to stand out from the crowd? “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” (1 Timothy 6:6-8)

• Searching for Meaning

Trying to find meaning in your tattoo is a futile exercise. Tattoos actually hinder you from finding real value. Value was never meant to be found in some ink in one’s own body. Your meaning in life won’t be found there either. You can’t create your own gods–or gods who could actually redeem you. Your ink isn’t your savior. It can never save.

• Psuedo-Sexual Exercise

The process for getting a tattoo is almost like a pseudo sexual exercise. The customer opens up his or her own body to a stranger. The stranger then injects ink into the person’s body. The artist caresses the customer’s limb, taking the utmost care for the person’s comfort and the end result. This is all done as a business transaction. The customer essentially says, “My body is your canvas. Do what you will with it“. This is all sexual imagery. And it is all fornication in the spiritual sense. It is about creating idols on one’s own body (that isn’t theirs) and making a temple unto false gods.

• Skin-Deep Devotion to Christ

I don’t need a “Christian” tattoo to show how strong my love for Christ is. A tattoo is such a shallow, cheap representation for my love for Christ. Why? Because a tattoo is literally only skin-deep. The tattoo will turn to dust someday along with my body. My love for Christ is deeper and more powerful than what any flesh can say. Flesh and bones are temporary. My love for Christ is written in my spirit. Never to fade. Always to last.