Trends of our day- Body Piercing and Tattoos
This is a difficult subject to write on, and I have pondered this for a number of years. But I have found it to be necessary to write on it now because of what is taking place. I have noticed people having more and more tattoos. It has become very “in,” to have body Piercing and Tattoos. The popularity of Tattoo and body piercing has increased tremendously. A 2006 survey taken by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology an estimated 36% of Americans aged 18-29 now have tattoos. A Harris Interactive poll conducted in January 2008 concluded that 14% of all adults in the United States have a tattoo, with the highest incidence (25%) found among gays, lesbians and bisexuals. This article I would like to address both of these subjects, starting with body piercing.
I understand many may have done these things prior to becoming a believer so this is not meant to condemn anyone but to put things in perspective. Likewise, I realize that there are believers who went ahead and had their body pierced or put tattoos on their body. It's not my intention to bring guilt for what they have already done. This article is being written to hopefully give answers to those who have been thinking about this and with the intent of giving those who have done so a better perspective on what I see as an important matter. It is not a subject so easily discussed.
As Christians we are not to be dictated by the culture and body piercing and tattooing is certainly a trend of the world; you could say it is the spirit of our age. It seems that each preceding generation pushes the envelope further in music, attire and this includes the trends of body piercing, or body painting. The youth, which normally refuses any of the previous generations traditions, have instead, accepted this one.
If you are not a Christian you can tune out, for none of this will matter to you. Since those outside God’s directives do not care what the Lord says about this subject, there are many other areas they need to yield to first. There is no prohibition in eastern or western culture to say this is wrong; one must go to the Bible. Please have patience and hear this out.
The cultural revolution has gone through many stages from dying ones hair to outrageous clothes (remember bell bottoms-yikes), to spiked hair, Goth dress and various other expressions of ones individuality. The newer trend is body piercing and tattoos. As Christians we are not to be influenced by the world or its culture. The Bible teaches us “not to be conformed to this world” (Rom.12) and in 1 Cor. 6:12 Paul writes of our new freedom “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” Again he repeats this, saying in 1 Cor. 10:23: “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.”
However we need to read this in context- it says 1 Cor. 10:21-23: “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord's table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He? All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.” Paul is telling us that we are now free but we need to make right choices, ones that side with the Lord. Things that are not ordained by the Lord can be detrimental to your spiritual health and growth. With the influence of the world getting stronger, peer pressure on those under 20, it has become more difficult to do the right thing. Sometimes it can get very confusing between what is acceptable to man and to God and make a decision.
Many say body piercing is just like long hair was in the 60's. Longhair was a sign of rebellion against the establishment. If this is an answer for the Christian, it fails. We are not to be rebelling against the establishment (Rom.14 –we are to obey government- unless they are specifically telling us not to obey God in a certain area). Second- hair grows naturally; it is not something foreign added to our body. We do not need to go to someone to grow our hair like we do to puncture our body.
This is now the acceptable way of rebellion or making a statement that you are not accepting the status quo. For a Christian we have the Old Testament principle- Deut. 14:1: “You are the children of the LORD your God; you shall not cut yourselves … It was the priests of Baal that cut themselves for their God to react against Elijah. These were common practices in cultures that did not know God and served other gods. The practice of gashes on the face and arms and legs took place in time of bereavement, was universal among the pagans. It was used as respect for the dead; they would also mark themselves to some idol or god for service.
Many wore jewelry in the eastern culture and dressed themselves up as if they were going out on a night on the town- they clothed them-self with crimson, adorned them-self with ornaments of gold, enlarged their eyes with paint (Jer. 4:30).
“The earrings usually worn by Egyptian women were large, round, single hoops of gold, from 1 1/2 to 2 1/3 inches in diameter, and frequently of a still greater size or made of six rings soldered together. Sometimes a snake, whose body was of gold set with precious stones, was worn by persons of rank as a fashionable caprice, but it is probable” (from New Unger's Bible Dictionary).
Hebrew women, the men among the ancient Ishmaelites wore earrings (Judg. 8:24-25) (Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary)
Gen 35:4 Jacob was given the idols (foreign gods) and the earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree which was by Shechem.”
In Exod. 32:2 The Israelites used the golden earrings “of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, in building the golden calf. In Exod. 35:22 When they were going to build the tabernacle they donated earrings and nose rings, rings and necklaces, all jewelry of gold, that is, every man who made an offering of gold to the LORD.”
These objects when melted were used for both the Lord and for idolatry.
Hosea 2:13 The Lord said he will punish the people for going after other gods: “She decked herself with her earrings and jewelry, and went after her lovers; but Me she forgot,” says the LORD.
Isa. 3:17-20 mentions the judgment of the Lord on the people that used “the jingling anklets, the scarves, and the crescents; The pendants, the bracelets, and the veils; The headdresses, the leg ornaments, and the headbands; the perfume boxes, the charms.”
They used these as amulets and charms and wore them for protection as well as ornaments.
It was acceptable in Israel for people to put an earring in their ear as they worked as slaves to a certain household. Exodus 21:5-6: “But if the servant plainly says, 'I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,' “then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.”
They did not put the earring wherever they pleased and certainly did not put it in their private parts.
Today wearing jewelry is acceptable attire in our society, yet the Bible has a caution for the women:
1 Tim. 2:9-10: “in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.”
We have an issue with modesty. To dress modestly means that the body should be adequately covered by clothing. We are not to draw attention to our self. Tattoos and body piercing draw attention to ones self, there may be many reasons but it’s usually about standing out.
Some of these practices today are extreme among those who are rebelling against tradition. There are those who shave their teeth to look like vampires. Some get Teflon implants in their head looking like horns. Others have multiple piercing on their face and body.
The Hebrew people were prohibited from any laceration or marking of the body. Cuttings in the skin was associated with pagan cults that tattooed their followers while they mourned the dead. Lev 19:28 “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the LORD.” Israel was to be different than the nations around them and so is the Church. While we are not specifically under these laws, since Israel was a theocracy (no nation today is a theocracy today) they are principles still there by the examples found in the Old Testament.
Any voluntary disfigurement of the person was in itself forbidden to be done upon God's workmanship, the body. Because we were made by God to be the Temple of God, we were made in the image of God and should not deface it (Gen.1:26-27). For the simple reason we are to give our body as a proper reverence for God's creation (Lev. 19:26-28).
Some may say, “God said to be circumcised, that’s cutting the flesh.” True, but this is only on males and it is not a cutting anywhere one chooses on their body. And this small operation was instructed by the Lord on the eight day, not any day we choose. It was significant for Israel, as it was a token of the Abrahamic covenant, and was mandatory for those who joined Israel to worship the one true God. It symbolized the new heart that God gives to those who follow Him. (Gen.17:10; 34:15; Ex.4:26; Acts 7:8; Col.2:11; Rom.4:10-11). While it was part of the covenant God made with Israel (only), Paul actually stands against this ordained practice given in Judaism in Gal. 5:2-6. Saying it profits nothing if you are in the New Covenant.
There is a principle that is to rule our individual conscience, even if it is not explicitly mentioned in the Scripture. We need to ask “does it glorify God, or does it glorify man?” Also in reference to this question- what is the reason we are doing this. The world (society and culture) operates by fads, and we should not be copying the world. These are current trends of fashion that the Christian is Not to be influenced by. People worshipped their gods by these things. When a Christian gets their body pierced or have a “Christian tattoo”, it is obvious their intention is not about worshipping OTHER gods by, but in the same sense can we say we are honoring God with them?
The first mark put on man was by God and was for his protection. Gen.4:15: “And the LORD said to him, "Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold." And the LORD set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him.”
The original words literally rendered, are, ‘the Lord gave a sign, a token or pledge, to Cain, that no one who found him should kill him;’ i.e., God assured him of his personal safety by some external sign or evidence granting him continuance of life for his punishment of murder. (Ex.12:13, 23; Joshua 2:12) the sign was recognized later (Gen. 4:24).
Some of the interpretations of this mark have been an imprint upon his forehead to be seen by all, containing Abel’s crime; the sign of the cross; leprosy, a general paralysis of his frame, or a sickness, a horn on his head to fight off an attacker. More realistically it could have been a letter of his name on him, or his name or possibly a hat of some sort. The mark which God put upon Cain is not to be regarded as a cutting upon his body, but a certain sign which protected him from vengeance.
Also in Ezekiel, a visible mark (sign) was put on people to protect them, to preserve them because they were righteous and the unrighteous were to be slain (Ezek. 9:4) and the LORD said to him, "Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it."
This was a temporary identification for the righteous to be distinguished from the unrighteous. It was not to be repeated nor does it condone religious marks on our bodies.
The word tattoo comes from the Tahitian “tatu” which means “to mark something.”
Body painting was to express social status and religious values, it was often used to indicate one's social role at a given time.
“Tattooing was practiced by the Egyptians as early as 2000 BC. Color tattooing became highly developed among the Maoris of New Zealand and was once popular as a form of adornment in China, India, and Japan. Sailors introduced the practice into Europe during the Age of Exploration (16th century and 17th century Tattooing, (Encarta Encyclopedia)
Captain Cook made the discovery to the then unknown Islands of the South Seas. On April 11, 1769, Tahiti was sighted and he and his crew went ashore a few days later. Joseph Banks first recorded the name and customs of the people that had the marks, and it put his observations in journals.
“The Maoris of New Zealand tattooed elaborate designs on their faces to disguise expressions of fear. Early Japanese wore tattoos to designate their rank in society. Tattoos were used in the 19th century to brand criminals and in the 20th century to label inmates of Nazi concentration camps” (Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia Deluxe).
Today, here in Hawaii Tattoos are very popular and people can have a stylish design around their ankle or wrist to having a good portion of their body painted. Lately girls have been covering a single arm with multiple tattoo's.
The world has different tattoo designs that come from a various cultures in the world (China, Japan, Maori, India, etc.). The majority of the drawings have religious significance, many tattoos have the name of the god the people serve like they did in ancient days. Like protective amulets, tattoos were thought to have magical powers to repel evil spirits and protect the wearer from disease. Many are artistic in their expression of Tattoos. Figures of death, dragons and mythological creatures, to even crucifixes are popular. Snakes and Occult like symbols are very popular designs. Angelic creatures to hideous beings are beautifully drawn on various parts of the body, even with characters of the Bible. But is this all indicative of something deeper?
David Kuplian, vice-president of WorldNetDaily.com, says that “... throughout history certain societal behaviors contribute to its spiral downward and make a people ripe for rebellion against God.” Describing today's “celebratory” piercing and tattooing of the body as one of the cultural indicators bearing “a striking resemblance to the ageless spirit of defiant paganism,” Kuplian laments, “ ... it's as though the rebellious spirit of reprobate, pagan civilizations of the past was tapped into by today's pop culture” (“The Marketing of Evil,” Whistleblower, December 2003).
Although Kuplians's report is based on the current condition of our culture, Christians should also take notice ... especially since we see evidence of similar popular youth expressions growing in the Church”http://headlines.agapepress.org/archive/6/22004cm.asp --reported in Be Alert Newsletter).
Tattoos can be found in ancient civilizations, the Egyptians had performed the art of tattooing. The Israelites were freed from this nation that held them captive for 430 years. After they were released the Israelites were not to follow or adopt the customs or ways of the pagans. Because they did not obey these warnings given for their own protection they were continually ensnared by their enemies, and “... went after the nations which surrounded them, concerning which the Lord had commanded them not to do like them.” (2 Kings 17:15 NAS)...
During their wilderness trek the Israelites were told “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the LORD” (Lev. 19:28). Hebrew- kethobeth- an impression, an inscription, a mark; in the flesh.”
There are those in the church who encourage tattoos and interpret that this prohibition was to heathen, pagan images only. They look to history to validate their practice in by finding some men that had Christian symbols on them; it’s then used as justification for Judeo-Christian body art today. But notice it states any cuttings, tattoos or marks not just certain ones. Since a tattoo is a cutting it would be part of this prohibition.
Consider what the Bible warns of in the last days, and though it may not be fully here yet, it is coming…
“Also he [False Prophet] compels all [alike] both small and great, both the rich and the poor, both free and slave, to be marked with an inscription (stamped) on their right hands or on their foreheads. So that no one will have the power to buy or sell unless he bears the stamp (mark, inscription) [that is] the name of the beast or the number of his name.” [Revelation 13:16-17, Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary].
Consider this report -RFID ink product could track humans by Antony Savvas Thursday 11 January 2007
“A US company has launched a chip-less RFID (radio frequency identification) ink that can be used to track both animals and people.
Visible or invisible ink “tatoos” can be applied to the skin and tracked by RFID readers positioned a few feet away. The company, Somark..
..., said it had successfully tested its Biocompatible Chipless RFID Ink product on cattle and laboratory rats and proved the “efficacy of injecting and reading a ‘tattoo’ within the skin of animals”.
Ramos Mays, Somark chief scientist, said, “This proves the ability to create a synthetic biometric or fake fingerprint with Biocompatible Chipless RFID Ink and read it through hair.” http://www.computerweekly.com/Articles/2007/01/11/221122/rfid-ink-product-could-track-humans.htm
Also- “A method is presented for facilitating sales transactions by electronic media. A bar code or design is tattooed on an individual. Before the sales transaction can be consummated, the tattoo is scanned with a scanner. Characteristics about the scanned tattoo are compared to characteristics about other tattoos stored on a computer database in order to verify the identity of the buyer. Once verified, the seller may be authorized to debit the buyer's electronic bank account in order to consummate the transaction. The seller's electronic bank account may be similarly updated.”
Any Christian who knows their Scripture will immediately sit up and take notice at this patent, for it refers to one of the most important Biblical prophecies. The Bible states that this mark is going to be placed “on” (the Greek word is epi) the skin but will be visible or usable on the outside. It will tie into the world’s global commerce. Now I’m not saying that these tattoos are the mark. What I’m saying is this- there is an intentional desensitizing going on today that is preparing a generation to think nothing of it when it is introduced. If you have drawings all over you, one more will not make a difference. In fact it may be welcomed because of its abilities. This mark will become a signature for who you serve and believe in (the Beast, it will have His name and number). If the tattoo is stylish people will be willing to show that they are global citizens of the new era, it will be considered patriotic. So I believe there is more to all this than what meets the eye.
The Bible warns by an angel in Rev. 14:9-10 with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, "he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the
As God’s people we are to learn from the lessons of Israel. (Leviticus 19:28). God repeatedly warned His people Deut. 18:9-14: “ you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations.”
Deut 20:18: “lest they teach you to do according to all their abominations which they have done for their gods, and you sin against the LORD your God.”
Their cuttings and tattoos were usually linked to the gods they worshipped. Slaves and devotees to the pagan temples were tattooed in the ancient world. Today religious drawings are popular as are fantasy and and demonic images.
While the New Testament does directly address some prohibitions that were originally under the law (such as food and drink Rom.14) it does not address every pagan practice directly. In the New Covenant one can have the freedom to even eat meat sacrificed to an idol if necessary for their food, but we are to be sensitive to the brethren and not flaunt our freedom to stumble them. The real question on this matter is MOTIVE. Why do you want to be body pierced or get a tattoo? Some say getting a Scripture or a Christian type symbol is a witness. Does the Lord need advertising on our body or does he need us to speak with our mouths? Wouldn't he rather us live the life to be a witness. Even if it is to be a witness- what exactly is ones motivation and purpose? Is it to be accepted by others, to be part of the cultural trend of today. One must take this to the Lord by going to His word and be totally convinced in their own conscience what they are about to do. Because one often cannot reverse this once it is done.
Some things to consider:
Jesus said- “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?’
(Matt 6:25). If we are not to be overly concerned about our body, does it not make sense that tattooing would be included?
1 Cor 3:16-17: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”
Defile often means to ruin by immoral behavior or by other influences. The question one needs to ask is would Jesus get a tattoo, would the apostles? We already know the answer, they didn't. Tattoos are not a new concept; they were there in Jesus’ day.
Here is why it is not promoted - man was made in the image of God. Now that we are believers we are dedicated to the Lord “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
Your body is not yours but is to be Holy (set apart) unto the Lord’s service. God did not allow men to put any object in the tabernacle or temple nor paint images like graffiti in the Temple. As believers our body is the Temple of His presence.
The Scriptural principle on issues that the Bible does not directly address is whether it pleases God or man. “For whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). If our bodies are not ours but God’s, then He is the one we should get “permission” from, not our friends. It ends up, as people get older many wish they did not get a tattoo. It is no longer significant to them. Again for those who already have a tattoo prior to becoming a believer or even after this is not meant to put a guilt trip on them. God looks at the heart, not what you wear live in, not your hair style and not your tattoos. He is more concerned about our motivation for doing this.
“And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”
(Rom 8:10) one of the principles in the New Testament is to die to self, especially the body where sin dwells.
Rom 6:13: “And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” One has to decide if tattoos come under this topic.
“Will this affect our eternal life?’ As I previously made note, we cannot ignore its leading to an openness to accept of the mark of the Beast (whatever form that may be). It is like anything else that desensitizes someone from God’s word to follow the ways of the world. Again, there is no explicit or implicit command against tattooing in the New Testament but there still is the principle Then whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all things to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Let each of us be fully convinced in what we do.
Jesus said they will know us by our love for one another; our testimony is not by a cross around our neck, a Christian T-shirt, a bumper sticker on the car, and not by a tattoo.