Having tattoos absolutely doesn’t bar you from Heaven. The state of your skin has no impact on your eternal journey. There’s just one requisite for entering Heaven. You need to be proclaimed righteous (pure, sacred) by accepting God’s gracious gift of salvation, brought to you through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, who gave his life on the cross for you.
But permanently marking your skin with ink is a big decision. The subject of tattoos is a controversial one, some churches take a firm stance on it (ever wonder why people with tattoos might be hesitant to go to church) and others aren’t bothered at all. Who’s right? What does The Bible say? Let’s take a closer look.
What Does the Bible Say About Tattoos?
There is one specific mention of tattoos in the Bible that people often quote when the subject of tattoos comes up:
You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord.Leviticus 19:28 (ESV)
It is essential to always understand and interpret scripture in the context of the whole passage. When we take a step back and ask “why was God issuing this command?” it becomes a lot easier to apply to our own lives.
In this passage, God was giving His people commands for how they should live, and more importantly how they should be separate from the pagan nations around them. During these times, marking your body with cuts or tattoos was associated with idol worship – something the Jews probably learned when in captivity in Egypt.
God rightly demanded that His people worship Him and Him alone (Exodus 20:3). They were to have NOTHING to do with any kind of idol worship! They were to be clearly set apart from the pagan nations around them. In this context, tattoos were completely out of the question.
Are Tattoos a Sin? Does God Forbid Them?
We know from this passage in Leviticus that God did forbid tattoos for the Israelites in Old Testament times. But based on our interpretation, the Bible doesn’t forbid tattoos for someone living in the 21st century.
As Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of God, He emphasized the motives of the heart. If He were walking the earth today in the same way He did 2000 years ago, He would probably ask, “Why do you want to get a tattoo?”
One quick note: many believe that Jesus had a tattoo, or at least that He will when He returns. Read our post, “Did Jesus Have a Tattoo” to learn more.
Should a Christian Get a Tattoo? 3 Questions to Answer
These days, many people get tattoos for different reasons. Some people get a tattoo to honor a loved-one, others just think it’s cool. Some people want the world to see something that has great meaning to them; like a Bible verse or a semi-colon.
The LORD is interested in your heart (1 Samuel 16:7). To help you decide whether a tattoo will honor Him, here are a few questions to help you determine the heart motives behind it. Some of these can be used when considering other things as well: like doing certain drugs or moving in together before marriage.
1. Will this tattoo glorify God?
Or 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.1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV)
Even honoring the memory of a loved-one can take the place of looking to The One True God for comfort, joy, and peace. Anything that consistenly takes our eyes off of God is considered idol worship. We need to be careful to not place even our most precious memories before The One who blessed us with them in the first place.
Does the semi-colon (after surviving a suicide attempt) remind me of how brave I am, how strong I am? Is it centered around me? Or is it a reminder of God’s grace, and of my great need for Him? Can you see the difference? Your focus needs to be on Him. You belong to Him.
And don’t be naive, getting a tattoo in Jesus’ favorite color isn’t the most glorifying decision you can make for Him.
2. Do I believe this image on my body will bring me luck or protection?
Tattooing a cross on your chest won’t save you from sin or protect you in any way – it’s just ink. Christian, don’t be fooled into placing your trust in anything other than God Himself. Tattoos can’t bring luck.
A faith-related image or Bible verse tattooed on your body won’t earn you any points with God either. You are saved by grace alone, through faith, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9), and certainly not by an aesthetic Bible verse tattooed on your body.
3. Will this tattoo help me share the gospel?
Many Christians who have tattoos have found them to be useful opportunities for sharing the good news.
If they have tattoos from their sinful past, they can use that as a discussion starter to share how God saved them from destruction. This is encouraging for believers who regret their old tattoos – what a great way to honor God!
Some Christians feel compelled to get a faith-related tattoo, maybe a verse or the cross of Jesus, that serves as a daily reminder to them (and others!) that they are new creations. They are looking for ways to give an account for the hope that they have! (1 Peter 3:15).
This is the same reason some people wear a cross on a chain, or a Christian T-shirt. But Christian, before you run out to get Bible verse tattoos, stop and consider what else The Bible says about ways to show the world you belong to Christ.
Will I Go to Hell if I Get a Tattoo?
Absolutely not. As we’ll touch on further below, the only thing that dictates whether you’ll spend eternity in Heaven or Hell is whether or not you’ve received the free gift of salvation, atonement, and redemption for your sin offered by God through the sacrifice of Jesus.
The Marks of a True Christian Aren’t In Ink
The way you live and the way you treat others will outshine any ink on your skin. Is your life filled with the fruit of the Spirit? They’re like the birthmarks of God, not any body art you might have inked onto yourself.
Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
- In a world filled with hate, can they see your love?
- In a world overwhelmed with despair, are you joyful?
- When others are afraid, are you at peace?
- In a demanding, selfish world, are you patient? Do you have self-control?
- When others are harsh, do you choose kindness? Are you gentle?
- When others cheat or lie, are you faithful?
These fruits are so foreign to the fallen, sinful world we live in that they are guaranteed to get people’s attention. They are guaranteed to start conversations. They are more radical than any tattoo you could get!
The Only Requirement to Get Into Heaven
Align your heart with God’s Word and know that whatever you prayerfully decide about getting a tattoo, there is only one thing that stops people from entering Heaven – their sin (rebellion against God)! Whether you’ve been buried or cremated, this remains the only decisive factor in where you’ll spend eternity.
Having a tattoo doesn’t impact whether or not you’ll get into Heaven.
The punishment for sin is death and separation from God, but Jesus, fully man, fully God, came to Earth, lived a perfect life and, bearing OUR sins, died on the cross (the death we deserve) to satisfy The Father’s wrath against sin. The debt was paid. Christ rose again, He conquered death. And He made a way for us to enter Heaven – Himself (John 3:16).