Should Christians Get Tattoos?


Are tattoos taboo? Should Christians get tattoos? Is there a spiritual dynamic to this practice?

Charisma Magazine recently published an article on their web site titled “The Dark Side of Tattoos.” In it, the author presented a case that when people are tattooed, they wind up oppressed by evil spirits. He pointed to many cultures around the world who tattoo their bodies as a form of worship. Some of them have designs on their faces meant to make them look like their pagan deities. Others do so to appease their gods. In short, tattooing has a worshipful purpose in many pagan cultures, and so it flies in the face of the One True God.

To be honest, I have no problem agreeing with the author that these practices invite evil spirits to influence the people involved. Pagan worship itself is an affront to God and opens a person up to evil spirits. But what about in America? What about the Christian who wants a cross tattooed on his arm or a heart tattooed on her foot? Is it still pagan? Is it still opening the door to evil spirits?

Speaking as someone who has been involved in deliverance ministry for several years now, I’ve found that it’s not the practice itself that invites the evil spirit, but rather the heart behind the practice. As 1 Samuel 16:7 says, The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. We see this principle echoed throughout Jesus’ ministry and elsewhere in the New Testament.

Matthew 15:1-2 & 10-11–Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”….

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.'” (NIV)

The Greek word for “unclean” used here is the same used to describe “unclean spirits” elsewhere. That doesn’t mean we get an evil spirit every time we say the wrong thing; but it does mean that we can open doors for evil spirits if we don’t guard our tongues.

Jesus was simply making the point that the outward practice was not at all an issue; rather, it was all about the inner practice. As Jesus said elsewhere, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). The only reason evil comes out of a man’s mouth and “makes him unclean” is because he is already “unclean” in his heart.

So do tattoos invite evil spirits? Or is it the condition of the heart that lets them in? According to the author of the Charisma article, all tattoos have evil spirits behind them.

I’m not sure that I see anything Scriptural about that. The best Scripture he had was Leviticus 19:28, which merely forbids tattoos (saying nothing about evil spirits). But immediately before this command is verse 27, which says, “Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.” So I wonder… in context, that must mean beard trimming and haircuts invite evil spirits as well!

Hardly. It is true that tattoos have pagan origins. But I don’t find that a solid enough argument. Clocks and calendars have pagan origins too. Should we abstain from those? Are you demon possessed if you wear a watch? Many cultures use drums specifically to conjure evil spirits. Does that mean drummers are guided by demons?

I believe Paul had the most relevant and significant advice about practices with pagan origins:

1 Corinthians 8:4-13–So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall. (NIV)

From this verse, someone could form the argument that tattoos are not worship to pagan gods if our heart is in the right place. One could even argue that those who are against tattoos have “weak consciences” and don’t know the fullness of freedom in Christ.

But we can also glean the wisdom that if even one Christian would find our exercise of freedom to be a stumbling block for their conscience, then we should abstain from it altogether! It’s possible to win regarding grace and lose regarding love. If our practices of freedom encourage others to compromise their own convictions, then we are sinning against Christ.

Are we so arrogant?

I have to be clear that I don’t condemn anyone with a tattoo. Again, man looks on the outside, but God looks at the heart. I can’t tell a person’s heart or motive.

But if someone is asking me whether or not they should get a tattoo, I’m not afraid to ask why.

The “why” is the access point. It’s not what goes into a man that makes him unclean, but what comes out. It’s not that there are evil spirits floating in tattoo ink, but there are plenty of evil spirits looking for access points to the human heart. If someone with a tattoo has an evil spirit, it’s not because of the image itself but rather because of their heart.

In the Pagan cultures, it’s not the ink that invites the demons, but rather the fact that they are worshipping that demon in their heart. They would be equally as oppressed by evil spirits if they never got the tattoo.

How about people in America? Why do people in our culture get tattoos? For some, it’s defiance against their parents. Is that a good reason? Or is that more likely to make a person vulnerable to evil spirits? For others, it’s a way of saying, “It’s my body, and I’ll do what I want with it.” Is that true? 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 is clear that your body doesn’t belong to you–God bought you at a high price! This too would make a person vulnerable to the enemy. How about those who are simply trying to get attention or prove themselves? I think the Bible calls that pride. We may not be serving pagan gods, but we sure do like to worship with god of self!

I shared these thoughts with the students in my youth group, and one of them asked, “So is there any good reason TO get a tattoo?” I laughingly replied, “Well if there was one, I wouldn’t tell you or that’s what you’d say when I ask your motive!”

Kidding aside, the only good reason I can think of is that God specifically told a person to get a tattoo.

That said, I’ve yet to meet such a person.

So should Christians get tattoos? I would argue that it’s unwise. Are there demons in the ink? Not at all. But what is the motivation of your heart? Defying parents is a sin. Claiming ownership of your body is a sin. Pride in general is a sin. Sin is an access point for the enemy.  Check your heart.

If that’s not enough, why would you want to do something that offends the consciences of so many other Christian brothers and sisters? Paul said that in doing so, we sin against Christ.

If you have a tattoo, there’s no need to repent of the ink itself. However, do check your heart. Why did you get it? If there’s conviction from the Holy Spirit about the heart issue, then deal with it. Repent of the sin, and receive the free forgiveness of God!

And what if you’re wanting to get a tattoo? Take the time to examine your motives. You’ll be hard-pressed to convince yourself that you have absolutely no motive in your heart offending God. If your conscience is troubled in the very least, don’t do it.

What do you think?

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6 Responses to “Should Christians Get Tattoos?”

  1. Beverley O.February 7, 2010 at 2:02 pm #

    I had this conversation with my housemates the other day. I was really considering getting scripture inked out on my skin but just can`t quite bring myself to do it. First of all I am part Nigerian and for a lady to get herself a tattoo is just culturally a shame. Secondly, I will soon be looking to enter the profession of a lawyer, in the lawyer world, even though its secular, its just not acceptable to show off your tats in the courtoom. Most importantly, my reasoning isnt good – I just want one. Thats my heart condition. I think I am just going to play it safe and not get one.
    Great Post

    • ArtFebruary 8, 2010 at 9:41 am #

      Great thinking, Beverly. It would be great if everyone thought things out like you.

      Just yesterday, I was with a friend who is joining the Army today. He desperately wanted to be in the Marines, but they wouldn’t let him in because of his tattoos. He sure regrets getting them now.

      I think you’re making a wise decison. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

      God bless,

  2. CleoSeptember 29, 2011 at 10:24 pm #

    Hello. My name is Cleo and I am a christan. I just feel like most christan now are letting down there standard and it is really getting next to me because it seem that most of them want to get a tatoo not of nothing bad but something dealing with God. Well I am against it beacause if I just want a tatoo that bad if they would read there word they could have one all day long. He told us as christans to write it upon the tables of our heart and that is the word of God. That’s the best tatoo anybody can get. It’s got to be in your heart. So I am just glad that I can stand on the word of God and not follow what others are doing. I just feel like we need to represent Jesus more better than what I see today. It’s causing a confused spirit to be released across this nation. I do not want to be a part of confusing anyone. so I am praying for those that are weak to this tatooing phase. Please let’s do the right thing and stay delivered.

  3. URHYNSSJuly 25, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    AWESOME!!!! great break down. I also like how you talked about the pagan things that we use and there are also pagan cultures and practices that americans ass into “christian holidays” and theyre a mash up of alot of things so finding the root of things are important. i also feel that most tattoo or markings werent just paganistic but cultural like a right of passage so in that sense it their culture to get a tattoo at a certain age. im glad you talked about the heart or the practice behind the tattoo. Bless you!

  4. LarryNovember 20, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

    Great article,

    just to let you know, when someone gets a tattoo, it comes with a spirit of “tattooing”. That spirit is essentially a small lying spirit, that is saying “tattooing is good, this tattoo is a good thing to have” for whatever reason. A spirit’s size or strength comes from the amount of belief that the person places in the lie.

    Considering the heart of the one receiving the tattoo, in one instance, when praying for someone, they saw that since they had got the tattoo/piercing in defiance of their parents, and in doing so a spirit of rebellion was associated to it. They saw a vision of the shop, and in the window every piercing had a spirit on it. This spirit effects the person by reminding them of their emotional state at the time, and other memories. The ever present tattoo provides a physical reminder of that time, and will effect the person while those memories remain emotionally charged. (until the peace of Christ is known in those places)

    Thirdly, the person administering the tattoo, passes spirits on to the receiver, according to their own cultural views and beliefs. The spirits are like bacteria, they spread to people where they have the opportunity. Some tattooists, particularly those developing more extreme tattooing/body maiming techniques, have an overtly occult agenda. Many more are addicted to tattooing and so sport multiple tattoos. These spirits will hang around and seek to effect the recipient, though and their ability to do so depends upon the memories of that tattooist, and the connection between them.

    Spirits of tattooing, are often accompanied by spirits of piercing, or spirits of body-maiming, these simply promote the lie, that this is good, or harmless thing.

    Whereas the piercing and tattooing discussed here, ultimately derives from a spiritual culture where the meaning of the practice is to dedicate that part of the body to a spirit. Ear piercing as practiced in most parts of the world cultures does not inherently hold any spiritual meaning.

    hope this clarifies things


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