1 Corinthians 6 | So You Want to Get a Tattoo

by | Jun 1, 2019

“Everything is permissible for me–but not everything is beneficial.
Everything is permissible for me–but I will not be mastered by anything.”

1 Cor. 6:12

Several years ago I was attending a church where the pastor was a very solid, grace-filled Reformed theologian. One day (I don’t remember what the occasion was) someone asked him a question about the difference between the Old and New Covenants. The man said that back in the Old Covenant people weren’t allowed to get tattoos (see Leviticus 19:28).

But under the terms of the New Covenant, that no longer applies.

I was rather surprised at the pastor’s answer. That isn’t true. The law still applies today. It just doesn’t apply in the same way. He cited this very verse and then said; (and I’m doing my best from memory).

Let’s say someone comes up to me and says, “I’m thinking about getting a tattoo.” I then ask him, “Why do you want to get a tattoo?” Let’s imagine he responds, “Because they’re cool.” I might respond, “You mean, you and your friends think they’re cool. Maybe you need to change your definition of ‘Cool’ and possibly need to find some new friends.

But let’s imagine another young man tells me he wants to get a tattoo. When I ask him, he says, “My mother died a year ago, and she and my dad were really into their motorcycles. My dad got a tattoo to memorialize his mother when she passed, and I know it would mean a lot to him if I did the same thing. He really misses her a lot.”

“Do you see the difference?” The pastor asked. There’s a completely different heart motive behind the two different men. The truth is, it really has nothing to do with tattoos. It has everything to do with the motives of the heart. Everything we plan to do should be done with the motive of honoring and glorifying God. In the first tattoo scenario, the motive is all about calling attention to oneself. But in the second, we can immediately think of the fifth commandment which says to honor your parents.

That is the way we are called to look at everything we do. As Paul says a few chapters later, (l Cor. 10:31) “…whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”.

I’m still not going to suggest you get a tattoo. But I’m not going to tell you not to either. lol