Tattooing, piercing, and cutting existed in Bible times. They were most often practiced by pagan nations in connection with their religion. Understandably, Jehovah forbade his people, the Jews, to imitate those pagans.
Leviticus 19:28: “And YOU must not make cuts in YOUR flesh for a deceased soul, and YOU must not put tattoo marking upon yourselves. I am Jehovah.”
As God’s own “special property,” the Jews were thus protected from degrading false religious practices. (Deuteronomy 14:2) Yes, we were created with free will. However, this freedom does not come without limits.
1 Peter 2:16: “Be as free people, and yet holding YOUR freedom, not as a blind for badness, but as slaves of God.”
The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:12: “All things are lawful for me; but not all things are advantageous.” Paul understood that his freedom as a Christian did not give him license to do whatever he wanted without consideration for others. Love for others influenced his behavior (Galatians 5:13) Keep “and eye, not in personal interest upon just your own matters,” he urged, “but also in personal interest upon those of the others.” (Philippians 2:4) His selfless viewpoint serves as an excellent example to any Christian contemplating some form of body decoration.
Yes, tattoos are popular among many people; you need to ask yourself, ‘what kind of a reaction would such a decoration provoke in the area where I live? Would I be associated with certain fringe elements of society? Might it cast doubt on my “soundness of mind”?’ (1 Corinthians 2:12; 10:29-32; Titus 2:12)
Whenever you make decisions, you have to factor not only its advantage in “being with the crowd,” or “being cool amongst your peers,” but also its risks and drawbacks. Certain types of body modifications carry serious medical risks. Tattooing with unsanitary needles has been associated with the spread of hepatitis and HIV. How do you know it is a clean needle that is being used? Skin disorders sometimes result from the dyes used. Piercings can take months to heal and can hurt for much of that time. They can also produce blood poisoning, hemorrhaging, blood clots, nerve damage, and serious infections. Additionally, some procedures are not easily reversed. For example, depending on the size and the color, a tattoo can take several expensive and painful laser sessions to remove. Lifelong scars can result too.
Finally, what message are you trying to get across to others with a tattoo? Despite their popularity among celebrities, body piercings and earrings for men have thus far failed to gain general acceptance in the West. One reason may be that these have long been the hallmark of prison inmates, motorcycle gangs, punk rockers, and members of the homosexual sadomasochistic subculture. For many, body piercing has the connotation of deviance and rebellion.
Little wonder, then, that one well-known American store has a rule that employees having direct contact with customers are restricted to one earring per ear and that all other visible piercings are banned. “You can’t predict how people might react,” explains a company spokeswoman. Career counselors similarly advise male college students applying for a job to wear “no earrings or other body piercing jewelry; women should wear . . . no nose rings.” Yes, it can effect whether or not you get that dream job you want.
Whether or not an individual decides to accept these risks is a personal decision. But one who seeks to please God recognizes that becoming a Christian involves the offering of oneself to God. Our bodies are living sacrifices presented to God for his use. (Romans 12:1) Hence, mature Christians do not view their bodies as their exclusive property to be damaged or defaced at will. Especially those who qualify to take the lead in the congregation are known for their moderate habits, soundness of mind, and reasonableness.—1 Timothy 3:2, 3.
Developing and exercising the Bible-trained power of reason will help Christians avoid the extreme, masochistic practices of this world, which is so hopelessly “alienated from the life that belongs to God.” (Ephesians 4:18) They can thus let their reasonableness shine before all men.—Philippians 4:5.
After all, you are the one who will have to live with the results.
New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures
March 22, 2000 AWAKE! Pages 13
Title: Young People Ask…What About Body Piercing?
Subtitle: What Message Does It Transmit?
August 8, 2000 AWAKE! Pages 18-19
Title: The Bible’s Viewpoint
Body Decoration – The Need for Reasonableness