People get tattoos for different reasons. Some get tattooed as an expression of their affection for something or someone. Others get tattoos to keep memories and cherished moments while others get them to communicate their identity or fashion sense. Some tattoos may be a form of decoration or fashion with no specific meaning.
However, other tattoos carry specific meanings to the person wearing them. Some communities get tattoos as a rite of passage, hence their tattoos display their transition from one stage of life to another. Other people wear tattoos to depict their religions and spiritual devotions. Whatever the reason behind the tattoos, the question that disturbs many people’s minds is, “Can we go to heaven with tattoos?”
Is it a sin to have a tattoo?
People with tattoos are often viewed as ungodly people. They are seen as people who are into occultism and devil worship. The world considers these people sinful and enemies of God. However, when we carefully look into it, we will find out that most of these judgments are baseless delusions. They are fake conclusions that have no proof.
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Tattooing our bodies does not qualify or disqualify us from going to heaven. Tattoos are like any other decoration made on the body; they can be likened to shaving or plaiting your hair or cutting your nails. All these steps are taken to make the body or outward appearance of someone look beautiful.
Does the Bible forbid tattoos?
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”1 Peter 3:3-4
The fact that the Bible instructs women not to focus on their outward beauty does not mean that doing it is a sin. Rather, the Bible is teaching them that outward beauty is not what counts in the eyes of God.
What matters is the beauty of the heart. Similarly, a tattoo, which is an outward modification, may not count before the Lord but having it is not sinful. What this Scripture means is that as we decorate ourselves in whatever form, we should prioritize the beauty of our hearts. We must ensure that our hearts are clean, worthy, pleasing, and attractive to the Lord. Therefore, the Bible does not forbid tattoos but it calls us to focus more on the beauty of what matters most; our hearts.
Someone may ask, “What about the warning against the Israelites not to tattoo their bodies?” In Leviticus 19:28, the Bible reads, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.” The Israelites were told these words as a warning against adopting pagan practices and rituals of their neighboring communities. God was not against the tattoo itself but against the ritual associated with it in those communities.
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Their neighboring communities cut themselves and offered their blood to their gods. We can see this in the story of Elijah when he mocked the prophets of Baal. He asked them to cut their bodies so that their god could answer with fire. The prophets of Baal cut themselves to appease their god who failed to consume their sacrifice.
Moreover, Israel’s neighboring communities also cut themselves as a way of mourning and grieving for the deceased in their communities. The cutting of their bodies increased their pain and sorrow which was a public show to people that they were in a state of mourning. They cut their bodies as they wept in pain. These are the rituals and practices that God warned the Israelites against. It was not specifically about the tattoo.
Will People with Tattoos Go to Heaven?
Yes, people with tattoos will go to heaven if their hearts are pure and blameless.
- Firstly, what matters before the Lord is not our outward appearance but the state of our hearts. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” God is concerned about the purity of our hearts, the genuineness of our worship and devotion, and our faith in Him. So, this means that people with tattoos can go to heaven if they measure up to God’s standards of godliness. On the other hand, people without tattoos can go to hell if they don’t measure up to God’s standards of godliness.
- The second reason that proves that people with tattoos will go to heaven is the fact that we will not go to heaven with the bodies we have now. Philippians 3:20-21 reads, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.” Jesus will transform our physical bodies, whether they have tattoos or not, and will give us glorified bodies. We will go to heaven with glorified bodies and the bodies with the tattoos will fade into nothing. If we believe in Jesus and walk in obedience to His teachings, we will go to heaven even if we have tattoos all over our bodies. It’s not the tattooed body that will go to heaven but our pure souls and our glorified bodies.
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- Thirdly, we can still go to heaven with tattoos if our intentions for getting the tattoos were not against the will of God. Getting tattoos for any other reason other than for the sake of rituals and divination practices is not sinful. Therefore, when you want to get a tattoo, the first question you must ask yourself is why you want to get it. What is your intention for wanting to have a tattoo? A tattoo that preserves good and cherished memories cannot make one miss out on the opportunity to go to heaven. Getting a tattoo to express your affection to your loved one cannot deny you the chance to go to heaven. But if you do it to show your devotion to a god or any ungodly spirit, you will end up in hell.
Do Tattoos Defile Our Bodies and Spiritual Lives?
Many Christians are against the idea of getting tattoos because they believe that tattoos defile their bodies. They believe that our bodies are God’s temples and we should not do anything to them to alter their original appearance. But again, Jesus says that things that defile us are things that come out of our hearts. Anything we do outside our bodies does not defile our bodies.
“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person, but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”Matthew 15:18-20
Among the things that Jesus mentions, tattooing our bodies is not mentioned. Therefore, tattoos do not defile our bodies or our spiritual well-being.
We must understand that even though we can go to heaven with tattoos, not all tattoos are good. Some are evil with wicked messages. Tattoos that symbolize the membership of criminal gangs are not good. People who tattoo themselves strange images that communicate evil messages may not see heaven if they don’t repent and cover their tattoos. Other people have tattoos that show naked images of some celebrities or their idols.
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These may defile a person’s thoughts and body. Looking at the tattoo and reflecting on its meaning or using it to arouse an ungodly desire in you can corrupt your body and mind. Therefore, as we wonder whether we should get a tattoo or not, we must consider its nature. Is it a tattoo that can ruin our relationship with God?
Tattoos cannot prevent us from going to heaven if we do what God wants us to do. There are several things that God wants us to do for us to enter His kingdom. In John 3:16, the Bible tells us that if we believe in Jesus, we will not perish but we shall go to heaven and live with God forever.
Matthew 5:10 encourages us to seek righteousness and pursue holiness so that we can inherit the kingdom of God. There are many other things that we must do for us to go to heaven. The only people that God says will not go to heaven are sinners and the unrighteous.
“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”1 Corinthians 6:9-10
But we can make it right with God today before that day comes. We can repent of our unrighteous doings and turn to the Lord. This way, whether we have tattoos or not, we will go to heaven when the hour comes.