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Is it okay to tattoo your body?

“Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19:28

Leviticus 19 is a hodgepodge of interesting laws. Some laws make sense: don't steal, don't cheat, don’t prostitute your daughter, don’t seek out spiritual mediums and don’t mistreat foreigners.

Others are strange: don’t mate different kinds of animals, don't plant two kinds of seed in the field, don't weave together two kinds of fabric.

Mixed in all these laws is verse 28. The context of the law had to do with certain cultic practices that worshiped other gods - in this case cutting and tattooing. In that sense it was false idol worship.  God is asking that we don't mark our bodies with unholy symbols.  (I think we can all agree that cutting our skin is bad for any reason).

Today, tattoos display a number of different ideas. In a sense those tattoos worship the things of this world.  If you feel the need to glorify anything above God, then those tattoos would be wrong.

So inking things on our skin isn't wrong, but our motivation to tattoo may be. However, if you were to tattoo a cross on your arm to show your love for Christ, why would that be bad?

This is the only place in the Bible where tattoos are mentioned.  The principle of Leviticus 19 overall has to do with trying to blend two things together that don't go together, in this case the things of the world and the things of God. 

The Bible asks that Christians not display a love for the world above their love for God and to be separate from the practices of this world.

With that in mind, tattooing can be a way to display your love for the world above your love for God.  For that reason, tattooing would be wrong.