Tattoos defile our blood and temples
Our skin, the largest organ of our body, has the important function of protecting internal organs and regulating body temperature. God created our skin to be a defensive layer. He meant it for good. Yet today, there is a trend to puncture and inject it with coloured inks, irreversibly contaminating our blood and immune system in the process, all in the name of “body art” or tattoos. If our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and our skin act as it’s protective walls, should we be polluting and painting it with “graffiti”?
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
God’s Word reminds us that our bodies were purchased with Jesus’ blood when He died for our sins on the cross. With this spiritual reality in mind, we ought to keep in mind that we are merely caretakers of our physical bodies while we are on earth. Only Jesus, the true Owner, has the right to decide how our bodies are to be used and enjoyed.
With the case of tattoos, God’s Word is very straightforward. We are not to tattoo our bodies. The wording for this commandment, which says, “You shall not … tattoo yourselves” is as clear and direct as the Ten Commandments, which say that “You shall have no other gods before me,” “You shall not make for yourself a carved image,” or “You shall not murder,” and so forth. It leaves no room for ambiguity.
Leviticus 19:28 ESV You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord.
Perhaps it is helpful to see what tattoos really do to our bodies.
Tattoos defile our blood and immune systems
In many countries, people with tattoos are forbidden from donating blood if they had been tattooed within the last six or 12 months. Clearly, tattoos are not completely risk-free. Emerging research, some as recent as 2019, point to the potentially harmful effects on our body.
1. All tattoo inks are tainted with metallic and toxic particles
Tattoo inks are not a regulated industry. The pigments used in tattoo inks have been approved for printer inks or car paints, but not for people. Even tattoo inks that are labeled “organic” contain preservatives and contaminants such as nickel, chromium, manganese, or cobalt. The most common ingredient is carbon black. The second is titanium dioxide (TiO2), which is also used in food additives, sunscreens, and paints.
Most of us would object to injecting our hearts or kidneys with metals and toxic chemicals but may fail to do the same for our largest defensive organ, the skin. People with tattoos are advised to think twice before going for MRI scans because the tattoo ink pigments have magnetic elements that can interact with the MRI’s strong magnetic fields. In some exceptional cases, people have experienced slight burns.
2. These toxic particles stay in our bloodstream forever
The process of tattooing involves damaging our skin by puncturing it with a needle and injecting ink into its second layer. Sensing this “injury”, white blood cells respond by absorbing the foreign particles and then try to dispose of them – except that the molecules of ink particles are too large to be expelled. Not only do the by-products of tattoo ink remain in our bloodstream forever, so do the metal nanoparticles from tattooing needles.
All this “waste material” from tattoos eventually reaches our lymph nodes, a key component of our immune systems. When slicing up human remains in autopsies, people have also found these toxins in (discoloured) livers of the dead. While healthcare professionals can observe these side-effects, they have yet to fully understand their long-term impact.
The Bible states that our life from God depends on our blood. It is our responsibility not to contaminate it.
Leviticus 17:11 ESV For the life of the flesh is in the blood…
3. Tattoos have been known to transfer disease
It is a long-known fact that tattoos can potentially transfer viral diseases such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and syphilis. Would we be honouring God by taking such risks on our bodies, temples of the Holy Spirit? God does not take the destruction of our physical temples lightly.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 ESV Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
For more details, please refer to The Scientific Report listed in Nature, Synchrotron-based ν-XRF mapping and μ-FTIR microscopy enable to look into the fate and effects of tattoo pigments in human skin and the articles, What Happens to Tattoo Ink After It’s Injected into Your Skin? and Now Metal Particles From Tattoo Needles Have Been Found in Human Lymph Nodes and Tattoos as risk factors for transfusion-transmitted diseases.
Choosing worldly images or God’s image
In spite of the risks, tattoos are becoming more and more commonplace. Yet followers of Jesus Christ are compelled to not look or behave like the world. In fact, we are called to be set apart for God and present our bodies as living sacrifices.
2 Timothy 2:21 ESV Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
Romans 12:1 ESV I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
The Bible reminds us that we are already God’s masterpieces, the result of His intricate workmanship. To add or subtract from that might even call into question our appreciation for who we are in God’s eyes.
Ephesians 2:10 ESV For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
One of the Ten Commandments instructs us not to make carved images that we adore and honour. In the past, people would have craved these images out of wood, silver, or gold. Today, we are being tempted to carve them directly onto our own bodies. This can be said to be a form of idolatry. Our bodies are meant to bring God glory, rather than to bring attention to ourselves.
Exodus 20:4 ESV “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Isaiah 42:8 ESV I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.
The origins of tattoos began even before the days of Jesus Christ and have traditionally been associated with superstition, witchcraft, animism, idolatry or pagan symbolism. We can still see such practices amongst the indigenous tribes of Taiwan, Borneo and the Polynesian Islands today.
Archaeologists have also discovered body tattoo markings used by the ancient Hittite and Amorite people who worshipped idols. The Bible alludes to such practices as being abominable, detestable in God’s eyes. It is not so much what images we tattoo, but the pagan practice of tattooing itself that is objectionable. When we follow such practices, we sin against the Lord.
Deuteronomy 20:17-18 ESV but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded, that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the Lord your God.
Moreover, tattoos have also been used to identify prostitutes, slaves, triads, and criminals.
Today, tattoo symbolism is seen as fashionable and desirable. Such desires are worldly, and not from the Holy Spirit.
1 John 2:16-17 ESV For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
Receive God’s body mark, not man’s
Perhaps we have tattooed or are considering tattooing our bodies with Christian icons or scripture. Does this please God?
God’s Word reminds us that our spirituality, or our divine person, can never be represented by human design and skill. It will only be a poor or devalued illustration.
Acts 17:29-30 NIV “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone–an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.
The Bible goes on to show us that we can look forward to a body marking of a different kind instead – one made by God Himself. In describing heaven, the book of Revelation shows us that those who remain faithful to God till the end will receive a mark on our foreheads. May we keep our bodies (blood, skin, and other organs) free of any trace of earthly defilement and present to God an unblemished divine person for His mark one day.
Revelation 22:3-5 ESV No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
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