Tattoos

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS A HIGH VOLUME OF IRRITATION & SARCASM

If you go to Journey, for many of you this has been the elephant in the room. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. The elephant in the room is the thing that everybody knows about but doesn’t talk about. Reports keep getting back to me on people who “have issues” with my tattoos. This, of course, means they ARE talking about it, they just aren’t coming to me about it. I’ll ignore for the moment they are violating the biblical principle of going directly to your brother if you have an issue with him. So let’s settle this here once-and-for-all. And if in the future anyone says anything to you about my tattoos, I would strongly urge you to kindly send them this link.

Do I have tattoos: Yes, I do.
Do I think tattoos are bad: Obviously not, or else I wouldn’t have gotten them.
Do I plan on getting more tattoos? Yes, as a matter fact, I do.
What does the Bible say about tattoos? I’m glad you asked…

Are Tattoos Sinful?

Well, to be honest, the issue is pretty simple and straightforward. There is one verse in Scripture that is often used to support the idea that it is sinful to tattoo your body. Here it is.

Leviticus 19:28 
You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD.

So it’s pretty straightforward right? It’s wrong to tattoo yourself. Well, not exactly. Before all you anti-tattoo types get too excited. You have to understand to whom this verse was written. Found in the book of Leviticus, these instructions are written to the Levites, the priestly tribe of Israel and those who are of the lineage of Aaron who would serve the Lord in his tabernacle. This specific command was given so that they might not identify themselves with a neighboring pagan religion who’s priests did cut themselves and tattoo their bodies. So, if that’s you (meaning: you’re a direct descendant of Aaron from the tribe of Levi and are serving the Lord in the tabernacle), then this verse probably applies to you. Everyone else, have at it.

If that’s still not convincing enough for you. If you think that specific command still applies to all people for all times… First, I question whether you really understand the book of Leviticus. Second, I would just ask that you apply your logic consistently. In fact, I would have you start by applying the verse just before the one in question:

Leviticus 19:27
Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard. 

Well, there you have it. If you think I shouldn’t have tattoos, I’ll be willing to listen to your argument as soon you stop cutting your sideburns and trimming your beard. (Random note: a few years ago, I quit cutting my sideburns just for the fun of it for a few months. It wasn’t a pretty sight.)

Jesus Will Have Tattoos

On a side note. If you don’t like tattoos, you might be in for a surprise when Jesus returns. Check out these verses in Revelation:

Revelation 19:11,12,16
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself… On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

Many scholars believe that these words written on him will literally be engraved or tattooed onto his body. (Honestly, I only added this little tidbit to stir the pot a little)

A Word to Teenagers and Others Still Living At Home

If your parents are still paying your bills and/or you live under their roof, guess what: you have to abide by their rules. Your parents may not like tattoos, piercings, etc. That’s a different thing entirely from saying that they are morally wrong. So teenagers: please stop using me as ammunition against your parents when you’re trying to convince them to let you do all the things that they dislike. Obey your parents. More than that, honor them. Honor them by quitting your incessant bickering and complaining every time they make a rule that you think us unfair. You want to know what’s unfair? The fact that your parents provide for your every need and what they get in return is your ungrateful ungodly attitude.

  • Rick

    good word son.  holiness and obedience for me too!

  • Steven Sharpe

    BAM.

  • Dianejones2008

    Thanks for call attention to the scripture about gossip and how to deal with a problem with a brother. This is one of the issues that made us want to leave our other church. The same back biting. I don’t have a problem with your tattoos. I live on pain every day and if you need to get tattoos to feel sympathy with me I appreciate it:). Thanks for being straight up with the young people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ronda-Grove-Gray/1474420367 Ronda Grove Gray

    I love it!  Thank you for clearing that up!  I’ve always had tattoos (since I was 20) and piercings since I was 16.  I’ve had plenty of folks stare at my tattoos.. Especially the two you’ve never seen which are the boys names. I got those after I left NC.  But whe I lift my hands during worship the tattoos on my wrists that read: Christian and Matthew are plainly visible.  Although I sometimes wonder if they just believe they refer to me being a Christian and the book of Matthew.  LOL…I never mind.  People don’t like tattoos, they don’t like ‘em.  I don’t feel judged.

  • Alex Harding

    YESSIR! Absolutely love this post! Well done sir! I love you and your awesome tattoos. 

  • Chris Griffith

    Smooth
    Feel free to delete my post if you want.  But here are my thoughts and I hope you’ll at least read them as they come from one who has known you a long time, even though we haven’t seen much of each other in the last decade or so, I still feel as though we’re friends and very much brothers in Christ.

    Hebrews 5:14 says that “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil..” Another way to say this is if we want to be mature, we have to be using good sense to sort out what is good and what is evil. As one grows he must exercise - ”get fit” in sense, and let go of the baby bottle.  As we do this we’re welcomed up to the table where grown people are eating meat.If you remember, I was in the Navy for four years and a lot of sailors I knew got tattoos.  But sailors, (especially of the drunken variety) were always (and still are) known to get tattoos.  Years, later it was motorcycle gang members and now, bless my soul, it seems as if EVERYBODY’s gettin’ one!  Actually, they’ve become so popular that, (I’m sorry to say this) they’re just not that cool anymore. Hence the booming business of tattoo removal.You’ve been overseas on mission work, you know, there are certain cultures where people are covered in tattoos.  Some are so covered that you cannot see their skin anymore.  I know you’ll strongly disagree with me on this but generally speaking, tattoos and body piercings are marks of pagan cultures.  The further our culture moves away from the gospel, the further we move into darkness.   I mean, where else CAN you go when you leave the light?  Now, I’m not saying it is possible to leave Jesus and I’m not saying you are doing that, but you may be following a culture that’s doing that.At the end of the day, who’s uniform would you rather wear… the devil’s or Christ’s?  It really doesn’t make a lot of sense for us as Christians to wear the other team’s (pagan) colors.  Obviously, your tattoo’s are “Christian.” or at least that have words that point to the Christian Faith.  Holiness and obedience are good words.  But what about your baptism, brother?  Was it insufficient?  God is the one who determines what clothes His children wear.  And those clothes are the waters of baptism.  The Lord has given you all you need.  You don’t need to add to it.  No need to wear the “pagan”uniform or even worse….envy it.  Blessings,Griff

    • Egrijalvahogan

      So, do we turn away those that were in the dark and have tattoos and body piercing; who came to know Jesus at a later time? 

    • Chad Revelle

      Matt 10:37 & Matt 23:25-32…let that marinate…& if your going to argue against something @ least account for the whole thing! I guess Jesus is wearing the other teams uniform in Rev 19!? I don’t know how long you’ve known Smooth, but I’ve known him long enough to know that man loves Jesus, is real & authentic! I think his next tatoo ought to be, “Haters gonna Hate”!

      Respectfully & totally disagree!

    • Observations of a Christian

      “Now, I’m not saying it is possible to leave Jesus and I’m not saying you
      are doing that, but you may be following a culture that’s doing that.” -Chris

      You say that tattoos generally come from pagan cultures, and even though Smooth’s tattoos are expressions of his Christian faith, you warn him not to go down that cultures path, even if it is “Christian Tattoos” because it leads away from the light…. That being said,

      Lev 19:26 “Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it.”

      Do you like a medium-rare steak? Why is it culturally acceptable to eat beef with blood and we no longer have to eat kosher foods yet tattoos are still off limits? The problem with tattoos and American culture is that they are “Generally” associated with negative connotation (ie: Bikers, Rock Stars, Drunk Sailors, Cannibalistic Tribes) And what people fail to remember is Galatians 4:4

      “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.”

      • Chris Griffith

        The issue is not if one likes his steak well-done or medium rare. It’s more of a question of whether one is eating solid food or still drinking from the bottle. Question: Is it still wrong to murder, tell a lie, or commit adultery? Do yourself a favor and cut that blank page out of your Bible between the OT and the NT because the Bible is one book and not two. And while you’re at it realize there is a distinction between ceremonial, civil, and the moral Law.

        • Observations of a Christian

          You are right… Laws about cutting of the hair, eating kosher only and tattoos are ceremonial law…. and has nothing to do with one’s moral law (ie: murder, adultery etc) ceremonial law was added because of the transgression
          of the moral law…

          Now because of Christ, you have Colossians 2:14-17.

          And you have yet to answer any question I raised. Why is it culturally acceptable to eat non-kosher foods, cut your hair, and shave if you still observe ceremonial law and not getting tattoos?

          And I understand you want to make a point not to get caught up in looking like the world, which is spot-on, but how can you be upset at this man for tattoos when the other 2 (hair, food) isn’t observed either?

          • Chris Griffith

            Baptism is the Christian sign and seal of what tattoos are attempting to signify and seal. I’m not even going down the road of cultural tabooishness (is that a word…?). The point is, the Christian Faith has it’s own unique culture which transcends race, gender, etc., and baptism is God’s sign to His children that the belong to Him and are part of that culture or covenant community. Pardon the “french” but cultural contextualization be damned.

          • Observations of a Christian

            I agree AND second “tabooishness” as a word… So all in favor say “Aye.” ***Readers are now yelling Aye across this page*** 

            And again, you are dead on with baptism being the ♫♫sign sealed delivered!!♫♫ with Jesus… And I understand your view that, “Why would you need tattoos to re-affirm your faith after public baptism” but the “Christian Lingo tattoo” is not the debate, the debate is, “Are tattoos biblically wrong?”

            So if you live under moral law, and believe Colossians 2:14-17, then as long as your tattoos do not directly contradict Biblical teaching (Satanic stuff, profane language, naked chicks etc..) Then anything I, you, my mom, your cousin, or the lady on the back pew says about this guys tattoos are 100% opinions….

            And people that don’t follow any ceremonial law OTHER than Leviticus 19:28 seems hypocritical (And I am NOT by any means indicting you as a hypocrite, I just have yet to meet a Christian that can answer the hair/food but no tattoo dilemma)

          • Chris Griffith

            Sure, I believe a Christian is free to get one but the issue has more to do with wisdom. If some men back in the 80′s could have gotten a permanent mullet hair cut they may have done it, (if possible), but not very wise.

          • Chris Griffith

            Even if it was a Glorious Kentucky Waterfall of a mullet!

          • Observations of a Christian

            Permanent mullets!! SMH >_<

            Again, in that statement, of "Was this a wise choice?" That's between God and Smooth, and with lots of prayer, consideration and thought…

            I'm being honest, I don't know this guy from Adam's cat, someone FWD me this page today via email…. But what I've read about him on this site, and what he's said on this posting, leads me to believe that…

            1.He didn't just impulsively get this tattoo

            2. He's sold out for Christ

            3. He more or less posted this as an avenue NOT to talk about tattoos but to confront gossip in the church and teach kids to honor their parents….

  • guest

    I have a wrist tattoo that reads:  saved.  After  I got it, (which I prayed about for over a year prior to  committing to the ink),    I prayed to be convicted by Scripture to show others that my tattoo is FROM the Lord and not sinful.   And so, I got from the Lord:  Deuteronomy 11:18 and Isaiah 44:5.  Sitting right there in church the Lord took me right to those two verses.    I am at total peace about my tattoos.  I also have one on my thigh as well, which covers an old birth mark- and is dedicated to transformation and metamorphosis….  and so I LOVE the Revelation you just gave me about Jesus having Tattoos on his thigh.   I had not thought of that before.   For anyone who says that God is going to punish me for not having the right translation, because I misunderstood the Hebrew meaning and yadda-yadda- well then  I say to them: pity they don’t understand the ministry of Jesus Christ.  Jesus came to set the captives free and to heal the broken hearted, did he not?   So what are we really talking about?    I went right to God in prayer and asked Him for him to convict me of what he wanted for this body.   I think I am covered.    :)  Peace and thanks for the blog post on tattoos.   

  • Heidi Mayhugh

    I love that your dad left the first comment! I hate that you even have to explain something that needs no explanation.
    To the gossipers & judgers (cause thats what you are),
    If you know Smooth, you know his heart. If you know his heart, you wouldn’t question the tattoos. If you question the tattoos then you don’t know Smooth and maybe you should get to know him before gossiping, judging, and misinterpreting scripture to him.

  • Chad Revelle

    Amen & Amen! PREACH!!

  • http://smoothvia.com Smooth Via

    Love all of the feedback everyone! Quick reminder to both sides though: Remember to speak the truth IN LOVE. Show grace. We may disagree, but we’re all on the same team.

  • DEANNA WHITE

    AMEN, AMEN AMEN!! WAY TO GO SMOOTH!!!

  • Ryan Fox

    I’m not a huge fan of tats, but I do appreciate the artwork and skill that goes into it.  I just can’t see myself getting one (well… maybe a ring tattoo) because I like to switch things up so much.  Beard one day, clean shaven the next…

    Anyway, good post bro.

  • Journeyferg

     Ferg

    I think they look good!  

    I also think that Matthew 25:14-30 tells us that the Master is coming back before long and He will want an accounting of His servants.  As far as tattoos are concerned let’s revisit this conversation at your daughters  wedding and see how much use it was to the Kingdom, its advancement, or what $300 compounded over 20 years would have done.

    Is it really the best use of your resources or is saving and investing your money to adopt a child perhaps better use of those funds?

    I too dislike the fact that people have to gossip but it is inevitable. Like Jimmy says, “are  you talking about a problem or trying to solve it”.

    • http://smoothvia.com Smooth Via

      Ferg,

      Thanks for your input. What would $300 compounded over 20 years look like? Good question. I would like to know how much money you spend on things like sodas, coffee, fast food, tv, movies, internet. I’m willing to bet those things add up to way more than $300 in a year. I wonder what other good things you could be doing with that money that would have a kingdom impact. If you are going to hold me to a standard, be sure to hold yourself to the same.

      • Chris Griffith

        Smooth- Artistically speaking, they’re very well done!

        • http://smoothvia.com Smooth Via

          Thanks dude!

  • Neallester

    I don’t know what to do now. I thought it was ok to get a tatoo now I’m not sure. I wanted to get a mural of Craig Mayhugh on my back and now I’m totally confused.

    • Neallester76

      Craig…you’re a jerk

    • http://smoothvia.com Smooth Via

      You should get Craig’s face tattooed on your face. Now that would be awesome.

  • laine smith

    Since I still feel like such a new ‘baby’ in Christ, I wouldn’t even begin to dare to quote scripture here, but I will share my opinions. To me I personally am not for someone getting tattoos for the sake of getting them. They should mean something to them, stand for something close to their hearts. I am planning & saving as I can to get a tattoo that will be a silver filigree cross in the middle of soft white angels wings coming out & underneath it will have the date August 23, 2010. The cross respents the place in my life that Christ now holds, the angel wings will respent the angels that I’m surrounded by both here & that have gone ‘Home’ (my earthly angels; my children, Carissa Wages, Ayanna Scott, Drew Waskey, Leah Heldreth & Lisa Bauer. My heavenly angels, my mom, my mamaw and maternal g-parents & my babies that God decided He needed more than I did). The date respents the Monday immediately after my first visit to Journey, when I sat with Lisa Bauer and was saved. There is a very deep meaning for me. Now I like Eeyore, but I wouldn’t tattoo him on my body. I believe that they can speak volumes and if people are opened minded enough, they can ‘hear’ what is there. Teens will use any excuse to try to get their points across. I am not saying that is a bad thing, I was a teen once myself. But I love what you said to them about honoring their parents. Bottom line, it is NOT my place to judge you or anyone else for what they do or do not do. We all have someone to answer to, and I don’t think that your tattoos will keep you from walking through the Golden Gates. If they do, there will be a lot of us turned away for much worse.

    Now guages…. ughhh that is what I am working on. My oldest just got small ones. I really don’t care for them & have no clue what they could represent personally to someone, but again, regardless it is not my place to judge. But this one may take a bit for me to overcome… but Praise God, at least my mind is still open and I am working on it.

    Blessings,
    Connie Pruitt (not sure why I can’t change my name on this)…

  • Leslie

    Well, since I posted my comment on fb and not the blog, and I have pondered my words, I feel more strongly than ever to place it here as well. Although, I think Heidi said it best. You need no defense it’s just what is on my heart.
    Well I guess as a parent, I feel very compelled to share my thoughts. 1) Since there is no biblical statute that is being violated (of which I agree with you), it really isn’t anyone else’s place to take your inventory over whether your tattoos are “good” or “bad”, “right” or “wrong” 2) Regardless if teens are trying to use your choices as justification to “convince” their parents, it is the role of the parent to draw the boundaries in their own home, therefore relieving you of any weight whatsoever, and finally 3) I personally think it’s about as AMAZING as it gets that we at Journey are blessed enough to have a youth pastor that our students can relate to AND be the “man of faith” example in a world that sends young people every message BUT. Not to mention that you as a person are so deeply in love with your Savior that you want daily reminders of what it’s all about (obedience and holiness). I guess in the end, if it gets others talking about that obedience and that holiness then the attention is well afforded. Otherwise I should find it time better served by others to focus on BEING the hands and feet of Jesus to a broken world. (guess I should have put a disclaimer on my comment as well ).

  • billy fletcher

    well said

  • Michael Palmer

    Smooth,
    The idea of not being like the world is the underlying principle here.  You got that.  And yes in historical context Leviticus has the prescriptive words; and they are to be understood in context of the historical situation.  But in looking for a specific “thou shalt not” etc. we do not teach our young people how to interpret the Word.  There are several principles and you included one (the parental thing) that would cause one to lean AGAINST tattoos and piercings.  People need to discern WHY they have that desire in the first place. Seems to be something that is not from the Spirit but from our spirit.  Thanks for addressing this.  Mike