Tattoos and God's temple (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I go to an extremely conservative church, and this time I’d like to bring the topic to something that genuinely confuses me. My church likes to condemn tattoos, saying that it’s unbiblical and goes against the temple of God (1 Cor 6:19-20). They claim that it’s not right to ink up God’s temple. I used to think that this thought was universal in the Christian community, yet then I noticed that many millennial pastors dot their arms with sentimental tattoos, I was shocked, to say the least. I don’t know if that goes to say how out of tune my church is or how how ignorant I am to the overall Christian community, but I’ve really struggled with this. I’ve read books by two different influential millennial Christian speakers and pastors, and they both speak of getting certain tattoos for different reasons without a second thought. First, what is the purpose of a tattoo in the first place, and second, is it a defilement of God’s temple? Does this have any kind of relevance to Christianity at all?
(I have a feeling I won’t get a definitive answer except by those who feel strongly on the subject as this sort of question may make some feel uncomfortable)


@O_wretched_man One verse that comes to mind regarding being ‘defiled’ is what Jesus said in Matthew 15:

Matthew 15:11 - What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.

It is our heart that is really the core issue, so I think it is inappropriate to say that tattoos inherently defile a person. That is a misunderstanding of what it means to be defiled. Lazarus’ body was covered in sores and the rich man’s body was clean and healthy, but it was Lazarus whose heart was clean and the rich man whose heart was defiled by his lack of compassion.

My personal opinion is that we should not get tattoos because they can be a hindrance to our ability to spread the Gospel. A person may argue that tattoos can be used to express spiritual truths, but I would say that your actions speak louder than your tattoos, so why alienate people unnecessarily? That said, I do not think having tattoos prevents God from using people if they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit - God’s love will shine through their outward appearance.

Here are some articles that I thought had helpful perspectives on this issue. The Lord grant you wisdom as you study.

"Some within the Christian community consider tattoos and body piercings to be a desecration of the image of God on the basis that they (1)violate the believer’s conscience and God’s Law, (2)mutilate the physical body, (3)hinder unity within the church, and (4)glorify the ungodly and vulgar. In contrast, other believers consider them to be a demonstration of the image of God on the basis that they (1)exhibit artistic beauty, (2)express the free will of the believer, (3)create diversity within the church, and (4)can be a means to express spiritual truth.

Tattoos and body piercings are in themselves neither moral nor immoral. In biblical cultures, tattoos and body piercings were symbols of ownership by, devotion to, identification with, and protection by a deity or master. Depending on which deity or master these symbols represent, therefore, tattoos and body piercings either may desecrate or demonstrate the image of God. Believers who are considering tattoos or body piercings first should be led by their consciences, then should consider the effects that such symbols will have on their physical bodies, interpersonal relationships, and spiritual lives."


I totally agree with your clarification of defilement. I did not mean to come across as if our outward appearance determines or is more important than what is in our hearts, just that that is how my church sees things. I remember a story Ravi told once that at a restaurant two big burly men covered in tattoos and such came over to talk to him and told him that they evangelize to people that look like them. God uses their looks to bring the gospel to those in their community. Thank you for responding! God bless!


Evening All,

I have 6no. tattoos with Bible with a picture incorporated. On my right arm I have a cross with John Ch3 v16 draped across it, beneath which a crown of thorns and nails beneath that a picture of an empty tomb with the word Resurrected.

The reason why I got the tattoos over the years is because I’m not ashamed / afraid to share my faith, but don’t want to come across as over zealous with my faith and the tattoos get people asking the questions.

The two which get the most questions are the empty tomb as people don’t link it with the Easter story and a basic cross with “Death has been defeated” beneath it.

Hope this helps with your thoughts.

Now to look at Sean’s links.


@David_Cieszynski Nice - when did you get those tattoos? What motivated you to do so? I think it is always helpful to hear personal stories.


Do you think that Jesus will have a tattoo when he comes back? I ask because I recall a man making that statement when he was explaining his reasons for having tattoos.

16 And he has a name written on his outer garment and on his thigh: “King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Rev 19:6)

I personally don’t have tattoos but I was raised in the 60-70 and I remember that people with long hair where looked at and treated differently. I struggled for quite awhile with my bias against the idea of tattoos and piercings but I now realize that regardless of what I think tattoos are the current fad like long hair was when was when I was young.
When I see tattoos that are displayed for full public view and the occasions arises I will ask the person to tell me the story behind the ink. It is a good opportunity to learn about what motivates people.


Hi @SeanO @Jimmy_Sellers I got my first tattoo about 4 years ago (about 35yr old) then got the bug :smile:

I just wanted something visible to show my faith and to hopefully get the questions flowing, It’s amazing how many people I come across don’t link the empty tomb to Easter and the resurrection of Jesus.


@David_Cieszynski I like how you saw it as an opportunity for evangelism; to open up doors. Have you found people to be put off by it at all? Has anyone at Church ever mentioned it? Or are people generally quite unconcerned about it? Different cultures can be different, so I am curious.


I’ve had some people pull faces, but overall people at church don’t say anything. A couple of female youth leaders said something, I questioned them about ear rings?

For the record I’m not a millennial.


@David_Cieszynski Thanks for sharing!

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Hi @O_wretched_man

I once questioned this myself, and maybe the following could be of help:

And as a follow-up,



No problems

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