It is a well-known fact that tattooing runs a risk of acquiring any number of deadly diseases, including Hepatitis C and AIDS. The reason is because the needle that is used to tattoo punctures the skin 3,000 times a minute. In an hour, that would be 180,000 times that puncture wounds provide a potential path to a deadly disease. Tattoos can cause many chronic skin disorders such as sarcoid, keloid scarring, allergic dermatitis, photosensitivity reactions, psoriasis, and tumors.
Leviticus 19:28 “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.” We were created in the image and likeness of God (Gen1:26). Why would we want to tamper with the perfection of God’s creation? Nothing man made printed on our bodies can enhance what God has already given us. Getting a tattoo would be similar to this analogy. Say I go to Louvre in Paris, France and I go up to the work of art of Leonardo Da Vinci’s “the Mona Lisa” and I decide that she would look better with lipstick and a hat and thus I paint those things in. A few people may think she looks better also but decide that is not the intent of the artist. Now I’m sure the authorities aren’t going to agree with me and will execute severe penalties on me because it would be graffiti on a masterpiece. The body is the masterpiece of God. How much more should we respect his art work than a 16th century artist. If we put a tattoo on ourselves it is like saying God didn’t do a good enough job on me. That I am incomplete in some way or I was intended to look better so I need to get this tattoo. It would be I think, I want, I, me, my when it should be want does God want. God already gave us what he wants. The whole christian message is denying ourselves and following Jesus (Mt 16:24).
The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” Why would we want to desecrate God’s temple? Our resurrected bodies at the end of the world will not have any tattoos on them. They will be pure and glorified. To show the seriousness of purity when it comes to Gods temple look back to the old testament. The ark had to be made of the purest of gold and the purest materials because the mercy seat was on top of the ark which was where the cloud of God overshadowed (the Holy Spirit only they didn’t know it at the time) (Lev 16:2). This was placed in the holy of holies in the temple. Only the high priest could go into this place once a year. The priest had to go through purification ritual prior to entering. If the priest wasn’t pure enough he was struck down dead in the temple. It got to the point that the priest had to have a rope tied to their leg so the other people could pull him out if he was killed. The body becomes the temple of the holy spirit at baptism in the new covenant. St Paul says that our body is not our own for we were bought with a price (1 Cor 6:19-20). On loan from God so to speak. If I would get a loaner car for a couple weeks while mine gets fixed and decide that it would look better with flames on the side, my opinion doesn’t matter because it is not mine to change.
St Paul tells us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (Rom 12:1). If you look any place in scripture when it mentions sacrifice there is always one thing in common. The sacrificial animal that was free from any blemish was preferred. A couple of examples of saints who went to great lengths to preserve there purity can testify to this. St Agnes, St Agatha are two that I am thinking of. They refused to lose their purity from rape and marrying pagan nobles in the 3rd century and were tortured killed for it. One more recently I’m thinking of I can’t remember her name. It was when Russia was in a revolution. A Russian revolutionary forced himself into a civilian home and the woman jumped out the window and to her death rather than having her purity taken from her. Now that is a specific type of purity but I can’t think of a specific example for tattoos.
What do you think Jesus would do? Would Jesus get a tattoo? What about Mary? Mary is the pure vessel, the ark of the new covenant which carried Jesus for nine months in the womb and raised him. I can’t picture either of them getting one. In fact if you look throughout history tattoos have been a part of pagan culture not Christian. Not until recent times do you find tattoos popping up on Christians.
Some of the arguments for Christians getting them is “I will use it to share the gospel”. My response is why don’t you share the gospel the way the apostles shared the gospel. They didn’t need to mortify their flesh to share the good news. None of the saints though out history who converted and baptized people by the tens and even hundreds of thousands in their life time did not need a tattoo. They shared the faith by the witness of their life. People could see the holiness of God shining through them and it attracted them.The religious orders like the Franciscans attracted thousands of people by their life of poverty, chastity and obedience. St Francis himself said “preach always, when necessary use words.” They converted people by fasting, and praying for hours upon hours in front of Jesus in the most Blessed Sacrament. They converted by doing penance and self sacrifice and offering it for them.
I know there are a well meaning Christians out there who love the lord and have tattoos. There are also well meaning Christians out there who follow the media and the culture and kill their babies through abortion. They don’t think they are killing their babies when they are doing it because the culture says it is not killing. The Catholic church speaking with the authority of Jesus (Lk 10:16, 1 Jn 4:6, Mt 16:18) does not say whether or not 1 tattoo is sinful but it does however say that excessive tattoos is indeed sinful.