Perhaps a more well known scripture having to do with body piercings relate to earrings where the children of Israel fell into rebellion by worshiping the golden calf while Moses was up in the mount with God receiving the Ten Commandments. Here we find they took their earrings and cast them into the fire to make a golden idol out of them which greatly displeased the Lord.
Exodus 32:2-3, “And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me. And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.”
There is one specific verse in the Old Testament which uses the Hebrew word, “lachash,” which is a word specifically associated with witchcraft. Here, the jewelry is used as an amulet to cast a spell. Isaiah 3:18-23, “In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon, 19 The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers, 20 The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings, 21 The rings, and nose jewels, 22 The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins, 23 The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the veils.”
As far as body piercing goes, this practice is mentioned in two places as ear piercing. It refers to the commandment regarding a slave or servant who does not want to leave his master. The master gives him a wife and they have children who belong to the master and the man wants to stay with his family so a pierced ear shows his loyalty and indemnity for as long as he lives. Otherwise the law would stipulate that he could be freed at the end of a seven year indenture if he wished with payment. If he went free he would have to leave his wife and children in servitude until they were redeemed and that could mean quite a long time. But if he chose to stay with his family and with his master, he must have his ear pierced to identify him as nonredeemable (Exodus 21:6 and Deut. 15:17). There might be a symbolic meaning here too.
In a prophecy in Isaiah 3:18-24 it shows that there will be nose jewels that will be removed when this disaster comes which indicates that they were affixed in some way as they are today by body piercing. This does not mean that God approves of them. It just means that is what they wore along with other ornamentation. And it is because of our stubborn refusal to obey these simple reasonable commands of God that He will be so upset and permit these disasters to happen to the people of Israel until we do respect them and obey them willingly. None of us can do this without the help of God and that is why the Father sent his Son into this world to die like a man to pay for the sins we commit by our foolish disobedience. We owe Him our lives. It is our choice to make whether to accept his sacrifice or not.
In Old Testament days (as a matter of historical background), we know that the children of God had body piercing, namely nose rings and earrings (Gen. 24:47; 32:2; Ex. 35:22; Deut. 15:16-17). We also know that tattooing their body was prohibited (Lev. 19:28).
Today, we do not live under the Old Testament (e.g., Mosaic Law) (Heb. 7:12-14), we live under the law of Christ (1 Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2). Therefore, we must go to the New Testament (2 Tim. 3:16-17) and investigate the doctrine and law of Christ (2 Jn. 1:9), to see whether it is lawful for us to pierce and tattoo our bodies.
There are four principles we can apply when determining whether body piercing and tattooing are lawful.
- We are to glorify God in our bodies (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
- We are to only do things that are honorable and respectable in the sight of men (Rom. 12:17; Phil. 4:8).
- We shouldn’t engage in lustful and licentious (sensual) behaviors (Rom. 6:12; 1)
- We shouldn’t engage in questionable behaviors (Rom. 14:23; 1 Th. 5:21-22).
Now, let’s apply these four principles to determine whether God authorizes us to pierce and tattoo our bodies.
- Discrete Body Piercings: Discrete body piercing, such as tasteful male or female ear piercing, is considered in society to be a godly adornment. The piercing itself is not associated with evil. As long as the earrings do not represent or communicate something sinful, pierced ears, and discrete nose piercings in some cultures, profess godliness and do not bring reproach upon God. Therefore, I believe that tastefully pierced ears are authorized in God’s word.
- Wanton Body Piercings: On the other hand, a broad section of society believes that body piercings (other than discrete ear and nose piercings) reflect a licentious and riotous lifestyle. These piercings were popularized in the later part of the 20th century by people in pop culture known for sinful lifestyles. Because of the sinful connotations associated with these piercings, this behavior is questionable at best (Rom. 14:23; 1 Th. 5:21-22). Therefore, God’s children should abstain from these piercings since:
- Such body piercings do not glorify God (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
- Such body piercings do not exalt Christ (Phil. 1:20).
- Such body piercings do not profess godliness (1 Tim. 2:2, 10; 4:7-8; 6:11).
- Such body piercings are not honorable and respectable in the sight of men (Rom. 12:17; Phil. 4:8).
- Many are licentious, symbolic of a riotous lifestyle (2 Cor. 12:20-21).
- Tattoos were popular in the early part of the 20th century among military personnel, and others, commonly reflecting a carousing lifestyle. Later, gang members, rappers, and other celebrities began embracing tattooing as a sign of a licentious lifestyle. Because of the sinful connotations associated with tattooing, Christians should also abstain from this behavior, which is questionable at best (Rom. 14:23; 1 Th. 5:21-22).
PART III TOMORROW
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