Contend Earnestly: Why Get Tattoos? Soli Deo Gloria!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Why Get Tattoos? Soli Deo Gloria!

One of the questions that is posed is this:

If you know that tattoos are a touchy subject and people will have issues with it, why would you still get a tattoo? Aren't you just being rebellious and self centered?

The interesting thing is that it is always put on us, who want tattoos, as the ones being selfish and rebellious by getting tattoos. The exact same things were said as Isaac Watts wrote beautiful hymns to be sung in the churches. He was rebellious and looking to self and no one wanted to play his hymns in their services. The same thing was said of those who wanted to play drums and electric guitars in the church services back in the day. It is always put on those who don't stick to tradition of the church but continue to be progressive as rebellious and selfish. Should we just give in then to those who are uncomfortable with tattoos, new hymns and drums in worship through song? Or, should we be active listeners, careful with our liberty and do all to the glory of God?

I wanted to just give some examples of what one should think of before getting a tattoo and the process I have gone through.

Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone

This thought of Soli Deo Gloria was one that the Reformers continually fought for. Before the Reformers, Rome had put forth the thought that the highest calling for any individual was to be clergy of the church. The Reformers highly disagreed saying that all of life is worship and any man or woman's life and occupation is the calling of God and should reflect God's glory. Taking the Scriptures for what they said about life, the first question posed in the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms is:

Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.

This first part of the answer is taken from the following Scriptures: Ps. 86:9; Isa. 60:21; Rom. 11:36; I Cor. 6:20; 10:31; Rev. 4:11

So, when we ask, "Why get a tattoo?" the first answer needs to be, "to glorify God." This seems stupid to some, but is a reality for those who take God's glory very seriously. But, what does it mean to glorify? To glorify something in the Greek and biblical context, means that when doing something or thinking of someone it means to have a good opinion concerning one, resulting in praise, honour, and glory. Paul, and the other authors, point to the fact that what we do and what we see should always result in a good opinion of God so that we praise and honor God.

So, how do I glorify God in my tattoos?

1. Humble to the Authority God Has Put Over Me and With Me

I used to be a youth director at my previous church. One of the things I always did when kids would see my tattoos and say that they wanted one is I would tell them to go straight to their parents to discuss this. Their parents are their authority and they should honor them. My first tattoo came at the age of 18 and I was in college. Legally, I could do whatever I wanted to. Spiritually, I wanted input and and the "go ahead" from my father (who was a pastor for most of his adult life). I went to him in submission asking for his permission. He told me that he appreciated my submission to his authority and that, although he personally didn't like tattoos, I could do whatever I wanted to in regards to getting a tattoo. He gave me some things to think about in regards to the tat, such as placement and design, but allowed me to make the decision. To be honest, when someone says I am being rebellious getting a tattoo, it really angers me. The reason is that I was a very rebellious child in many ways, but I was most submissive in getting my tattoo than in any other way in my childhood.

If you are out of the house and on your own and single. Truly think through the fact that you will probably have a spouse some day. Think through the fact that they might hate tattoos and have to "deal" with your art on your body. This doesn't mean to not get one, but very careful on what you get and where so that it doesn't become a hindrance in your future marriage.

If you are married you are under obligation to go to your spouse, your body is theirs. Every tattoo goes through my wife first. She has denied me more than people know on tattoo designs, and I have shown my love for her by knowing my body is hers and that I will not get anything, or change anything, on my body that would make her uncomfortable or hinder her love for me. I completely submit everything to her in regards to my body so that I die to self and live for Christ through her. My wife loves tattoos and loves my new one and can't wait for it to be finished. She literally gets excited for them and does not cringe in any way. Let me say this again, if your spouse does not like tattoos, for whatever reason, do not get one because you are in sin. Glorify God by submitting to the authority God has over you.

2. Glorifying God, by Knowing Your Audience

Know who God is sending you to and know also those around you and their view on any subject. I have thought about this for the future. I have thought, "What if God sends me to a tribe that has pagan thoughts on tattoos in some remote part of the world?" Or, what if I become friends who truly stumbles over the fact of tattoos because of his old self? I will make sure that I do what I can to cover the tattoos in these instances. Even to the fact of using cover up make-up to make sure my exposed tattoos are covered up if I were to go to the jungles or a tribe that has those connotations with tattoos. The reason is that my tattoos are not to "make a statement" or to make a true weaker brother stumble (to get a reading on what I mean by this read this post here). If I preach to a mass audience where I know that it could trip some people up, I will do my best to cover them. But, I will also do my best to know the audience I am teaching to. This is why I also ask ahead of time what to dress like when I go to preach and teach at venues I am not familiar with. I don't want to show up in a suit, when everyone is in shorts, nor do I want to show up in cargo pants when everyone is in suits. I don't want my tattoos to become part of the message I am preaching if they are not the point. I want Jesus to be exalted where I go, not frivolous things like my tattoos, what I wear or what I eat or drink.

3. Glorify God By Getting the Right Design

Most people, when thinking of tattoos, think that they must get one that in some way has a Christian message. I don't. As long as the message or the design doesn't directly point to something contrary to God, like a naked woman, I don't care what someone gets because all lawful things point to God. When I get my tattoos I glorify God because I can see the artist and their creativity and see how that points to the amazing grandeur of the creativity and artistry found in our God and Creator. The same thing happens when I buy a piece of art, look at the sunset or stand at the foot of amazing architecture. These things do not have to have some message about God for them to glorify Him.

The correct thinking is to have these things and their beauty point you to the true beauty in God and cause you to praise and honor Him, not the artist or builder. This same mind set should happen when you eat good food, have great sex, make money, spend time with your kids, pick out something to wear or eat good food. One should understand that all these things point to the glory of God, as does a tattoo. Now, do we all like the same food, same art or same activities? No. So, I don't care if you don't like tattoos because you think they are ugly. This doesn't mean I can't glorify God in something you find distasteful. Same thing applies when you wear your ugly Christmas sweater with bells on it. You find it amusing and cute, I find it ugly and disgusting. You can glorify God in it, I want to throw up on it. Most of the things in this life that one can glorify God through, others will not be able to.
But, we should not discount others merely because we don't "get it" or don't like it. Nor should we think we can only glorify God in things if they have God's name, Scripture references or a Jesus fish on it.

So, why do I get tattoos? Is it out of rebellion or selfishness? No. It is because I find the great beauty and artistry found in tattoos to be a shadow of the great beauty and artistry found in my Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer. Through my tattoos I get to praise Jesus. You might hate them, which is fine, but don't think that I get them out of rebellion, it is quite the opposite.

“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”
Revelation 4:11

Sing to the Lord a new song;
Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.
Tell of His glory among the nations,
His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.
For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised;
He is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
But the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before Him,
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.

Psalm 96:1-6


Sharai said...

I have been following your blog for a couple months now, and I feel led to comment, and express my appreciation for your posts.

There is such a fine line between grace and the freedom of Christ, and our responsibility as Christians to study God's Word and grow in our spiritually. You often hear the loud opinions of the extremes, but it is rare to find one who is balanced in their commitment to living a healthy life to the glory of God.

And for that honesty and levelheadedness I thank you. It's refreshing, and thought-provoking.

On a completely different note: where do you get your graphics for your posts? Do you or someone you know design them?

Seth McBee said...


Thank you for your kind words and I pray that I am always searching for the Glory of God in the Scriptures and in my life. Usually this leads to balance instead of a crazy overweight in certain issues. We are humans who love to major on the minors, and minor on the majors. And, when we do, it really separates us in places that just don't need to be.

As far as my post designs, etc. Most of them are done by myself. Rarely are they not, unless it is just an obvious picture that I put up.

I am amateur when it comes to design, but I love doing it.

Thanks for following the blog and hope that it continues to be a place for some good reading and thinking.

Anonymous said...

I just discovered your page through a google search and I must say this post seems to have been written soberly, clearly and humbly. I'm a young person in college and this has pushed me to reconsider my own motives for wanting to get a tattoo. Thanks for the helpful post. And glory be to God for the truth he has shown us through His Word and the Holy Spirit.

Seth McBee said...

thank you anonymous, glad the post was of some help.

Ingrid said...

Hi!... like anonymous I've found this post through Google and I liked it...

I'm praying for a tattoo... I pray for me to be comfortable with it because I still a little confused...

I really agree with you... but want to ask you: Why do you think about what says Leviticus?

Seth McBee said...


Glad that I was able to help out in regards to tattoos. There are other basic reasons and reasons not to get tattoos that I could also share :)

As for your question in regards to Leviticus, I actually wrote a post dedicated to that very verse. You can read it here:

Jesus Loves Me and My Tattoos

Enjoy. Ask any questions you might have.


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