Ask Your Preacher
Leviticus 19:28 said, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.” Why don't I hear too many churches preaching against putting tattoos on your body?
The Old Testament strictly forbade tattoos (Lev 19:28). God was so adamant about it because cutting your flesh and tattooing were common practices of pagan cultures (1 Kgs 18:26-28). Tattooing was a religious practice closely tied to Baal and other idols.
In the New Testament, we are given no specific command against tattoos. It is valuable, however, to see that for a very long time tattoos have had a negative connotation. As a christian, there are many things that we can do but should think carefully about beforehand. Just because I can do something, doesn’t mean it is a good idea (1 Cor 10:23). Tattoos are permanent, and the decision to get one shouldn’t be taken lightly.
In American culture, tattoos can give a negative impression – especially if the tattoo is large or in a highly visible area. Some things to consider:
- Tattoos are a deterrent for some employers. Are you willing to get passed over in a job application?
- People will automatically form judgments about you based upon their first impression of a tattoo. Are you comfortable with being thought of as ‘the weird tatted-up guy’?
- You must also consider what effects it will have long-term. Will you still want Tweety Bird on your shoulder when you are in the nursing home?
- Are you ready to explain to your three-year-old why you have song lyrics on your bicep? Are you okay with your children wanting tattoos themselves?
- Many tattoos change their shape, size, and even location with weight loss and gain. Are you ready for that “cute” bellybutton butterfly to become a condor when you get pregnant?
- Many tattoos are of things that exude evil. Snakes, skulls, demonic signs, bad words, etc. are to be avoided at all costs.
We must always consider our influence and how it will affect others. This is not a right or wrong issue, but simply one of wisdom. God tells us to be wise and seek wisdom in our decisions (Pr 8:33). Whatever decision an individual makes, I recommend seeking outside counsel before getting something as permanent as a tattoo (Pr 11:14). It is not wrong for a christian to get a tattoo, but it certainly isn’t a decision to make lightly.
Does prayer really work??? I pray for situations to change in my life, and they don't. I do the best I can to try to get ahead, but it seems like more frustrating things end up in my path. Furthermore, it seems as a slap in the face to my faith. I watch those around me who barely believe in God live fulfilling lives. What does God want me to do?
Up In Arms
Dear Up In Arms,
Prayers do work, but God still has veto power. We are told to pray that “if the Lord wills, we will do this or that” (Jas 4:15). Jesus taught His disciples to pray for the Lord’s will to be done (Matt 6:10). Part of prayer is that we need to learn to trust that God knows what He is doing. We are entreating the Creator of the Universe with our problems, and just like any loving father, our Heavenly Father sometimes says, “No” to our requests. As every parent knows, children sometimes ask for things that aren’t in their best interest, or they ask things unaware of the bigger picture. God wants to give us good gifts (Matt 7:11)… sometimes that means that He answers our prayers by giving us something different than what we expected.
Now, let’s talk about those prosperous unbelievers that you are seeing. Your frustration is valid, and David had the same frustration. In Psalm 73, David talked about his animosity toward the success of the ungodly… he said it made him so mad that he almost fell away from God (Ps 73:2). However, David finally concluded that the ungodly were not blessed because their entire existence was slippery and dependent upon their physical prosperity (Ps 73:18). Only God’s people have an eternal hope that gives us comfort regardless of how life goes here (Ps 73:27-28).
Is it a sin to play Blackjack if I am skilled enough to hold an edge over the house?
Dear High Roller,
The Bible never specifically mentions gambling as a sin, but it doesn’t have to be specifically mentioned to be wrong. There are a great many things surrounding gambling that are sinful. Consider that:
- Gambling focuses around money and greed. God warns us clearly about being fixated with money (1 Tim 6:10, Heb 13:5). God wants us to be satisfied with our income (Eccl 5:10). Contentment is a major component of spiritual maturity (1 Tim 6:6).
- Gambling is used as a means to gain money without working for it. God finds pleasure in people working for their livelihood (2 Thess 3:10-12, Pr 10:4).
- Gambling wastes money because, ultimately, the house does always win. God expects us to be good stewards (1 Cor 4:2) and save for the future (Pr 6:6-8).
- Gambling and the places where gambling occurs are often associated with other sinful things. There is a reason Las Vegas is called “Sin City”. That industry is not one that a christian should be supporting (2 Cor 6:16-17).
Gambling is addictive. We can only have one master (Lk 16:13).
Should you shoot somebody in self-defense?
Dear Trigger Unhappy,
When the Bible commands us to not kill, the word used for ‘kill’ is the word that we would use for ‘murder’. Some of the most faithful men in the Bible were soldiers and had to kill people in the defense of their country. David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14), and yet David killed many people as a soldier. Jesus marveled at the faith of a centurion soldier (Matt 8:8-10). The first Gentile convert was Cornelius, a well-known Roman soldier (Acts 10:22). When a group of soldiers asked John the Baptist what they needed to do to live a faithful life, he told them to be honest and faithful… but he never told them to stop serving in the military (Lk 3:14). These are all examples of the difference between murder and self-defense (or war-time killing).
In the Old Testament, God made specific rules that allowed an individual to kill if they were defending their home or family (Ex 22:2). In Lk 22:35-39, Jesus tells His disciples that persecution will begin after He leaves and that they ought to “buy a sword” – this is certainly an endorsement of self-defense. All of these point to the fact that God distinguishes between defensive force and vigilante murder.
There has been a murder in our small town this past week, which doesn't happen often at all. It was very gruesome the way it happened. I know it was a part of God's plan, but why? Did this lady deserve what happened to her? And if she did, does that mean the bad things that happen to children are deserved also? It's really hard for me to understand why such a horrible thing happened to this lady, and it was planned.
Dear Sickened Neighbor,
Murder is a sin (1 Jn 3:15), and it isn’t a part of God’s plan. God can cause a horrible situation to work out for good (Rom 8:28), but that doesn’t mean that He desired for that woman to be murdered. People suffer for various reasons:
- Sometimes we suffer for our own sins (Gal 6:7-8).
- Sometimes we suffer because of others’ choices (like David’s sufferings at the hands of Saul – 1 Sam 20:1).
- Sometimes we suffer in order to glorify God through our suffering and recovery (like the blind man – Jhn 9:2-3).
All bad things are a result of sin. When God made the world, He placed mankind in the Garden of Eden and gave us a joyously blissful existence in that paradise. Who caused the pain? We did. It is sin that has brought all of the death, disease, decay, pain, suffering, troubles, and heartaches into our world. We all, in varying degrees, are reaping the benefits of a world with sin in it.