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Wednesday, February 03, 2016

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What Does the Bible Say About Piercing the Body?

Song of Solomon 2:15 says, "Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes." Foxes sometime in search of food would enter into the grape orchards and devour the grapes and spoil the crop. However, the little foxes were too small to reach the grape bunches so they would chew on the vines and it would kill the whole vine. Instead of the farmer just losing his crop, he would lose his vine which was more disastrous. Spiritually some things we do or allow that we might think are little or insignificant can also be disastrous for us.

Many of the young people in our society here in the USA are embracing a dangerous "little fox" or seemingly "little thing" that may seem harmless. The young people are saying that it is a "trendy" thing to do. Many of them are showing off multiple ear, nose, tongue, eyebrow and navel jewels and rings attached to their pierced flesh. Some even have this done on unspeakable parts of their bodies. These are abnormal and unnatural.

As many people are not aware of the spiritual dangers in such practices, this article is not meant to condemn any that may already have this done. However, we would urge you to seek the Lord as to any further involvement in this practice. The Lord loves everyone, no matter what we are currently doing however, His desire is to show us a better way.

The Bible warns us against cuttings in our flesh in Leviticus 19:28 which says, "Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord."

Our young people do not realize what they are doing has its roots in witchcraft and the practices of false religions. Those that have made trips to other parts of the world have viewed the bodies of those who have not only pierced and tattooed their bodies but have gone further, with mutilating their bodies. It is repulsive to see someone deform the body that the Lord made in perfection. The Lord admonishes us in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20,

"What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."

If we are to glorify God in our bodies, how do body piercings glorify Christ?

In 1 Kings 18 we find the story of Elijah contesting the evil prophets of Baal (a false god of that day whose followers practiced witchcraft). The prophets of Baal worked themselves into a frenzy trying to get their god, Baal to show himself mightier than the true and living God. However, the God of Elijah proved to be the true God. During the frenzy of the Baal worshipers they began to disfigure their bodies as we see from this scripture in 1 Kings 18:28, "And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them."

Another scripture that warns us not to disfigure our bodies is Deuteronomy 14:1(Amp.): "You are the sons of the LORD your God: you shall not cut yourselves, or make any baldness on your foreheads for the dead."
When it speaks here about doing this in relation to the dead; this was a witchcraft rite done to mourn or remember their dead, so cutting, piercing and tattooing have its origin in witchcraft practices. The verse below reveals a connection between foreign gods and earrings.

Genesis 35:2: "Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments: 3 And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went. 4 And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem."

Perhaps a more well known scripture having to do with earrings is the record of the children of Israel falling into rebellion and worshipping 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 and 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."

This is what makes it spiritually dangerous for people. People not realizing this opens the door for Satanic attack because they
have a mark or opening which allows the enemy entrance in their lives. Today this practice is growing because of false religions and pagan influences infiltrating the church.

Many of our young people are getting body piercings and tattoos out of a spirit of rebellion against their parents advice. Many men are also wearing earrings to make a statement of their rebellion by showing that they are "macho" or homosexual. Because the youth of our day are despising and rebelling against their parents this is very displeasing to the Lord as one of the Ten Commandments in the Bible is to honor our parents (Exodus 20:12, "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee" and Colossians 3:20: "Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.")

Some complain and say that most of the women today in our society wear pierced earrings and they attempt to use this as an excuse for the bizarre body piercings they are flaunting. The Lord always judges what we do by our motives as He looks on the heart. It is a different matter when women wear pierced earrings as a custom, without the rebellion and pride attached to it. However, this could even be wrong if women are filled with vanity and pride over their appearance. Remember God looks at our heart attitudes. In fact, the Bible speaks of a generation of women that will be alive at the coming of the Lord that will be judged severely for their flirting and their haughtiness. Let us look again at the prophecy in Isaiah 3:16-24 (NIV):

16 The LORD says, "The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with out stretched necks, flirting with their eyes, tripping along with mincing steps, with ornaments jingling on their ankles.
17 Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion; the Lord will make their scalps bald."
18 In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces,
19 The earrings, the bracelets and veils,
20 The head dresses and ankle chains and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms,
21 The signet rings and nose rings,
22 The fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses
23 And mirrors, and the linen garments and tiaras and shawls.
24 Instead of fragrance there will be a stench; instead of a sash, a rope; instead of well dressed hair, baldness; instead of fine clothing, sackcloth: instead of beauty, branding.
25 Your men will fall by the sword, your warriors in battle.

We are living in a day that the Bible speaks of in 2 Timothy 3:1-7:

1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

If you have been one that has been led away by lust or have been rebellious against your parents, you can come to the Lord and repent and He will give you a new start and a desire to live a holy and obedient life unto God. We should remove anything that portrays rebellion and ask the Lord to forgive us and give us a submissive spirit. Jesus does not condemn us, but rather, will help us. He loves us and invites us to a wonderful life in Him.

One note of warning  to the church on this subject of body piercings. We have a generation now of young people that love the Lord yet do not understand all of His ways. Soon we are also going to be seeing a great revival among the youth of the world.  The youth of this day want a real cause to live and die for.  Most have not seen true Christianity.  However, when they do come to Christ many will be bringing their tattoos, dress, music and old habits with them right into the church.   We must be sure that we do not despise them nor look down on them, but rather welcome and love them and gently teach them the ways of the Lord. We are called to love and pray for them and help them avoid making some of the mistakes we have made in our own walk with the Lord.  We need to be true mothers and fathers to them. Yes, we must speak the truth in love, but let us make sure we are loving them and not condemning them.   On the other hand, we must not accept all that they would desire to bring with them that would harm them and compromise the Word of God.  We will all need God's grace to bridge the generation gap. We would recommend a great article written by a young Christian on this very subject. 

Bottom line in regard to body piercings would be to ask the popular youth slogan, "What Would Jesus Do?" I don't believe we will ever see Jesus with any body piercings that He placed on Himself. I can't imagine Jesus with a tongue ring or a navel piercing. The only scars on His body are the nail pierced hands and feet put there by the evil men that crucified Him. They were not self inflicted. Overcomers will put away the "little foxes" that lead to bigger compromises.

EDITOR'S NOTE: We are including a testimony of a former Hindu who knows only too well that body piercings and tattoos are a form of witchcraft:

I am from Malaysia and I truly enjoy the Overcoming Life Digest. Although I enjoy reading all the articles, I find the Little Foxes enlightening and informative. Last Friday, when I entered the GCN chatroom, they were discussing about tattoo and piercing (tongue). One of the believers there was telling them it was wrong for Christians to have tattoos. Since I was formerly a Hindu, I know tattoo is from Hinduism and also witchcraft. Also, Hindus pierce their tongue with small spears and prick the entire body with little hooks and go in trances. I have witnessed this personally. But praise God, I never took after any of these rituals even when I was a Hindu. Praise God, I managed to convince a few about the evil of tattoo. One of them asked me for scripture verses which I promised I would send. But during the weekend, I was busy and also, I couldn't find the relevant scriptures. I prayed to the Lord to help me. Then He reminded me of an article I read in your Digest last year. So I send them your article instead. Praise God for the articles in Little Foxes. Keep up the good work. Karen

 This article was taken from the Overcoming Life Digest (November/December 1998 Issue)

Pastor R.S.(Bud) & Betty Miller
P.O. Box 850
Dewey, AZ 86327

Tuesday, February 02, 2016


Lev 19.28, 19; Gal 3.23-24; Matt 5.17

We’ve been working through a series of messages on how the voices in popular culture are calling people to “follow me.” Sometimes, into life and health, but other times into a dead end kind of life.  Some of the topics we’ve talked about have been clear cut, even obvious. Today’s topic is anything but.

The trend today is tattooing. It is a very old practice. Usually used as a way to be identified or to show devotion to a group or god. The Ancient Chinese, Canaanites and Romans used tattoos these ways. They marked slaves, criminals and outcasts. Tattoos have been used as a rite of passage, sign of devotion or bravery.

Increasingly, tattoos are being used in other ways. As wearable art, as a way to hide scars. As a sign of devotion to Christ or a way to mark important life experiences.

And as you may know, the Church has generally held the opinion that tattooing is wrong. And I am well aware that sitting in this room right now are people who share that position as well as the opposite. For some tattoos are bad, for others, not so much. Some do not and will never undergo the process of getting one. Others have and will.

One thing is certain, the practice is growing. In North America, 1 in 5 adults have a tattoo and the rate is going up. So this is something worth talking about.

The only Bible passage that has anything to say directly about the practice is Leviticus 19.28. Where it says, 28 “‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.”

And while that may seem clear enough there are a few issues to be aware of.

First: context.

You need to know that Leviticus 19 is part of a book of laws. The overall point of the book is how God makes a way for sinful people to approach a holy God. So chapter 19 begins with a very common phrase:

Lev 19          The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.

Be holy, that is, set apart, different than the people who live around you who do not know the Lord. And chapter 19 lists many, many ways the people were to do this and be reminded of God’s holiness all at the same time. Here are a few more examples from chapter 19.

26 “ ‘Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it.

“ ‘Do not practice divination or sorcery.

27 “ ‘Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.

29 “ ‘Do not degrade your daughter by making her a prostitute, or the land will turn to prostitution and be filled with wickedness.

30 “ ‘Observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my sanctuary. I am the Lord.

We read more of them earlier and they sound familiar, right?

19 “ ‘Keep my decrees.

“ ‘Do not mate different kinds of animals.

“ ‘Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.

“ ‘Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.

But let’s be honest, some of them are a little odd. Don’t eat meat with blood in it? Is that even possible? Don’t cut the hair on the side of your head? Or the edges of your beard? It also appears that mules are out, so King David broke at least one of these laws. And according to this list, at least some people here broke the one about two kinds of seed in one field. And just about everyone here is in violation of the last one. Who isn’t wearing a cotton poly blend?

The point is that God provides these laws back then so that his people back then could understand what God had done in setting them free from Egypt and ungodly practices. Witchcraft, fortune telling and scarring or marking their bodies as a religious ritual, superstition, or for showing their love for false gods.

The point? Context matters. Every Bible text has a reason why it was first written and what it means since Jesus rose from the dead.

Second: All or Nothing?

The second thing to notice is that when Jesus talks about the Law, he makes it clear that humanity is in an all or nothing situation. All the Law, including Leviticus 19 remains in effect. At least at some level. Until his return. You know the passage: Matthew 5.17-19

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

And some would like, on that basis to prohibit tattooing then, now and always. The problem is, however that we will have to give up much more than tattoos if we go this route.

Look at the verses in Leviticus 19 again: No more mixed fiber fabrics. Clothing, sheets, towels, whatever. No more haircuts. Every male must allow their beard to grow untrimmed. Ever woman must not pluck their eyebrows or any other facial hair that might appear. No more shaving your head, armpits or legs. No more pork, sausage or mixed breed animals. And you had better be. Here. Every. Sunday.

The truth is that God’s Law stands forever, but the application of it changes. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection “accomplishes” much. In him things have changed for those who believe. The Animal sacrifice system as Israel knew it is over. Good Friday took care of that.

At the same time, other commandments of scripture remain in effect. The Great Commandment is just one example.

Matt 22.37-40 37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Take note that both are Old Testament texts. Love God is from Dt 6.5 and Love of neighbor is from Lev 19.18. So the question is how do we work this out, line by line?

Galatians 3.23-25 helps us here.

23 Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

The laws of Leviticus were a tool to teach infant Israel who God is and how to live apart from the surrounding culture in a way that honors God. Believers in Christ are not required to follow the letter of those laws. This is why we don’t read about tattoos or fabric in the New Testament.

But we are required to follow the spirit in them. Which is why we do read about love one another, do not steal, murder or be sexually careless.

So, back to the main point: To tattoo or not tattoo

There are two big reasons why Christians have rejected tattooing in the past. The first we just talked about. Leviticus 19 no longer applies to believers.

The second, has more to do with the culture of the times and a certain way of understanding humanity made in God’s image.

In 330 AD the emperor Constantine outlawed tattoos. He said, “Because the human face reflected the image of divine beauty, it should not be defiled." The 2nd of Nicaea supported that in 787 as part of the argument over whether we should use pictures of Jesus or Mary in the church.

He wanted to make a break from unchristian Roman values to faith in Christ. Gladiators and criminals, even slaves were routinely tattooed on their faces and Constantine thought the process degraded them, which it did. It also marked them permanently. So that even after they came to faith people would still think they were bound by their old life, rather than life in Christ.

And in the same way, 1 Corinthians 6.19-20 is often brought into the argument. “You were bought with a price, honour God with your body.” With the following lament, that tattoo will get saggy or fuzzy. Which may be true, but is more about that person’s discomfort than Gospel truth.

In response, believers have said that while we bear the image of God that does not mean God looks like us. Further, if disfiguring the body with tattoos is wrong, then so too is cutting hair, using makeup, piercings and so on. Piercings, by the way, are not forbidden in the Bible.

Tattooed believers will also quote Matt 23.26 and similar passages to argue that God cares about the inner person most of all. And if the “inside” is clean, then the “outside” will be too. This is a pretty good argument because as you might remember, in the Old Testament, a man who was made into a eunuch could not worship with God’s people based on a bodily “modification.” But the Ethiopian eunuch was baptised into the church.

So both “sides” can make reasonable arguments concerning the practice. And it’s in this way that we find ourselves “disputable ground.” An area where respect for difference is needed. These are the “non-salvation” issues that people stubbornly divide over.

Romans 14 talks about this at length. The people in his time were divided over what was okay to eat. Paul sums it up with these words:

13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. 14 As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. 15 If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. 16 Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

Based on our study this morning, tattooing is not a salvation issue. But at the same time, it does say something about a person’s identity and values.

Think Before You Ink

Let’s try to wrap this up. There is no doubt that we can over identify with our culture and confuse the message of Christ by how we act. And it seems likely that at some point, a person can go too far and disrespect their body as given by God to be protected and honored.

So here is a list of questions that might help the discernment process.

1.    What is the motive?

Why do I want it? To fit in, vanity, trend following? Is the tattoo a way to identify with a gang or an act of rebellion? Shock value? If so, you should probably pass.

Or, is your desire to honour God through body art? Is your desire to mark divine encounters and either painful or joyful experiences? Are you ready to tell the story of your tattoo as a part of your walk with the Lord? I have known people who have shared their joy and regret through the tattoos they wear.

2.    What does the tattoo say about your identity – self-understanding?

I understand people are tattooed while undergoing radiation treatment. They put a target down to target the cancer precisely. Alzheimer patients are sometimes tattooed with their names in the event they get lost? Facial scarring can be covered by using skin colored tattoos. And increasingly, women who have undergone mastectomies are tattooing the scar tissue to redeem the experience.

If you get a tattoo will modesty be a factor? Will it be visible and attract improper attention to your body? This speaks also to size, number, location and content.

3.    What about the future?

This is practical but important. How will a tattoo impact job opportunities, future spouse. How might it impact present and future relationships?

4.    Is my decision based on faith and will the result be glorifying to God?

Romans 14 says that our lives together are to be a matter of righteousness, peace and joy in the Spirit.

And this cuts both ways.

13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

So if you can answer “yes” to this question and I cannot, then maybe I have to trust the Lord on the matter and not my feelings or opinions. But maybe you have to be gracious and in humility help me to understand your decision to get a tattoo.

In either event, we are in this together. We live in a world demanding our attention, hoping to shape our values. Together, we have been called to follow the Spirit so that our choices lead to the life worthy of the hope we profess.

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