What Does The Bible Say About Altering Your Body

Industrialization, the rise of the body modification culture, and the ever-growing popularity of tattoos, piercings and more has caused many people to ponder the view of body alteration in the Bible. Does it matter if a person alters their body in different ways? Can body alteration be seen as a sin?

The Bible does not directly address these types of questions but it can be used to answer them. Most Christians believe that the Bible encourages them to show kindness to their fellow man and to be content with the way God made them. Therefore, any alteration to the body that is made in defiance of God’s wishes could be seen as wrong.

For instance, the Bible states in Deuteronomy 19:16-17 that, “You shall not cut your body or make any marks or tattoos on your skin.” This passage can be interpreted to mean that body alteration, such as tattoos and piercings, is seen as a sin in God’s eyes. However, this interpretation can be debated, as the context of the passage is unclear.

In addition, scriptures such as 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 7:20-22 suggest that believers should practice self-control and avoid unnecessary indulgences. This could be taken to mean that body alterations, especially those with a deeper meaning, could be seen as going against what God intended for one’s body.

Christianity expert Rev. John Barrett-Smith believes that all alterations to the body, whether spiritual or physical, should be approached with caution. “We must be careful not to overly embellish our bodies either by creating tattoos, piercings or wearing makeup to the point where it becomes an act of narcissism or an addiction.” Barrett-Smith believes that adorning the body to glorify God or reach into the spiritual realm should be done with caution, as it can quickly become an idol.

Thus, it is clear that body alteration, whether it is in the form of tattoos, piercings, or surgery for aesthetic purposes, is a grey area in the Bible. The believers’ interpretation of the passages and their own self-control in following them should be consulted in order to reach an understanding.


The topic of surgery is a contentious one, especially when altering one’s body for aesthetic or cosmetic purposes. Some Christians believe that cosmetic surgery overrides God’s design and instead, focuses on vanity. Others may consider cosmetic surgery as a way to honor their own bodies and respect their own worth.

Psychologist, Dr. Alex Pereira, believes that cosmetic surgery should not be judged too harshly. “What is important is that any decision made is for the person’s benefit and as long as there is a good understanding and intention, it does not necessarily go against God’s wishes. Ultimately, we all have to make our own decisions and God understands that.”

Therefore, it is up to the individual to decide for themselves if their action of body alteration is something that may be accepted by God.


Tattoos are a popular form of body modification and many people today choose to get them for a variety of reasons. The Bible does suggest that tattoos should be avoided, as seen in Leviticus 19:28, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves.” Because of this passage, many Christians choose to avoid tattoos in order to honor God’s wishes.

However, some may view the passage differently and may find solace in the fact that the word ‘tattoos’ could have been used in the biblical context to refer to pagan rituals where people would cut their body in mourning. Similarly, the practice of tattooing in ancient cultures was not merely a form of physical decoration but also had symbolic and spiritual meaning to it.

Psychotherapist Ava Gex believes that for some, tattooing can be important for self-expression, “Getting a tattoo can be a way to celebrate one’s accomplishments and be a source of self-esteem for some. In that case, it could be seen as an acknowledgement of blessings from God and may be accepted as a sign of reverence if it is not in defiance of God’s wishes.”

Therefore, it remains up to the Christian to interpret the Biblical passages regarding tattoos and to make their own decisions.


Modern society has gone through an evolution of piercing trends. From piercings in ears and noses, to eyebrows and dermals, body piercing is no longer seen as a taboo. Much like tattoos, pierced body parts can be seen to some as purely decorative, while to others, they may have a deeper spiritual meaning.

The Bible does not explicitly talk about piercing, however, in Leviticus 19:27, it is stated that “You must not pierce your bodies for a dead person.” This excerpt is open to interpretation, although many Christians believe that it can refer to anything that goes through the skin and not necessarily piercings for tribute to the deceased.

Rev. Dr. David Philpott believes that modern-day body piercings should be approached with caution. “It is important to respect our bodies, which are the temples of God. If a person decides to get a piercing for whatever reason, it should be done under the guidance of scripture and after careful reflection if it goes against God’s will.”


For many, body modifications such as tattoos and piercings are a form of self-expression. They are a way to find freedom in constraints, and to make a statement or express one’s beliefs or culture. Some may argue that body alteration is a way to grow closer to God, however, many believe that body alterations should not be done without careful consideration and may go against the way God wants us to live.

For instance, it is said in 1 Corinthians 6:12 that, “Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. The bible does not explicitly forbid body alteration, however, it does urge believers to think twice before making any alterations. It is up to the individual to make the best decision for themselves, as we as Christians must be respectful and mindful of our own bodies and of God’s wishes.

In conclusion, due to the lack of definitive answers in the Bible, it is left to the individual to decide if body alterations such as tattoos and piercings should be seen as a sin or not. Ultimately, it is important to remember that body modification should be done with careful consideration and in a way that does not detract from the way God has created us.


Some believers choose to alter their bodies in order to draw closer to God, such as in the case of inkings of religious symbols, words and scripture. To some, tattoos and piercings can become an expression of spiritual journeys, and a meditative act for prayer.

Rabbi Max Kagan believes that body alteration can be done in the spirit of faith, “When we are creating art on our bodies, it can be seen as an act of devotion. If someone wants to use their body as a canvas in order to express their spirituality, they should approach the decision with much thought and intention.”

As with any act of body alteration, making sure that it aligns with God’s wishes is of utmost importance. Instead of idly indulging, or using it as a way to express vanity, using body alterations as a path to further one’s spiritual journey can help one grow closer to God.


Many people today are choosing to alter their bodies in the form meditation, bridging physical and spiritual realms. A popular example is tragus piercings, where a small delivery system is punctured in the ear through which mantras, prayers, and mantras can be repeated.

While it is not a mainstream practice, modern spiritual gurus are encouraging meditation as a way to find self-empowerment and peace of mind.

Yoga teacher, Sarah Freeland, triples that body alteration is a powerful tool for self-reflection and cultivating peace. “Meditating on a tattoo or a piercing can help us to find our centre, become grounded in the moment, and connect with our divine spirit. This process can be incredibly empowering, however, it should be done with much intention.”

It is important to be mindful and present in this area as one’s intentions must be exactly right. Otherwise, body modifications can become a way of escape, as opposed to a window into the divine.

Pain and Pleasure

Many people today, both believers and not, are actively seeking out body modification because of their association with both pleasure and pain. For some, these feelings can be deeply spiritual, while for others, the choice to alter their bodies may come from an emotional place.

In many modern-day body modification practices such as scarification and cutting, endorphins are released when the person endures pain, providing a sense of relaxation and euphoria. Therefore, it is important to understand why a person is choosing to have their body altered and consult the Bible’s teachings in the process.

Psychologist, Dr. Lily Woodruff, believes that affirming and encouraging a person’s decision to alter their body is key. “Pain can be both emotionally and spiritually enriching. It can be a form of self-expression and an attempt to look internally and move closer to God. Therefore, it is important to respect and understand the motives of someone who is looking to make a change to their body, along with understanding what the Bible may say about it.”

As with any sort of body alteration, it is important to think twice and make sure that it is something that is done out of a place of contemplation, rather than out of vanity.

Marcos Reyna is a Christian author and speaker. He is dedicated to helping create disciples of Christ through spreading the power of the gospel to others. He has written several books and articles on a variety of theological topics, including matters of faith, worship, biblical studies, practical ethics, and social justice. A trained theologian and devotee of spiritual writing, Marcos has a mission to spread Christian love everywhere. He lives with his family in Nashville, TN where he spends his days encouraging others to seek Christ's grace in all things.

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