In our society today, there are individuals and groups who represent certain things and ideas by what they say, what they do, what they wear and even by which parts of the body they pierce. Throughout successive generations, people who have dedicated their lives to following God have had to deal with the question of how to present themselves in their society. This has never been an easy and clear-cut issue. Even the apostle Paul had to deal with the issue of hair length in the Corinthian church.
What does God have to say about this, and does it make any difference how we dress and decorate ourselves? Is it appropriate to follow the trends of our society? How do we decide when to “buck” the trends?
I’ve always noticed (maybe you have too) that if you were born with straight hair, you would rather have curly hair. If you have brown hair, you want blond hair. (Is it really true that blonds have more fun?) You don’t like your nose, your eyes and you wish that your body proportions would get in sync with the current standards, set by whom? Who do we follow when it comes to trends in society? Are the current trends good trends? Do we have to follow them? What happens if we don’t?
As I grew up, I remember the days of being laughed at, mocked or scorned if I didn’t conform to someone else’s thinking. I had to learn to have confidence in my own views and beliefs. I had to learn to be confident, bold and to stand on my own. I also learned that when I really stood for something that I believed in, I was usually respected for it. I found that the ones who didn’t respect me were very insecure themselves. I hope and pray that you will come to terms with that in your own life.
Rather than worry about what others will say or think, I hope you will choose to do what God says and honor Him in all your decisions. Why should we do this? Because, as 1 John 3:22 1 John 3:22And whatever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
American King James Version×says, “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight ” (emphasis mine throughout). When we please God, He answers our prayers.
So what does God think about body piercing? What course of action on our part will please God?
There is certainly no lack of evidence to show that throughout history, humans have pierced nearly every body part imaginable. But as Christians, we are instructed not to measure our standards and justify our behavior by what is done, accepted or tolerated in society. In Romans 12:1-2 Romans 12:1-2 1 I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×, the apostle Paul said, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world [society], but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
We need to prove just what God would really want us to do in any situation. God wants us to look, act and think like He does. We are created in His image (Genesis 1:26-27 Genesis 1:26-27 26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
American King James Version×). And yet it seems as though mankind twists, distorts, perverts and pollutes everything that God created to be good, even to the point that soon Jesus Christ will have to return to prevent mankind from destroying himself (Matthew 24:21-22 Matthew 24:21-22 21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
American King James Version×)!
So let’s take a look in the pages of the Bible to see where we can find any instruction or guidance on piercing. Remember, sometimes we will not find specific commands such as “Thou shalt not smoke!” or “Thou shalt pray 10 times each day,” etc., but we can often find biblical principles that God expects us to apply to the questions that will arise. As God explained through Moses, “You shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, His testimonies, and His statutes which He has commanded you. And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may be well with you” (Deuteronomy 6:17-18 Deuteronomy 6:17-18 17 You shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he has commanded you.
18 And you shall do that which is right and good in the sight of the LORD: that it may be well with you, and that you may go in and possess the good land which the LORD swore to your fathers.
American King James Version×).
In the book of Leviticus, God commands His people to avoid making cuttings into the flesh, specifically when someone had died (Leviticus 19:28 Leviticus 19:28You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks on you: I am the LORD.
American King James Version×). The nations around Israel had many social practices and customs that were related to the worship of false gods. In Deuteronomy 12:30-32 Deuteronomy 12:30-32 30 Take heed to yourself that you be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before you; and that you inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. 31 You shall not do so to the LORD your God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hates, have they done to their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. 32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
American King James Version×we are told to “take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them [those who worship false gods], after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.”
God knew that it was easy for human nature to reason away His instructions. He admonishes us throughout the Bible that we need to be diligent in following His Word. It’s just too easy to follow the wrong way (Matthew 7:13-14 Matthew 7:13-14 13 Enter you in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads to life, and few there be that find it.
American King James Version×). Though piercing today may not be related to worship, we still need to keep this principle in mind when examining the customs of our society today.
Approved cuttings and piercing
There are also biblical examples of God allowing cutting and/or piercing of the flesh. In Genesis 17: 10-14 we find God’s instruction to Abraham concerning circumcision. This was to be a sign of the covenant or agreement between God and His people. Though circumcision is no longer necessary because we are now under the terms of the New Covenant, it is still performed by many today due to the health benefits found through scientific research.
In Exodus 21:5-6 Exodus 21:5-6 5 And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free:
6 Then his master shall bring him to the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or to the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever.
American King James Version×, we find that a servant who was content to serve his master for life was to have his ear bored through with an awl. We are not told exactly where on the ear, nor how large the hole. Even though this passage does not say that an earring was placed in the hole, one may come to that conclusion due to the examples of slavery throughout history. Again, according to God’s instruction, we must take care that we do not add to, or take away from His instruction or intent.
In these previous examples we do see that God allowed piercing and cutting. But it was according to His command and according to His purpose.
In some passages of the Bible, earrings have negative connotations. Genesis 35:3-5 Genesis 35:3-5 3 And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.
4 And they gave to 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.
5 And they journeyed: and the terror of God was on the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.
American King James Version×reveals that Jacob told his household and his servants to rid themselves of their earrings and strange gods. Here, it is likely that the earrings were related to the religious customs of other nations.
A similar account is found in Exodus 32:2-4 Exodus 32:2-4 2 And Aaron said to them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them to me.
3 And all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron.
4 And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a engraving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be your gods, O Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
American King James Version×where Aaron told the families of Israel (including the wives, sons and daughters) to break off their earrings. With this golden jewelry he fashioned the golden calf and they proclaimed, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!” It is likely that the custom of the earring, in this particular example, came out of Egypt, whether it had to do with slavery or the worship of pagan gods and goddesses.
On the other hand, there are also positive accounts of earrings. God Himself used the imagery of adorning ancient Israel with jewelry when Israel entered a marriage covenant with God and became His wife (Jeremiah 31:32 Jeremiah 31:32Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I was an husband to them, said the LORD:
American King James Version×). God told her, “And I put a jewel in your nose, earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown on your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth” (Ezekiel 16:12-13 Ezekiel 16:12-13 12 And I put a jewel on your forehead, and earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown on your head. 13 Thus were you decked with gold and silver; and your raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; you did eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and you were exceeding beautiful, and you did prosper into a kingdom.
American King James Version×). It is not clear from Scripture whether or not a piercing was used for the earrings and nose jewel. Some references indicate that the nose jewel was actually a jewel that was worn on the forehead rather than a piercing through the nose.
Let’s examine this for a moment. Even Paul addressed the “common sense” issue of his day when it came to the length of hair on a man and woman. As hard as it is to understand some of Paul’s writings, we must judge on the principles of God’s Word throughout the Bible.
In 1 Corinthians 11:13-16 1 Corinthians 11:13-16 13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray to God uncovered?
14 Does not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame to him?
15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.
16 But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.
American King James Version×, Paul addressed the issue of a man looking like a man and a woman looking like a woman, saying, “Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.”
In other words, God created the man different from the woman. There are many differences that are obvious and some, not so obvious. Paul was dealing with an issue in the Church that is not much different from our time today. He made a common sense decision that respected the fact that God made us different as males and females.
Those who wish to quarrel about their right to wear their hair longer or shorter than what obviously identifies their sex are not in keeping with the practice of the New Testament Church or the attitude God expects of Christians. As Paul explained, “But if anyone seems to be contentious , we have no such custom” (verse 16). God is not pleased when we have a spirit of contention against His standards. Now let us go from the historical biblical references to modern day questions to ask ourselves.
From a medical standpoint, there are well-known risks to the body when it comes to piercing. Infections can result from the piercing instrument itself, airborne pathogens or from the metal of the insert, as well as secondary infections from allergic reactions to the metal (even gold and niobium can cause a reaction).
Doctors warn that any time the skin is punctured, there is risk of a staph or strep infection. Likewise, unsterilized needles may lead to liver cancer, HIV, hepatitis B and the more serious hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is a virus that causes long-term liver disease, even cancer. It can remain in one’s body for 10 years or more before the disease strikes. Nipple piercing in females endangers the lactating ducts, which risks complications in breast-feeding when children come along.
Many of the holes made by piercing various parts of the body never close over. Even if sewn up, ugly scars can remain.
So now, let us ask ourselves, is the current trend of body piercing in our society done out of respect to God and His laws and testimonies? Or do people get pierced because of the pressure of society? Do we want to make a personal statement? If I were to ask you, “Why do you want to get a piercing?” would your response be “Because I want to… Because I think it’s cool… Because it’s the thing to do”?
Let us now consider some New Testament principles regarding showing respect and consideration to others. There are many today who remember the roots of the body piercing and the male earring movement of the past. Paul addressed this principle in Romans 14:21 Romans 14:21It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby your brother stumbles, or is offended, or is made weak.
American King James Version×saying, “It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.” Similarly, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:12 1 Corinthians 6:12All things are lawful to me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
American King James Version×, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”
What people wear can say a lot about them. Our clothes and attire tend to reflect what and who we are. You may recall that Judah thought Tamar was a harlot, because she was dressed in the attire of one (Genesis 38:12-15 Genesis 38:12-15 12 And in process of time the daughter of Shuah Judah’s wife died; and Judah was comforted, and went up to his sheep shearers to Timnath, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.
13 And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold your father in law goes up to Timnath to shear his sheep.
14 And she put her widow’s garments off from her, and covered her with a veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given to him to wife.
15 When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face.
American King James Version×). One may look like a harlot, a gothic or a gang member because of his or her attire, even though it may not be in his or her heart to come across this way.
People tend to dress like their heroes. Kids dress up like Superman, Spiderman and their favorite Star Trek hero. But who is the greatest hero of all? Jesus Christ should be our hero and role model. How do we dress like Him? By copying His attributes of love, joy, peace, understanding and judgment with mercy and faith. These are the spiritual things we should be clothed with!
In deciding how to dress and whether to get a piercing or not, there is one more source of advice that God expects young people to consider and heed. The Fifth Commandment says, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12 Exodus 20:12Honor your father and your mother: that your days may be long on the land which the LORD your God gives you.
American King James Version×).
What this instruction means is that if your parents don’t want you to wear certain clothes or get a body part pierced, out of respect for them and God, you shouldn’t do so. While this is often a hard concept to accept, God expects all of us to obey this Commandment just as He expects us to obey the other Commandments.
So when it comes to body piercing, we need to ask ourselves some important questions: “Do I want others to dictate who I am and what I do? Am I representing my family’s values? Will I be properly representing God if I do these things?”
So again, let me ask the question. “You want to pierce your what?” YU