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What Does the Bible Actually Say About Smoking, Drinking, and Getting Tattoos?

We all have our opinions, but what does God actually say?

There are many hot-button topics that Christians like to debate their freedom in today. Smoking, drinking, and getting tattoos seem to be near the top of that list. Many people have dug their trenches and are planted firmly in their camp. But what does scripture say about these topics? What if there is a better question to ask than are these things acceptable?


Scripture Talking Specifically About Tobacco: None

I have heard many Christians quote 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 to say why you should not smoke (or drink or get tattoos). The verse says Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

But there’s a couple problems with this argument. First, there’s a massive inconsistency in this argument. We like to argue that smoking is damaging God’s temple, therefore it’s a sin and we need to stop. But what about sugar? If this argument is true shouldn’t we cut that out? How about driving, fast food, dangerous hobbies, and whatever the last cancer causing thing is? Our lives are full of things that are killing us; in fact one day we will all die.

The second problem is the context of this verse. There is a huge danger in looking at one verse and applying it to our lives before we look at what the surrounding context says. In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul is talking about sexual immorality. He is telling us to honor God with our sexual choices. Not our diet, whether we smoke, or put tattoos on our body. It’s about honoring God with our sexuality. The argument with this verse is invalid because it’s not even close to what the verse is actually pointing to.

So is it okay for a Christain to smoke? Well there is nothing in the Bible that points one way or the other. Is it a sin? No. Let’s not add rules that God did not put in the Bible.


Scripture Talking Specifically About Drinking: Ephesians 5:18, Proverbs 20:1, Galatians 5:19-21, 1 Corinthians 6:10, 1 Timothy 5:23, Proverbs 23:20-21, Romans 14:21, Isaiah 5:22, Leviticus 10:9, Ecclesiastes 9:7, 1 Timothy 3:8

The above list is far from exhaustive, but it shows a good variety of the various things scripture says about drinking. If we were to sit down and read every verses that talks specifically about alcohol you would find that scripture dances around the issue never giving a straight answer.

Let’s look at a few examples. 1 Timothy 3:8 says, Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. Paul here is giving instructions to Timothy on how to choose leaders in the church. And he says that they should not drink “too much wine.” He doesn’t say they cannot drink wine, just not too much.

In Ephesians 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit. Here Paul seems to be condemning the drinking of wine. And instead of drinking to focus on God.

Now at first glance you might think that the Bible is saying contradictory things about drinking. However, I think the better way to think of it is to see the Bible as pointing us to do the wise thing in every circumstance.

So is it okay for Christians to drink? Yes, when you read the verses about drinking in context it doesn’t say that we cannot drink. However, I think there is a warning for those that drink too much too often. There’s no verse that says Thou shalt not have more than 3 drinks a day. We’ve probably all heard Christians say drinking is a sin. But Biblically that claim cannot be backed up. And we ought to be very careful to not add rules to the Christian life that God did not put there.


Scripture Talking Specifically About Tattoos: Leviticus 19:28, Isaiah 49:16, Revelation 19:16

Again this is a gray area in scripture with only one verse pointing directly to tattoos and a few others that indirectly talk about tattoos. Some will again point to 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 claiming that tattooing is damaging our body which is God’s temple. But the same problems with this argument come up that came up in the smoking section. We don’t apply this to our lives anywhere else, and it’s ripped out of context.

In order to fully understand what the Bible says, let’s look at the one verse that stands against tattoos: You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:28

The tattoos that are being spoken of in this verse were part of a pagan ritual. Not like the tattoos we get today. I have several tattoos, with plans for more, and all of them point to something with my relationship with God. They remind me of something good, not pointing to something bad. To take this verse and apply it to say it’s a sin to get a tattoo you would have to rip it out of context. It’s just doesn’t mean that.

So is it okay for Christians to get tattoos? Yes. Scripturally I can see nothing, that is in context, that points us to steer away from getting inked up.

Better Questions to Ask

I think the above questions are ultimately the wrong questions to ask. Often we like to figure out how close we can get to sin without sinning. But that’s the wrong way of viewing our life choices.

Here’s two better questions to ask:

Is this the wisest thing for me to do? 

I hate this question because it challenges me. When you are trying to decide if you should or shouldn’t do something ask yourself this: In this circumstance what is the wisest step for me to take? I think that is a much better question to ask. Life isn’t all black and white, right and wrong; there’s a lot of gray. This question will help you discern and navigate that gray.

Will I lose influence over someone if I do this?

In my time in leadership I have learned that I may have the freedom to do something, but if I do it I may lose influence, in other words my leadership will suffer. The further I go into leadership, the more freedom I must give up so that I can gain more influence. So while some things might be okay, not a sin, I must choose to not do them if I want to make an impact.

You might be saying that’s not fair! or I have the freedom to do that! And you would be right in saying so. But listen, you will never change the world around you if you just hold onto your freedoms. Sometimes you have to give up some thing so that you can gain influence in someone’s life to help them see the change they need to make. You will never change someone’s mindset by yelling that you have the freedom to do {fill in the blank}. That’s why Paul said I will become all things to all people so that I may win a few (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). In order to change someone you must first gain influence in their life which often requires you to give up your freedoms.

So are these things a sin? Within reason no, they are not. However, we must each look at our lives and decide if it’s the wisest thing for us to do. We must look at who we are influencing and decide if it will gain or lose us influence in their life. We might have the freedom to do something, but that doesn’t always make it the best thing for us to do.

36 comments on “What Does the Bible Actually Say About Smoking, Drinking, and Getting Tattoos?

  1. I agree with your presentations here, and would add a few thoughts for reflection:

    Luke 7:33-34 “John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine and you say he has a demon. The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you say, look at this glutton and drunkard…”

    On tattoos, while I personally don’t care for them (and it is personal) we must remind ourselves that the passage against them is in the OT, which Paul has removed from gentile requirements (we still are Gentiles). If you cling to this command, then you must obey all 600+ other OT commandments, you cannot pick which to follow and which to ignore. You must eliminate pork, do zero work on Sunday (includes cutting grass, driving, etc.), and all makeup and jewelry.

    Finally, on smoking (another habit I do not care for) I leave you with a favorite quote from Eula Goodnight, “I know of no passage to prove it, but I’m sure the Lord enjoys a fine cigar.”

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for the comment! I thought about adding the John the Baptist passage and the others that mention alcohol being consumed. But I left them out, but that can certainly add to our understanding!

      I’ve always found it interesting that people like to pick certain laws out and ignore the rest.

      Liked by 3 people

      • As an historian I’ve been fascinated by how things have changed. In the Apostles time Greeks didn’t want to follow the Olt Testament laws, now it seems people want to forget that we are not supposed to follow them.


      • I read this blog and found it interesting. Your point is well taken. One word you left out is moderation. I am doing a blog tomorrow on the council of elders and I will take time to mention you in a positive light. I will use your first name not your last. I think you will find it interesting. Its called the Council of Elders. Blessings to your wife and to you.


      • The first scripture reference that came to mind for me on drinking was Jesus turning water into (the best) wine at a wedding. It became “the first of his miraculous signs, revealing his glory” and people believed in him.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I can certainly relate with this! About two months after I became a Christian, some idiot at the pulpit declared that all gays go to hell. I quit going to church and became bitter and angry at God and Christians; even going into the lifestyle. People are not doing the work of God by throwing Old Testament morality at some while ignoring different violations of the same law in others. The good news of Christ’s salvation for all (even me) has GOT to be spread, otherwise this is all mindless jabbering.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I will not state that all gays are condemned to hell, I am certainly not in the position to judge others. However, the laws against sexual immorality did not end with the OT, Paul speaks of it in his letters to the Corinthians, who were well known for allowing just about every type of sexual act known. Paul doesn’t go into great detail on what IS immoral, but he does state what IS moral…sexual relations between a man and his legally married wife. This is the only moral relationship he mentions, he does mention a number of immoral acts, but not all. So, in modern parlance, Bill Clinton would have been banned from Paul’s church, as would people today who, and it is a growing movement, have relationships with their step-mothers.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Modern Theologian, I agree. I left the lifestyle long ago (about twenty five years ago), and became celibate 13.5 years ago. It isn’t an easy slog; sometimes it’s a real $#@&! But God has something better in store for me. Also, He revealed why I was having gay sex: I was missing my best friend who died when I was fourteen.


  2. thoughtcascadeblog

    That was a good read. Its funny but I started at one point in my Christian walk at 21 yrs old, still smoking at times, still drinking and occasionally smoking cannabis. Fast forward to now, I dont smoke, a drink maybe once every few months, full into non gmo organic food, exercise a couple hours a day … basically it was a process and with the smoking, during prayer the Holy Spirit impressed upon me not to do it. It was a personal command, and I stopped. I kind of see it like, if you can read Scripture and read the scientific evidence where they prove certain things will shorten your life span and you still choose to do it … thats all on them, responsible for self … nobody has to condemn or punish anybody because they are already doing it to themselves.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think there’s a difference between sin and not sin and what’s wise and unwise. I think we often confuse the two.

      Liked by 1 person

      • thoughtcascadeblog

        Well (I could be wrong) but isnt the actual meaning of sin is missing the mark, like shooting an arrow and not hitting the bulls eye … because if thats the case, I went from not being able to hit the broad side of a barn to atleast some where in the vicinity 😂👍✌


  3. Good stuff! I really want a tattoo that is an anchor (for Hebrews 6:19) since that has helped my recovery from depression and anxiety. I think wisdom is the best way to go. For example, I know it’s not wise to smoke because of the negative health effects, but that doesn’t make me morally superior just because I don’t smoke. It’s a heart issue.


  4. Pingback: What Does the Bible Actually Say About Smoking, Drinking, and Getting Tattoos? – Truth in Palmyra

  5. Hmmm. Until the Spirit teaches me, the printed letters do not profit me much, they do not transform me, neither do they heal me. What is the Spirit saying to each one of us in each of these scriptures displayed? Why did God forbide Sampson from barbering and alcohol? Why did John the Baptist not eat meet and drink wine? I choose to listen to the Spirit who supervised the writing of the Bible in each so-called gray area situation but not on these interpretations and conclusions reached here in these post and comments. Praise the Lord!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: “WHAT DOES THE BIBLE ACTUALLY SAY ABOUT SMOKING, DRINKING, AND GETTING TATTOOS?” 7/24/2016 Published by Jeffery Poor | God's group

  7. Reblogged this on The Progressive Christian Blog and commented:
    For some answers to some pressing questions regarding the practice of Christianity, or of just healthy living, check out this short posting!


  8. Pingback: The Curse of Free Will: Why God Allows Bad Things to Happen – rethink

  9. I see that most of these post are more than a year old, but reading this now helps me to confirm my thoughts on 2 of the topics. Thank You so much for answering this question in a way that’s easy to understand. No one is without sin, it happens to us everyday, even thou sometimes we don’t see it right away. Thank you, it makes me feel better knowing I’m not condemned in the end.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jesus took away our condemnation on the cross and we are no longer judged by our actions, but his. Thanks for reading!

      You are correct that most of the posts are about 1 year old. I still post about once or twice a month, but I started my Master’s which eats into my writing time.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I like the way you think Jeffrey. I agree if we turn away from religion (rules and regulations) and focus on the 2 greatest commandments, loving God and loving others, we won’t be so busy trying to justify what we know inside isn’t a good thing. When I come to a confusing issue, I turn to the Holy Spirit in me and ask if He wants to do this with me. The answers are very clear:)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. First of all, thanks for the follow.

    As far as the content of this post, I think that when we start to talk about these issues and whether they are sin or not, we are examining the wrong thing. We should each of us be walking so close to God we reflect His glory.

    It isn’t so much a question of what we DO, as who we are.

    God bless and have a good day.


  12. Pingback: What Does the Bible Actually Say About Smoking, Drinking, and Getting Tattoos? | A disciple's study

  13. To think we are wise when we are not is one of the worst places we can get ourselves. If we count wisdom as living as Jesus would have us though the work of the Holy Spirit in us we would probably see smoking, drinking, and tattoos as well as sex, drugs and rock and roll more as personal indulgences than living a life of faith. Paul told us that what was not of faith was sin.


    • Are you saying it’s a sin to drink, smoke, get a tattoo, have sex, or listen to rock and roll?

      Are you saying all personal indulgences are sin?


  14. Interesting premises, I would consider 1 Cor 6:12-20 and 10:23-31 in these as arguments against smoking,tatoos and of course excessive drinking as well. Would I cast the the stone and call those that do sinners and shun them from a congregation, more like counsel them as you noted how this may be effecting their witness and how is it Glorifing God?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m curious to hear what in those passages you see as labeling smoking, drinking, or tattoos a sin?

      In some areas of the areas I’ve lived a beer with someone can actually break through some barriers and you can have a great conversations about faith. I have several tattoos and same thing with those. Some have a personal meaning, but others are directly about my faith.

      You certainly don’t have to do any of those things. And in some parts of the country/world that will hurt your ministry. However, in others it can help.


  15. Again I am not, as did the Apostle Paul, saying that they are sin in of them selves but could be sinful . In 1 Cor 6 Paul is obviously speaking on sexual immorality the lesson is applicable to other areas “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” smoking can be addictive and as such should be avoided. In chapter 10 he is warning against the evils of doing that which pagans (non-believers) hold in esteem. Herein I have heard the argument for example that in order to minister to the motorcycle gangs one must look have the biker look. That is hog wash, I have been a part of CMA for years and ministered to many a Bandito and Pistolero. Why does one cover themselves in tattoos and how is that separating themselves from the world?


    • If your argument is something should be avoided because it COULD become addicting then we should also avoid sugar, caffeine, and sex. Just because something can become a bad thing doesn’t mean it is a bad thing.

      I agree that it’s bs to say you have to look like
      a biker gang to minister to them. But it also won’t hurt if you did look like them. Simply it doesn’t matter. You might look like them, you might look different. Doesn’t matter.

      I don’t strive to look different, or separate myself from the world, in terms of my looks, language, or if I drink. Those things don’t mean much. I separate myself in how I love others and treat others. Of course there is sin I avoid that separates myself as well. Tattoos, for example are superficial. They in NO way will effect my personal ministry or the work i do in the church. And I’m certain that when we are called to be in the world and not of it, that doesn’t mean tattoos, or drinking/smoking for that matter.

      Personally I think it’s good that you and I have different approaches to ministry. Because we will impact different people in different ways.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Jeffery, thanks for a good essay and some helpful guidance. I do wonder, though, if you are not unduly limiting the principal stated in verse 19. While the context is about Christian sexuality, as you rightly point out, don’t you think the principal has broader application to our lives as Jesus-followers? (It is stated unequivocally.) It seems to me the questions you pose at the end of the piece provide solid direction for those who want to apply the principal to every area of life.

    Also, Paul’s argument in Romans 14 fits very nicely with your closing paragraphs.



  17. Thanks for leaving me a follow. 😀


  18. A Christian’s desires will lead him to wanting a closeness with God, rather than a closeness with sin. I have doubts about the person who follows the “be all things to all to lead some to Christ” without also considering Paul’s statement that one should not partake of things that “would harm the weaker brother.” Compromising with the “little foxes” has lead to a destructive path for many.


  19. I really appreciate your recent visit and follow, and after sampling this post, I’m excited to find another brother in Christ more than worthy of following. While I do agree with what you’ve brought to light here, I’d like to offer a bit of balance. I don;t think it’s a sin to smoke, but that’s me. The thing is, if someone else thinks it is a sin, then for them it is, because if they were to smoke they would be going against their God governed conscience. And then we have Paul’s discourse on not allowing our liberties to cause another brother to stumble. That’s when he was talking about the eating of certain meats, and yet the principle would obviously apply to anything. As for alcohol, there again, I agree. I can enjoy a full bodied Cabernet with a clear conscience. But if I drink so much that I am no longer in control of my actions, especially my tongue (for me, lol) then it becomes sin. “That each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable,” 1 Thes. 4:4 And there are other passages as well that at least allude to this. Of course we also have our witness and testimony for Christ to consider as well—how we appear to others as Christ’s ambassadors is important. Apologies for the lengthy comment. I’ve been invited to a bible study in a bar next week. It should prove interesting to say the least. Kudos on an outstanding blog and relevant post!


    • Years ago when I was a Youth Leader, during a discussion on relationships, I had a young man ask the question, “How far can you go with a girl before it becomes sin”. My response was, “You have already reach that point”. The problem I see with humanity is we think our existence is about us. As mentioned about Paul’s comment, if we are aware of our witness and how are thoughts and actions will effect others, and then seek our direction in prayer, I think the answers become obvious. I have learned to ask the question, “Jesus, would you like to partake in this with me?” That answer is usually pretty clear:)

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Reblogged this on The Fruitful Life and commented:
    Today, let’s take a look at thoughts from Pastor Jeffrey Poor (“Rethink” blog) regarding questions you may have also asked on what the Bible says about tattoos, drinking and smoking if you’re a Christian. Freedom? Sin? What do you think? Thoughtful comments to the post at the end as well.


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