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You Want to Pierce Your What?

Body piercing has become quite fashionable today. But is this practice wise and, more importantly, what does God think about it?

by Eric Evans

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?

Braiding 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 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?

Christian standards

Someone who has been pierced too many times 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, 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). 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)!

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).

Prohibited practices

In the book of Leviticus, God commands His people to avoid making cuttings into the flesh, specifically when someone had died (Leviticus 19:28). The nations around Israel had many social practices and customs that were related to the worship of false gods. In Deuteronomy 12:30-32 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). 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, 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 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 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.

Bride wearing earrings 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). 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). 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.

Common sense

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, 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.

A couple walking 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.

Medical concerns

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"?

Respecting others

Friends with common interests 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 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, "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). 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!

Parental approval

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).

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

About the author:
Eric Evans pastors the United Church of God congregations in Atlanta and Jefferson, Georgia, and is the father of three children.

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