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To think about the fashion for tattoos and how they relate to Christian belief.

by Chris van Straaten

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To think about the fashion for tattoos and how they relate to Christian belief.

Preparation and materials

  • If you know of staff who have tattoos, you might like to ask them to talk about their tattoos and the significance that they hold.
  • The Bible verse is Isaiah 49.16, ‘See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.’


  1. Tattoos - interesting things . . .

    Research informs me that you have to be 18 to have a tattoo done commercially, and you can pay anything between £50 and £120 per hour, depending on the quality of the tattooist’s work.

    Having a simple tattoo done, such as the name ‘John’ tattooed on your arm, would take 30 to 40 minutes, while having a 3 or 4 inch picture done would take perhaps 5 hours.
  2. And it hurts! Your arms are the least painful place, while on your torso, especially your ribs, tattooing is extremely painful. Interestingly, the soles of your feet and the palms of your hands are the most painful places of all. Having a splinter in your finger or standing on stones with bare feet is painful enough, let alone having a needle tattooing you!
  3. Why do people have tattoos done? Any number of reasons. For some, it’s more for themselves; for others, it’s to show off to other people. For some, it’s to conform: they think tattoos are cool; while for others, it’s to stand out and not conform: if you have tattoos visible on your hands, neck or face you could lose your chance of a job. For example, these days, tattoos are an issue in the police force.
  4. What’s their appeal? Probably something to do with their being permanent - removing them is not easy. And I guess they appeal because they cost you: in your time, your money and in pain. A tattooist said to me, ‘You go through something to get it, to earn it; you go through something physical.’

    So, perhaps, if you have ‘Mum’, or your team’s names, tattooed on your arm, you’re showing how much they mean to you because of what you’ve gone through to have them done: the time, the cost, and the pain.
  5. Now in the Bible it says that God’s got a tattoo - sort of: ‘See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.’ Or, in another translation, ‘I have written your name on the palms of my hands’ (Isaiah 49:16).

    Not very many people have tattoos on their hands, and it’s usually on the back of their hands. Apparently a swallow tattooed on the back of your hand may show that you’ve done time in prison.

    But on the palms of your hands? Remember: it’s the most painful place of all to have tattooed, along with the soles of your feet. And also it’s the most difficult place to make the tattoo last; you have to use a special technique or equipment. The Bible says that God’s got our names tattooed on the palms of his hands.

    Why the palms? Perhaps to hold us up, perhaps to protect us, perhaps as a reminder to himself of how much he cares for us. After all, nobody else is likely to see a tattoo on your palms.

    And what else is on the palms of Jesus’ hands? The nail marks from the crucifixion. Even after his resurrection Jesus still had those. He went through huge pain to have our names on the palms of his hands!

Time for reflection

‘See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.’

Of course, that verse is picture language, but often picture language helps us understand more of God. Here it is how precious we are to him, and how much it cost him to show his love for us.

Lord God,
thank you that you love us so much.
Help us to remember your love and presence with us throughout this day. 


‘Make me a channel of your peace’ (Come and Praise, 147)

Publication date: January 2012   (Vol.14 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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