My wife wrote this post. I agree with her, but I want to flesh something out first.
The concept of modesty in the broad sense has been lost to the church in a number of ways. More typically, if someone cares about modesty in the present age, they are usually talking about how women clothe themselves. That’s a reasonable application in many cases, but there is a broader aspect to modesty that needs to be understood.
Modesty and humility are related concepts. When it comes to adornment of our bodies, it means that we should be limited in what we do, realizing that we have no need to show off to others. Anything we have is God’s gift to us. Thus we adorn ourselves chastely and simply, protecting and honoring what God has given us, recognizing that our bodies are not ours to do whatever we please with them. Among other things, this means that making a permanent change to the way you look is wrong, aside from something like restorative plastic surgery after an accident, or to correct something that is affecting your heath.
Thus for modesty and humility, avoid doing things to get the attention of others, or, to make yourself look different for reasons of lust, pride, sorrow, anger, or anything else. God made you beautiful; you don’t need more than that. Let your joy be your beauty.
On to what my wife wrote:
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1 Cor 6: 19-20
Our bodies are not ours to do with whatever we want to. Our bodies belong to Christ, who bought us. Since our bodies are His, since our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and since we are made in the image of God, we must treat our bodies with honor and respect. We must not deface, mar, disfigure, or mutilate them. Tattoos are a form of defacement. Purposely piercing a hole in a part of the body is a small form of mutilation.
In the case of tattoos, God has already put an invisible mark on us- the mark of baptism. It is the mark of His ownership of us. We should not allow men to put other marks on us.
The earrings God’s people had in the Old Testament (Gen 35:4, Ex 32:2, Ex 35:22, Job 42:11, Prov 25:12) may have been worn in imitation of the pagan people they lived among. For example, when they gave their earrings to make the golden calf, they had recently escaped from Egypt. Or they may not have been pierced earrings, but rather looped around the ears. These types of earrings have often been found by archaeologists. As for the nose rings or nose jewels in Gen 24:22 and Ez 16:12, while some commentators say they refer to piercings, others say they refer to pendants which hung from the forehead to the nose, commonly worn by Jews and Arabs.
Of particular interest are the passages about Israelite slaves in Ex 21 and Deut 15. Normally, Israelite slaves, typically working to pay off debts, were to be freed after seven years. Occasionally, someone did not want to be set free, but wanted to continue as a slave for the rest of his life. Directions were given about piercing his ear with an awl against a doorpost, to designate his perpetual servitude. This seems to have been a significant ordeal with a crude instrument (they did not have steel needles), perhaps indicating that ear piercings were not commonly done. In any case, Matthew Henry speaks of it as a mark of disgrace, a shameful thing for one of God’s people to choose slavery and not value liberty. “Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it… You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” 1Cor 7: 21, 23
Of course, there are many marks of a Christian that are far more important than not having a tattoo or piercing, such as love for one another, holy living, zeal for God’s Word and church, and a public confession of Christ. If one already has a tattoo or piercing, it cannot be undone. But we should all strive, from this day forward, to obey and glorify God in the big things and the little things. “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1Cor 10:31