Is Wearing Jewelry a Sin?

A common view point of some churches is that we are not supposed to wear jewelry. Some members are extremely conservative, casting off all jewelry; some members are extremely liberal, wearing any jewelry they choose; and other are moderate, deeming certain jewelry functional and therefore acceptable (i.e., wedding rings, watches, etc.). I ended up discussing this with a pastor who believes we should not wear jewelry. Since I already have posts that touch on this question, I wanted to share my thoughts from that conversation.

The Condemnation of Jewelry

Photocredit: Unsplash.com/Artem Bali
The verses most commonly cited to condemn the wearing of jewelry are 1 Timothy 2:9-10 and 1 Peter 3:3. We could spend days talking about these verses, but I'll try to keep it brief.

1 Timothy 2:9-10

For context, this letter in 1 Timothy is written by Paul to Timothy, who is at the church of Ephesus. Ephesus was located in western Turkey, near the modern city of Selƈuk. The city of Ephesus was home to the Temple of Artemis/Diana,[3] the Greek/Roman goddess of wild animals and hunting. They were also associated with chastity and childbirth.[1][2] In both Greek and Roman mythology, these goddesses were looked to by women for issues surrounding fertility. This background is important in knowing the culture of the people there, whom Timothy was converting to Christianity. Their previous religious practices would have been heavily geared toward worshipping this pagan goddess. Many of the issues in the New Testament letters speak to specific issues converts had in adjusting to their new life in Christ, and while similar issues arise with us today, it's also important to keep in mind the original problem so as not to distort the Word.

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. 1 Timothy 2:9-10 KJV
Now, let's get into what Paul is telling Timothy. Paul's instructions to the women at Ephesus follow his message to men—"in like manner," tells us that whatever he instructs parallels what he instructed for men just before these verses. In 1 Timothy 2:8, Paul says men are to pray everywhere and lift up holy hands; both of these things are to be done without anger or doubt. So the heart of this matter is about worshipping and praising God. Essentially, everywhere men of God go, they should be in connection (praying) with God and worshipping Him. So the like manner for women refers to how we should be in connection with and worship God, as well. This is when Paul gets into the adornment of women... Paul says we are to "adorn [our]selves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array."

We'll talk about all the points in the verse when we get to 1 Timothy in the Bible Study section, but for now, we're going to focus on gold and pearls. Because we're talking a out modest apparel, the assumption is that gold and pearls refers to jewelry, though one might be able to argue this applies to broaches and embroidery on garments (yes, I've seen gold and pearls embedded in shoes, purses, etc.). The pastor highlighted that when looking at the structure of the sentence, it's clear that Paul is saying these things are not included in modest apparel.

1 Peter 3:3

The letter in 1 Peter echoes Paul's sentiment that beauty should come from within, not from fancy hair or gold jewelry. The context of 1 Peter is that Peter wrote to the believers who were living as exiles in various cities. These people were those who stood for Christ and were now banished from society for their courage and faith.

Is It Really a Condemnation, Though?

When it comes to earrings, Paul's got me. If you've read my previous posts on jewelry, you know that I have an allergy to "fake" jewelry (so probably to nickel) that presents itself only when I wear earrings. So, while all of my earrings have fake pearls and cubic zirconia instead of diamonds, the post that goes into the ear are always either real gold or sterling silver—but Paul didn't say anything about silver, or nickel, or steel. Come to think of it he didn't mention diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, or any other precious stones.

I've heard many sermons that caution against "walking the line." What they're referring to is trying to figure out where the boundary is and getting as close to the edge as you can without crossing that line. They often summarize this point to the fact that we should not want anything to do with something that displeases God. So many of them would ignore the fact that Paul doesn't mention all of these other common metals and gems used for jewelry and the fact that today most of us wear inexpensive fake jewelry, not real gold or pearls. They would hold fast to God doesn't like jewelry, so it doesn't matter if it's real gold or fake gold.

Verses I Brought Up in the Discussion

That stance would be perfectly acceptable to me, except, going into the meeting, I felt like there were many verses that suggested God was OK with jewelry. Many of the verses I had prepared when I went to talk to the pastor were written off as neither endorsing nor condemning (Genesis 24:22,30,53 and Exodus 3:22) or not about wearing jewelry (Exodus 25-26).

Abraham

I brought up the fact that Abraham gave his servant jewelry to give the woman who would become Isaac's wife, Rebekah (Genesis 24). The pastor countered that just because it wasn't condemned, it doesn't mean it was OK. He went on to reason that Abraham was sent out, away from his family to be righteous—suggesting that this was a holdover from lingering traditions or an attempt to avoid offense. However, the pastor also reasoned that the reason Abraham had to send his servant back to his family to find a wife for Isaac is because the Canaanites he was living amongst were pagan.

That seems like circular reasoning to me. If both Abraham's family and the Canaanites were doing things God didn't like, what difference did it make? If Abraham's family is simply the lesser of two evils, then why God did send him away from his family into more—or worse—unrighteousness?

Judah and Joseph

I didn't bring up Genesis 38:18 or Genesis 41:42, but it falls in a similar vein as Genesis 24. Both see two sons of Jacob (re: two patriarchs of the 12 Tribes of Israel), Judah and Joseph, wearing some type of ring. In these cases I could see a better arguement for them not being a standard to measure ourselves after. Judah is giving up his ring after soliciting sex from a woman he perceives to be a prostitute (it's actually his daughter-in-law), which says a lot about him. Joseph receives his ring in Egypt from pharaoh, both of whom are known enemies of God.

Building the Tabernacle

I mentioned building the tabernacle because it's the jewelry the Israelites take from the Egyptians in Exodus 3:22 that they use to melt into gold and silver for the tabernacle. Those who condemn jewelry are quick to point out that the Israelites used jewelry to create the golden calf, but never get to the part where they create the tabernacle with jewelry, too (Exodus 35:22). The jewelry comes from the same place. If God despised the jewelry, why would he allow it to be used for the tabernacle? For building the ark of the covenant (Exodus 36-37)?

The pastor is convinced that it is that God doesn't have a problem with jewels and jewelry, but with the wearing of jewelry. It seemed plausible, but the more I dig, the more I question that. I'll talk about that in the next section about the verses I found later.

More Questions

Photocredit: Unsplash.com/Charisse Kenion
Solely off of the discussion with the pastor, I basically had the question: why didn't God condemn rings if they were such a big deal? If we look back at Joseph, comparing him to say Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They stood for God in a foreign land and were still raised to high places. Their story clearly shows the importance of resisting the urge to pollute our bodies with unclean foods (Daniel 1) or worship (even appear to worship) idols (Daniel 3). Nothing about Joseph's story suggests we should refuse jewelry given to us as gifts. When God commands the Israelites to take the jewelry from Egypt, He doesn't give any instruction about not wearing it.

Now, clearly there are times when a law isn't explicitly told to us at the time of event. "Thou shalt not kill" comes significantly later in chronological time than when Cain kills Abel. However, God makes it very clear that killing is wrong right in that example and we can assume this law was known by everyone if not solely by the example made of Cain. God took a stance and said "this is not ok, do not do this." The only place jewelry seems to be condemned is out of the mouth of Paul and Peter, neither of whom can make a law...

Verses That Support The Condemnation of Jewelry

Genesis 35

In Genesis 35:4, Jacob buries earrings that belong to his family before approaching God. This is of course, one of the passages many pastors bring up to say jewelry is bad. However, I noticed a few interesting things about this that make me question that interpretation.

First, the command is given to purify themselves because they have been worshipping foreign gods. When the earrings are surrendered, they are surrendered with the foreign gods. I was not alive during Jacob's time, and I do not know what these earrings looked like, but today there are earrings bearing the resemblance of the eye of horus, an ankh, occult symbolism, animals, words, etc. Is it possible that these earrings were part of the idol worship not because they were earrings but because of their symbolism?

Second, I ask this question because it doesn't say they handed over bracelets or necklaces. Did they not have any of these items? We know that Jacob's mother (Rebekah) was given bracelets by Abraham's servant, so it wasn't a foreign concept to them. I don't know any women today who have earrings but don't have bracelets or necklaces, as well. I speak as someone who doesn't wear jewelry often, yet in my possession are necklaces, earrings, bracelets/watches, and rings; I may have more necklaces than rings or bracelets, but I have at least one. So if I was called to cast out my earrings because God didn't like jewelry, wouldn't He ask me to surrender the bracelets, necklaces, and rings too? I digress, though, maybe they really only had earrings...

My third concern is that this takes place right after 2 of Jacob's sons slaughter a whole town of men and take people from the town as hostage. They have taken possessions (possibly jewelry) from the people of Shechem (Genesis 34:24-29). I suspect part of the purification was to atone for the blood they had spilt. As is a theme in many of the verses that seem to support not wearing jewelry, the people being stripped of their jewelry are doing something God doesn't approve of that has seemingly nothing to do with their jewelry.

Hosea 2:13 and Jeremiah 2:32

In both of these verses, God complains that the people have put on their jewelry but forgotten Him. The issue is not that they are wearing jewelry. It takes time to put on make up and jewelry, to pick out a stylish outfit, and to adorn yourself such that society deems you "beautiful." However, in the grand scheme of things its of no importance. I don't need earrings in my ears to be considered fully dressed in the world. Thus, if I wake up and spend my whole morning preparing my outward dress but never stop to pray, speak to God, thank Him for waking me up, read His Word, etc., I've proiritized something trivial over someone very important. God is upset that His people a committed to little trinkets like jewelry over their covenant with Him.

Isaiah 3:16-26

In Isaiah 3, God is punishing "the daughters of Jerusalem," which is basically a way of saying His people. As part of the punishment, He will take away all their jewelry. As I spoke to the pastor about the verses used to support the argument of not wearing jewelry, this verse didn't come up but it's in the vein of what people usually bring up. Like the verses above, the people are in a state in which they need to be humbled and repent. They are boastful and proud; they have turned against God. God is taking back the things they love (not just jewelry) because they are unworthy. God is also going to shave their head, does that make hair bad? Clearly the point of this passage is that these are the things that make them feel great about themselves, they are all outward, physical things that establish wealth and beauty. Again this passage is about punishment for sin, not sins themselves.

More Verses I Found

The High Priest's Garments

in Exodus 28, when God tells them to make the breastplate for the high priest, not only is gold used, but many other precious stones...
17And thou shalt set in it settings of stones, even four rows of stones: the first row shall be a sardius, a topaz, and a carbuncle: this shall be the first row. 18And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond. 19And the third row a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst. 20And the fourth row a beryl, and an onyx, and a jasper: they shall be set in gold in their inclosings. 21And the stones shall be with the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet; every one with his name shall they be according to the twelve tribes. 22And thou shalt make upon the breastplate chains at the ends of wreathen work of pure gold. 23And thou shalt make upon the breastplate two rings of gold, and shalt put the two rings on the two ends of the breastplate. Exodus 28:17-23 KJV
So many questions come to mind about this passage when trying to reconcile it with 1 Timothy and 2 Peter. Is it that men are allowed to wear jewels/jewelry but women are not? Is is that only the high priest can wear jewels? Or is it that Paul was referencing a specific issue at Ephesus?

Exodus 33:3-5

When the Israelites fail to stand for God, and He becomes angry at them, they take off their jewelry as a sign of mourning. God also strips them of the jewelry. Why is it that before they committed evil, God did not strip them of the jewelry if the jewelry was the problem? If you look at some of the verses in the Bible and research history, one form of jewelry that appears often is a signet ring. This ring was used as a seal or stamp. This was how signatures were verified, because only a person possessing the ring could make the seal. Such rings were given to heirs who were to inherit the authority of that signature. Similarly, the jewelry Israel had (and the jewelry we have) is something God gave us because we are His. When the Israelites turned against Him, they gave up the right to wear His signet.

Luke 15:22

In the parable of the prodigal son, the father welcomes his son back with a robe and a ring. Yes, Jesus could have been speaking in terms his listeners would understand, just as I might refer to the weeks in December that contain Hannukah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa, as "the holidays" without meaning to imply an endorsement of those holidays. Except, Jesus spent much of His time correcting man made traditions and getting people to truly follow God. No where else does He clarify this message to show us that He doesn't want us to wear rings. In fact, the father who is giving the ring is symbolic of God giving us a proper welcome when we return to Him.

James 2:1-4

In this passage once again we see a person wearing jewelry and the condemnation is not about his apparel but about favoritism. The message is, just because someone does not have nice clothes or jewelry does not give you the right to treat them differently. That's very different from saying the man who was not poor should not be dressed the way he is...

Ezekiel 16:11-13

Once again, straight from the mouth of God (per Ezekiel 16:1), in a parable about God's people, God says He adorns us with bracelets and jewels. Why is this the metaphor if God doesn't like or want us to wear jewelry?

Proverbs 25:12

Proverbs 25:12 compares a gold ring to receiving correction. Essentially the verse is saying that being able to give wisdom and correct people when they're wrong, in conjunction with the person who is wrong being able to receive that criticism, is valuable. You could argue that it is beautiful, necessary, even. So why is it compared to a gold ring if they are things we shouldn't have? That would be like saying "A wise correction to a receptive ear is like the satisfying crunch of bacon in the morning"...oh that's right, bacon isn't supposed to be satisfying even if we live in a society that loves bacon. That's why God nor His messengers ever create metaphors in which something they are proclaiming to be good or holy is placed on the same level as something He declared unclean or unholy.

More Verses to Read

  • Esther 8:2
  • Isaiah 6:10

If You Don't Stand Against It, You're For It

If you ever dip your feet into the conversation about racism, you'll quickly run into the concept of "if you don't stand against it, you're for it." By not taking a stance against racism, you tolerate it, which means it doesn't bother you. This allows it to flourish and grow. Similarly, weeds keep popping up in my flower bed. If I do not pluck them out, they will grow. I have to do something, say something in these situations if I'm truly against what is happening.

In all other cases, we see God take a stance. It is very clear where God stands on adultery, murder, stealing, idolatry, witchcraft, coveting, homosexuality, etc. The pastor brought up the issue of polygamy, but when you include the fact that God instructed the nation to have a king with not too many wives (Deuteronomy 17:17) and Jesus said that a man marrying a woman without a proper divorce commits adultery (Matthew 19:9). If a divorce is not proper, they are still married, therefore by taking another wife he is both engaged in polygamy and adultery. It sounds like a stance, straight from the mouth of God.

If God thought it an issue whether or not we wore jewelry, wouldn't He speak on it?

Back to Peter and Paul

Remember how I stopped to give you some context for the letters written in 1 Timothy and 1 Peter, but they didn't seem to have anything to do with anything. Let's go back to context, and pull in the concept of not braiding hair. In that time, it was common for wealthy women to braid their hair into elaborate styles. This was a status symbol. In addition to the elaborate styles, women would have gold, pearls (imagine that!), and other jewels braided into their hair. Not only was this a time consuming effort just to exert status, but the way the hair was braided is said to have marked the women as priestesses of pagan deities or even prostitutes. Perhaps Paul and Peter were actually referring to hair jewelry and this tendency to braid such things into the hair?[4][5][6]

My Answer to the Question

I already talked about my struggle with earrings in "Plain Jane." I don't think you'll ever see me with fanciful or ornate earrings, but that's a me problem. I definitely think that discernment should be used, and I agree that jewelry can have negative affects on us. I fully agree with Paul that I want people to think I'm beautiful because of the character of God being reflected in my actions and thoughts. I do not want people to know me because everyone is talking about how great my jewelry game is; that's not what I want to be known for. However, despite praying over this matter and researching it for many years (I wrote a post about it in June of 2016), the Holy Spirit has never convicted me that jewelry is a sin. That means one of two things: 1) I don't have communication with the Holy Spirit/I can't hear His voice or 2) He's not convicting me because it's not a concern He has. Considering the fact that during this time I have been convicted to reassess what I listen to, what I watch on TV, how I communicate with people, what I let my mind dwell on, on often I read the Bible, etc. during that time, I'd say it's probably the latter of the two possibilities—but I'll be sure to let you guys know if He ever does convict me that jewelry is flat out wrong.

References

  1. "Diana". Encylopædia Britannica. January 17, 2019
  2. "Artemis". Encylopædia Britannica. January 11, 2019
  3. "Ephesus". Encylopædia Britannica. March 30, 2017
  4. Aída Besançon Spencer. "1 Timothy: A New Covenant Commentary, pg. 57. 2013
  5. "Why does the Bible speak against braided hair?". GotQuestions.org; visited January 2019
  6. Kyle Butt, M.Div. "Wearing Gold and Braided Hair?". Apologetics Press; visited January 2019

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About

Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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