Jewelry has been a part of human culture for thousands of years. From ancient Egypt to modern day, people have adorned themselves with rings, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets made of precious metals, gems, and other materials. However, some Christians believe that the Bible prohibits wearing jewelry, considering it a sin or sign of excess. In this article, we’ll explore what the Bible really says about jewelry and adornment, especially for Christians today.
- The Bible does not explicitly prohibit wearing all jewelry and adornment. However, it warns against excess, pride, and misplaced trust in riches.
- Old Testament passages condemned the flaunting of wealth and inappropriate jewelry, not jewelry itself. They were meant for those specific contexts.
- Principles like modesty, avoiding ostentation, and focus on inner beauty over outward appearance are more relevant today.
- Wisdom, discernment, and conscience determine what jewelry is appropriate for each Christian as they seek to glorify God.
- The New Testament encourages modest dress and warns against expensive clothing and showy jewelry. However, it does not ban jewelry altogether.
- Christians have liberty in cultural issues not expressly forbidden in Scripture, so wearing simple jewelry for adornment is not inherently sinful.
- The heart motivation behind wearing jewelry matters most – whether for status, sensuality, pride or glorifying God. Christians should avoid anything promoting excess, immodesty or misplaced identity.
Old Testament Warnings Against Inappropriate Jewelry
Some Christians point to passages in the Old Testament prophets that rebuke the Israelites for their proud displays of wealth and inappropriate jewelry. For example:
“In that day the Lord will take away the finery: The jingling anklets, the scarves, and the crescents; The pendants, the bracelets, and the veils; The headdresses, the leg ornaments, and the headbands; The perfume boxes, the charms, and the rings; The nose jewels, the festal apparel, and the mantles; The outer garments, the purses, and the mirrors; The fine linen, the turbans, and the robes.” (Isaiah 3:18-23, NKJV)
This passage condemns the people of Judah for their pride, self-indulgence and misplaced trust in riches amidst social injustice and unrighteousness. Isaiah warns that God will therefore humble them by taking away these material possessions.
The prohibition seems to be against flaunting wealth and excessive jewelry, not jewelry in and of itself. The jewelry is representative of their inward attitudes that displease God.
Similarly, passages like Hosea 2, Ezekiel 16 and 23 depict Israel and Judah as unfaithful brides adorned with lavish jewelry, suggestive of spiritual adultery with false gods. The excessive jewelry parallels their spiritual waywardness – it does not imply all jewelry is evil.
Call to Focus on Inner Beauty Over Outward Appearance
1 Peter 3:3-4 provides a principle applicable for Christians today regarding our priorities:
“Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”
This passage emphasizes developing inner godly virtues over being preoccupied with outward appearance and dress. It is not an outright ban on styling one’s hair nicely, wearing gold jewelry, or putting on fine clothing. The issue is when the focus becomes outward appearance over the inner spirit.
Paul teaches similarly in 1 Timothy 2:9-10:
“I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”
Again, the issue is avoiding extravagance and cultivating modesty and good works, not necessarily prohibiting all jewelry and braided hair. Principles of modesty, avoiding ostentation, and focusing on inward virtues should guide us.
Liberty in Cultural Issues Like Jewelry
Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-10 address gray areas of cultural practices that are not specifically forbidden or commanded in Scripture. Eating meat sacrificed to idols was one such issue facing early Christians.
Paul teaches that while we should be sensitive to others’ consciences, ultimately matters of personal conscience and Christian freedom apply:
“One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.” (Romans 14:5)
“Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:16-17)
“All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” (1 Corinthians 10:23)
Based on these principles, wearing simple jewelry for adornment does not appear to be inherently sinful, so Christians have liberty according to their conscience. However, they should be careful to avoid anything associated with impropriety, idolatry, ostentation, or excess.
Motivation and Moderation Are Key
Rather than detailed legalistic rules, Scripture provides guidelines and principles for wise living. When it comes to jewelry, the heart motivation is what matters most.
For example, is jewelry worn:
- To show off wealth and status? (wrong motivation)
- To stir up inappropriate sensuality? (wrong motivation)
- Out of pride in outward appearance? (wrong motivation)
- Simply for decorative purposes without flaunting? (likely permissible)
- To honor God with cultural beauty? (possibly permissible)
Moderation and modesty are also virtuous principles that should guide jewelry choices:
- Avoiding excessive expense on jewelry
- Selecting modest, moderate jewelry instead of showy pieces
- Wearing jewelry in a balanced, attractive way that does not draw inappropriate attention
New Testament Warnings Against Expensive Clothing & Showy Jewelry
In the New Testament, Jesus and the apostles teach similar principles regarding avoiding flashy displays of wealth and seeking inner beauty over outward appearance.
Jesus warned against explicitly trusting in riches rather than in God (Matthew 6:24-34, Matthew 19:23-24). He also emphasized focusing on developing the inner spirit versus outward religiosity (Matthew 15:8-11, Luke 11:39-41)
Paul instructs Timothy that women should “adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control” and “not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire” (1 Timothy 2:9). The principle of modesty and moderation applies here.
James rebukes the church for showing favoritism to the rich and criticizes the rich who exploit others and live in self-indulgence (James 2:1-7, James 5:1-6).
1 Peter 3:3-4 and 1 Timothy 2:9 already cited also encourage moderate outward adornment to focus more on inner spirit.
So the New Testament, like the Old, condemns flaunting wealth and seeking beauty primarily in outward appearance rather than the inward spirit. But it does not prohibit all jewelry and adornment.
Principles for Christian Discernment
Based on biblical principles, here are some guidelines for Christians to exercise discernment regarding jewelry:
- Avoid jewelry that communicates luxury, wealth, status or calls inappropriate attention to oneself. Focus on inner spirit.
- Motives matter most. Ask why you want to wear certain jewelry. Is it pride? Acceptable culture or art? Avoid questionable motivations.
- Focus on moderation, modesty, balance. Avoid extreme extravagance or showiness.
- Be sensitive to how jewelry could affect others. Don’t let your liberty cause a brother or sister to stumble.
- Conscientiously assess what jewelry choices honor God and bring glory to Him versus the self.
- Remember that in Christ we find our ultimate beauty, identity and worth – not outward adornment.
##Biblical Examples of Godly Women Who Wore Jewelry
Despite some warnings against excess, the Bible also portrays godly women wearing jewelry in positive ways:
Rebekah wore a gold nose ring and bracelets (Genesis 24:22, 30) given by Abraham’s servant as a betrothal gift.
Joseph gave his brothers changes of garments…**but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five changes of garments. (Genesis 45:22) This special treatment included significant jewelry.
Ezekiel 16:11-13 uses positive imagery of God adorning Jerusalem as His bride with gold, silver, fine linen, embroidered dress, leather sandals, jewelry, and a beautiful crown.
The Song of Solomon frequently mentions the bride wearing jewelry (necklaces, earrings, etc). It is portrayed positively as beautiful adornment, not sinfully. (Song of Sol. 1:10, 4:9, 7:1)
Ezekiel’s wife is a symbolic example of one who follows God’s ways. The Lord instructs Ezekiel, “Please, son of man, take your turban off your head and remove your sandals from your feet.” All this I did while they watched. Then I said to them, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says…Make the turban and the expensive jewelry you are wearing on your head and ears still bigger.” (Ezekiel 24:17-19, 23)
So overall, jewelry itself was not forbidden, though positive examples focused on modest jewelry versus opulence.
Passages with Positive Mentions of Jewelry
Exodus 35:20-29 All who were willing, both men and women, came and brought gold jewelry of all kinds: bracelets, earrings, rings and ornaments. They all presented their gold as a wave offering to the LORD.
Genesis 24:53 Then he brought out jewels of silver, jewels of gold, and clothing, and gave them to Rebekah. He also gave precious things to her brother and to her mother.
Exodus 3:21-22 “And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters.
Ezekiel 16:9-13 I bathed you with water and washed the blood from you and put ointments on you… I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your wrists, and a chain on your neck… I gave you a ring for your nose, earrings for your ears and a beautiful crown for your head.
James 2:2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in.
These verses do not condemn the jewelry itself, but instruct proper motivations and attitudes regarding outward appearance and true inner beauty.
Conclusion: Principles Over Legalism, Focus on the Heart
Throughout Scripture we find guidelines for appropriate, modest adornment and warnings against inappropriate excess and misplaced trust in riches. Several principles emerge:
- Avoid pride, showy displays of wealth, immodesty and excess.
- Cultivate inner beauty, humility, wisdom, discretion, moderation and good works.
- Remember our identity is in Christ, not jewelry.
- Consider jewelry’s appropriateness for cultural context and motivations of the heart.
- Exercise liberty in matters of conscience not expressly forbidden.
- Be sensitive to how jewelry could affect others.
The Bible does not prohibit all jewelry. Wisdom and discernment are needed to apply timeless principles to varying contexts. But the overall focus is developing inward holiness over preoccupation with outward appearance.
Jewelry itself is not inherently sinful, but wearing it can become sinful depending on motivations and attitudes of the heart. Keeping our hearts aligned with God’s principles is what matters most.