Does God Hate Jewelry?

Anabaptists have historically preferred to be adorned simply and with humility. Our preferences/beliefs have been to not be prideful in our clothes or outward look, nor to hair clipdraw attention to ourselves. While I believe this to be a Biblical tradition, I think we need to also be careful not to raise our applications of this higher than Biblical commands and end up with pride in our plainness.

Anabaptists have also traditionally rejected jewelry in their quest to be adorned simply–including wedding bands– referring to 1Peter 3 and 1Timothy 2 as the main source of this application. Before I look at those two references, I’m going to take a look farther back to see if there is an opinion of jewelry expressed throughout the rest of Scripture outside of those two verses.

Is God in opposition of jewelry in the Old Testament?

Jewelry and gold is mentioned many times in the Old Testament and there are too many references to do a thorough examination of them all in a blog post. But you can look at a number of them and get a feel from the examples given to get a general picture of what the Old Testament viewpoint seems to be.

The first thing that stood out to me is that there are a number of references that give examples of jewelry being given as a gift that is precious to the receiver. It is often indicated to be a gift that pertained to betrothal and marriage and is not spoken of negatively. Gifts of jewelry symbolized love, beauty, prosperity, and timeless value.

One example is of Abraham’s servant, in Genesis 24, when he was sent to find a wife for Isaac. When he first met Rebekah, he gave her a gold earring and two bracelets. Later, he also gave her jewels of silver and gold and clothing. Rebekah’s mother and brother also received “precious things”.

In Ezekiel 16, God depicts what all He did for Israel in a beautiful simile of an orphaned baby left to die. He describes what He does for her as she gets older and becomes His bride. He decks her with ornaments, He puts bracelets upon her hands, a chain on her neck, a jewel on her forehead, earrings on her ears, a crown on her head, and decked her with gold and silver. At the end of the description, it says, “and thou wast exceeding beautiful”.

This simile does not portray jewelry worn on a woman as being a negative thing. In fact, it sounds like God saw it as a thing of beauty.

Here are a few other examples of passages that reference a groom and bride wearing jewelry as well.

Isaiah 49:18 “…as I live, saith the LORD, thou shalt surely clothe thee with them all, as with an ornament, and bind them on thee, as a bride doeth.” (Emphasis mine)

Isaiah 61:10 “…he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.”

There are many examples of the Israelites wearing different types of jewelry throughout the OT. Jewelry seemed to be representative of more than just beauty. It often seems to be evidence of times of prosperity. In Genesis 41:42, it also seems to represent authority when Pharoah took the ring from his own hand and put it on Joseph. He also gave him clothes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck.

Another example of jewelry being portrayed as a positive thing is in Proverbs 25:12. “As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.”

Interestingly enough, it doesn’t say that an earring is like a rebellious son or a foolish advisor. Rather, earrings and ornaments are put in comparison with someone who is a wise reprover offering advice to an obedient person.

We also find no mention of jewelry being forbidden in the Mosaic law anywhere. If God hated the sight of it, surely He would have made some mention of that fact somewhere. It seems like there should be a “Thou shalt not hang any ornaments on thyself” command somewhere.

What about all the times the OT describes God taking away jewelry?

When one of my daughters turned eighteen, we gave her an iPhone for her birthday. It was something she had really wanted and we wanted to give her a good gift. However, if she becomes so enamored with that phone that she no longer does her responsibilities around the house or it leads her into sin, I would have no qualms about taking that phone away from her again.

If such a scenario were to happen, would that mean that all iPhones are universally bad? Would it mean that all iPhones will cause all people to sin? Obviously not. And if this were to happen, it would not even mean that my daughter could never have an iPhone again. I would probably set some limits or turn on more restrictions and give her another chance at some point because I love my daughter and my goal is not just to take away things she enjoys.

When Israel fell into idolatry and sin, we often see God taking their gold and their ornaments. Ezekiel 16:15-19 describes how the very things God had given to Israel were being used to commit idolatry. The “fair jewels of gold and silver”, the garments, and the fine foods that God had lavished them with were all being used commit spiritual fornication. In verse 39, God says that they would be stripped of their clothes and their jewels and would be left “naked and bare”.

In Isaiah 3:16-26, God takes away all kinds of jewelry as a punishment. But He also takes away scarves, veils, headdresses, perfume boxes, purses, mirrors, outer garments, robes, etc. It would be difficult to argue that this is a reason to condemn jewelry because then you would also have to condemn all the other things that were taken away.

In the BMA publication , Should Christians Wear the Wedding Band, this statement is made: “We find, then, that in the Old Testament God soundly condemned jewelry when it caused them to become prideful and led them into idolatry.”

I disagree with this conclusion. God condemned the idolatry, not the jewelry. Jewelry and fine things represented their prosperity. Even when it led to pride and God took away it all away again, He did not condemn jewelry any more than he condemned the scarves, headdresses, and perfume boxes, etc. He condemned the sin and did what He needed to get their attention.

Did New Testament people wear jewelry?

There are not very many references to gold or jewelry in the New Testament. Two references that I don’t usually hear much about in regards to this subject are Luke 15 and James 2.

In Luke 15, we read the story that Jesus told of the prodigal son. When the prodigal son returns home, the father tells his servants to put the best robes on him, shoes on his feet, and a ring on his hand. Interestingly enough, Jesus does not seem to think it was sinful that the father gave his son jewelry. It was an act of love and each gift that the father gave signified something. The ring most likely a signet ring represented family authority.

James 2 warns against having respect of persons and two types of men are compared. One man wears a ring and has fine clothes. The other is a poor man with “shabby clothing” (ESV). If we show partiality to one over the other, we commit sin and are “convicted by the law as transgressors”.

James never condemns the man wearing the ring, only the act of showing partiality to one man over the other. Is looking down on those who wear a ring any better than those who look down on poor people in “shabby clothing”?

wedding bandsWhat is my response to a visiting Anabaptist couple that comes to my church with wedding rings on? Do I regard them scorn or contempt because they don’t come to the same conclusion of Scripture that I do? Do I feel that other visitors without wedding rings on are a little more superior in regards to holiness than those with rings?

Assessment and Conclusion

I don’t find jewelry being condemned by God anywhere in the Old Testament. Did jewelry hold the propensity to lead people into sin?  Yes, it did. But the clothes they wore, the fine foods they ate, the perfumes, the mirrors, etc., can also cause the same inclination. The root and the common denominator of it all was a tendency to think in times of prosperity, “We don’t need God”. When God saw their hearts becoming proud, self-sufficient, and forgetful of Who gave them all they had, He took away the very things He had given.

Jesus had ample opportunity to preach against jewelry if He felt it was a complete sin. Even when he mentioned a ring in a parable, He said nothing negative about it because it was worn for a purpose.

I will be addressing the main selections that Anabaptists use to oppose the wearing of jewelry (found in 1Peter 3 and 1Timothy 2) in later post.

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A Marriage Symbol

When I write about how Anabaptists need reformation regarding communion, baptism, and the head covering, I speak with passion because I feel strongly about it. I feel there are some deep issues involved that need repenting of.

My next topic that I will be addressing is not of that nature. It is an issue that I would not consider to be wrong or right but yet needs to be addressed simply because some in the Anabaptist denomination have decided to call something sin that God has not. We do this with a number of our applications of real Biblical commands at times, but this particular one has been debated a lot in the last few years and that is why I am addressing it specifically.

Wedding_dovesThose of you that are familiar with my blog know that I like to take a topic and break it down into several posts addressing that particular topic. So my next several installments will be regarding the wedding band.

Recently I read a BMA publication regarding the wedding band and some of what I will be writing in the next several posts is in response to that. You can find that publication here .

First of all I would like to say what the wedding ring is not. It is not a preserving factor in marriage. Wearing something that symbolizes that you are married does not have the power to keep your marriage intact. It is not for warding off ungodly men or women making improper advances. Whether or not you are married may not matter to someone who does not see God’s plan for marriage as being only between one man and one woman. It is not even necessary to be worn as a reminder to the wearer of the commitment made to their spouse. If that is the only thing that reminds you that you are married, your vows most likely meant little to you and your marriage is probably on shaky ground already.

What is the purpose of the wedding band then? The only legitimate purpose that I can see for the wedding band is simply to make the statement “I am married”.

Is it wrong to want to let people know that I am married?

Most cultures have some outward way of letting people know whether they are single and available; or married and unavailable. Not every culture is the same. For some it is a necklace with a specific symbol. For some it is a toe ring, others wear a ring on their right hand because the left hand is considered unclean. Even some groups within Anabaptist cultures symbolize marital status. For Amish and some stricter groups, men grow a beard after marriage. For Amish women, the color of the covering worn in church changes from black to white after she is married. In many cultures, including American, a ring worn on the third finger of the left hand symbolizes that you are married.

But in many of our conservative Anabaptist circles, we have nothing that gives a statement of marital status.

Is it necessary to have a symbol specifically for the purpose of stating “I am married”? Is it wrong not to? Since the Bible is silent on this, I would be reluctant to say you must have some outward symbol that says you are married.

However, having an outward symbol could have helped dispel some awkward situations where young men have either approached a young lady or asked another person about a young lady they had interest in– only to find out she was married. It can be embarrassing and awkward for a long time for both parties after such an occurrence.

Another reason for having a symbol of marital status is because of the “appearance of evil”. A number of years ago I read a Mennonite publication that warned young married couples not to show affection in public because someone might mistake them for a dating couple and that it could give the “appearance of evil”. But wouldn’t it be more logical and sensible to have some outward symbol that lets people know you are married and let them see that Anabaptists do show love and affection in marriage?  In this day and age, married couples that show affection are rare-why not be the example the world needs to see?

That said, I still think it should be a matter of personal choice about whether one chooses to wear a symbol of their marital status. Those that have had an experience like the former example mentioned above, are often the ones who have said that they wish they had something that stated outwardly that they are married. And young married couples should at least have the option of being able to have an outward symbol instead of feeling guilt for showing affection to their spouse in the presence of others.

Since the American culture recognizes the wedding band as being the symbol of marriage (and we have no symbol in our own sub-culture), it would make sense that we would use what is recognized by society around us. Some argue that we should not follow a “Christianized” pagan custom1 ; but that is a rather weak argument considering we celebrate Christmas which is also a “Christianized” pagan custom. 2

The Bible is silent on the subject of wedding bands, but the reason so many Anabaptists reject them is because they reject the wearing of most jewelry (I say most because many conservative Anabaptist groups are generally accepting of things that serve a purpose, such as watches, decorative hair clips, headbands, brooches for special occasions, etc). The Bible is not silent about jewelry so it would be good to do some studying to see what Scripture has to say about it.

In my next few articles, I will be doing that.

 


 

1. Marlin M. Miller, Should Christians Wear the Wedding Band?  pg.4

2. http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/Christmas_TheRealStory.htm