Does Scripture ever contradict itself? Sometimes it appears to, but we can usually find God’s opinion of a specific subject by looking through Scripture in its entirety first. When we can see God’s consistent viewpoint on something, it’s not usually too hard to reconcile the “exception” by interpreting it according to the rest of Scripture. One example of this would be the way Anabaptists view the “exception clause” (Mat. 5:32) and the “abandonment clause” (1Cor. 7:15) in accordance with the rest of Jesus’ commands regarding remarriage.
I have attempted to do this in regards to a Biblical view of jewelry. In a previous post, I tried to find Scriptural evidence of God hating or condemning the wearing of all or any jewelry. I could not find condemnation or any direct commands stating that God hates jewelry or that He hates when people wear it. I have made the observation in the afore mention post that jewelry was often given as a gift of love, and it represented beauty, prosperity, and was an item of timeless value.
When people became prosperous, they tended to forget the One who had given them all they had. They became proud and turned to idolatry. God punished them by taking away all their fine things, which included their jewelry.
I did a brief consideration of 1Peter 3:1-4 here.
Though much of the verses in 1Peter could be interpreted the same as 1Timothy, I’d like to take a closer look at 1Timothy 2:8-10.
8 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; 9 in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. (NKJV)
Literal or figurative? Some or all?
Can we take these verses literally, or do we need to read more into what is said? Should some of this directive be interpreted more in a cultural sense than taken literally?
I ask these questions because it seems we have a double standard and hypocrisy regarding these verses. Most of us would say that we believe these verse literally without adding or detracting and that we do not believe that they are cultural commands.
But yet we pick and choose what we think should be literal, figurative, or cultural.
I don’t know about you, but I have never heard of any conservative Anabaptist men who were refused membership or communion because they didn’t “lift up holy hands” while praying. Nor have I heard of women refused because of braiding hair or wearing clothes that were expensive. I have, however, heard of people being turned away for wearing a wedding band because it is made of gold.
If these verses are to be taken only a literal sense, then only gold and pearls are forbidden, (and only to women) but one could still argue for silver, rubies, diamonds, etc., because these are not listed. Women should then be forbidden to braid their hair, but all other hairstyles are all right. Perm it, poof it, part it, make it as elaborate as you wish– just don’t braid it!
We could even ignore all the other things that women do today for “beauty”– such as hours spent tanning, make up, hair coloring, plastic surgery, etc. The list go could go forever because styles change and what is considered beautiful today will be different in ten years.
If, however, I interpret verse 9 in principle, rather than only in a literal sense, without mentioning any specific cultural trends, it might look like this:
“Women, you need to dress modestly, with a proper outward look, and use moderation, rather than extravagance, in all you do. Don’t do your hair in elaborate hairstyles–trying to draw attention to yourself; don’t deck yourself with the latest, popular, or expensive jewelry; don’t dress yourself in expensive clothing. But rather, focus on dressing yourself with the good works of a woman who professes to be godly.”
The focus is on moderation and propriety. It’s about humility and not trying to draw attention to your outward appearance. Paul mentions the three things–hairstyles, jewelry, and clothing– that women tend to go overboard on in the midst of their appreciation and love of beautiful things. He mentions braiding because braiding trinkets into your hair was the elaborate style of that particular culture. He mentions gold and pearls because that was some valuable jewelry of the culture then. The desire for expensive clothing and a tendency toward immodesty is a universal problem that crosses all cultures.
Paul is not writing this to make a statement against gold or pearls. He is making a statement against women’s tendency towards extravagance in appearance.
You cannot make a prohibition against all gold and pearls without also making a prohibition against all braiding as well. With that, we should also make application about how much our clothing should cost with rules against expensive name brand shoes or clothing. And maybe men should have rules that state they are only to pray with raised hands.
But I don’t think these verses were intended to be a ban against specific things. Paul could have said, “The wearing of all jewelry is wrong.” But he didn’t. He mentioned a few specific things that the women of that day tended to go overboard in and pointed them to something better. He didn’t say men should never pray with their hands by their sides, but said what he would like to see them doing (and personally, I wish we would do more of this!).
I have a hard time seeing how we can make these verses into making a ban against only certain things, but not others, in regards to women’s outward appearance. Our focus should be on moderation and modesty in outward beauty. And most of all it’s about women focusing on making the inward person beautiful by adorning herself with good works. Do we focus so much on what all women need to “put off” that we forget that what they are to “put on”? Isn’t that what the focal point of that verse is supposed to be?
Specific directives to men and women
Interestingly enough, the two verses that we use as an argument against jewelry and wedding bands are only directed at women. Does that mean that men should be allowed to wear jewelry but not women? What about lifting our hands while praying? Are only men commanded to do this, but women should not?
Could it be that Paul addressed men and women separately just because he is addressing specific things that they need to be reminded of? In Ephesians 5:33, men are reminded to love and women are reminded to reverence. Just as women tend to love naturally, they also are more likely to show emotion while praying. Men need to be reminded to show love their wives and apparently also need to be reminded to raise their hands while praying without doubting or wrath. Women need to be reminded to show reverence to their husbands and also to use moderation in appearance.
Men have worn jewelry throughout history and yet Paul doesn’t address that. This seems to fit with the idea that only women are warned about outward appearance because they have the most natural tendency toward extravagance in outward appearance. This, however, is only a generalization. Some women may need to be reminded to lift their hands and show emotion in prayer without wrath and doubting and some men may also need to be reminded not to focus on their outward appearance too much.
What impression do we leave with others?
For those of us who have been taught most of our lives that jewelry in all forms are sinful, the idea of wearing any jewelry doesn’t even sound appealing. I am not suggesting that we need to endorse or encourage our people to start wearing all manner of jewelry. But at the same time, I can not see how we can Biblically deny a simple wedding band that states the marital status of the wearer.
I have been in conversation with couples who wore a wedding band and the only thing that stood out to me from the conversation was their love for Jesus. I have also been in conversation with women who claim to be followers of Jesus who are so covered in flashy jewelry that it’s hard to see past the outward look to see the inward.
However, I have also observed those same two types in our Anabaptist circles. There are conservative women who display Jesus so clearly by the way they adorn themselves and by the inward spirit that manifests itself outwardly in good works and behavior that it leaves you with no doubt that they are godly women. Then there are also those women, dressed within church standards, that portray a different spirit altogether. Even staying within church standards does not hide the spirit of a woman whose focus is only on her outward appearance and who is trying to only adorn the outward as much as she can get by with. Her shallowness shines through–without having to wear jewelry.
If you feel that by wearing a wedding band, it could cause you to be proud or vain, then don’t wear one. If not wearing one causes you to be proud and view yourself as being more holy than others, you may as well be decked with jewels because you are missing the whole point of adorning yourself with a meek and quiet spirit.