Does 1Timothy 2 Forbid Wedding Bands?

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.

wedding bands handsI 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.

Double standard

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.

 

 

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9 thoughts on “Does 1Timothy 2 Forbid Wedding Bands?

  1. Hmmm, interesting. It may shock my friends, but I totally agree with you on this. I do think there are many other things in the mennonite church that are like this. For example, I cannot for the life of me understand the conservative Mennonite banning of all musical instruments, and the “normal” Mennonite banning of musical instruments in the sanctuary. In the Old Testament, mentions of musical instruments were often paired with admonitions to sing and make music as a way of praising God. And the New Testament says nothing about it, save for Revelation, where the redeemed play harps as praise to God. Why are we condemning this? If it IS simply that you are afraid that music will lead to bad music, then say so! Do not act as if it is a command from God! Cause it’s not! Well, there is my bunny trail. Sorry 🙂 I really enjoy reading your blog. God Bless!

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  2. I especially like your last paragraph. That whole “proud of being humble” thing can be a real problem. I think some times we are too afraid of pride and fail to glorify God with the talents He has given us, or put ourselves down instead of recognizing and using the gifts He has given.

    It’s interesting, if you read 1 Tim. 2:8-10 and 1 Peter 3:1-7 and take out the part about what not to do, the real emphasis, for both men and women, is to glorify God, point others to Him, and not be too concerned about our looks. Ironically, when we put the emphasis on what we or someone else is wearing (clothing, jewelry, whatever), we actually emphasize the very things that God is telling us to not make such a deal about!

    And beyond wedding bands, what about a woman wearing a low-cost necklace, bracelet or ring? And if there’s something wrong with that–too extravagant–where do we stop? Should all clothing be solid color only? Should we forbid women from wearing scarves? Should we ban men (and women) from wearing t-shirts with any sort of printing on them? Should we mandate that you must buy the cheapest jeans available, and buying Levi’s is not allowed?

    Anyhow, some thoughts. Thanks for the post!

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  3. Many good thoughts in your article. Though our church does not have a ban on wearing wedding bands, I’ve struggled with the teachings on not wearing jewelry, not because I want to wear jewelry but because I don’t believe, as you stated, that God hates jewelry or is against it. I especially appreciate the the following paraphrase: “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.” I believe this is the intent of these verses and this gets to the heart and reaches into every corner of our lives, asking us to examine everything we do to adorn our outward person. I’ve been reading your other posts and agree with what you’ve written on baptism and communion. I see that some of our Anabaptist practices do not line up with the Bible and I have questioned it internally many times. So it’s good to hear someone else being willing to address these issues.

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    • Hi, Delores,
      Thanks for commenting and for your encouraging words. Praying that God will move among our people and that we would realign with Scripture –especially in the areas of communion and baptism. So many of the “lesser things” play themselves out through rejection of others in communion, and refusing to baptize true born-again believers that are at a different place than ourselves.

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  4. Thank you, Simon, for being willing to honestly look at what the Bible says even though it may be counter to what is considered “spiritual” in Anabaptist circles. I believe that when a church sets up man made rules or guidelines that are not what God says and then excludes other Christians from the fellowship on that basis, it is in essence saying that the commands of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit in us are not sufficient to keep us from sin. I appreciate that you are giving a call to repentance. In Deut. 4:2 God told the Israelites, Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. The principle is that adding to or taking away from the commandments of God leads us to disobey commands that He has given us. There are changes that God has led our family to make as He has shown us the deception of the conservative mindset we had that added to God’s Word. We have changed not out of rebellion, but out of a desire to fully follow Christ. At times this feels lonely because we do not fit in any box. It is so encouraging to see others who are asking honest questions and are willing to change to follow God more closely. One of these changes is that my husband and I now wear wedding bands which, by the way, we were able to purchase inexpensively (not costly array).

    Hannah, you will find it interesting that God does address playing musical instruments in the New Testament. In Romans 15:9, I Corinthians 14:15, Ephesians 5:19, and James 5:13 the words “sing”, “making melody”, and “let him sing psalms” are all from the same Greek word (G5567 in Strongs) which means “Probably strengthened from ψάω psaō (to rub or touch the surface; compare G5597); to twitch or twang, that is, to play on a stringed instrument (celebrate the divine worship with music and accompanying odes): – make melody, sing (psalms). God’s blessings to all
    .

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    • Hi Cathy,
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Thanks also for sharing those verses–a good reminder that adding to God’s Word is just as wrong as taking away from it.
      Praying that others also will pick up the call to repentance among our people, that God would breathe on us, and that dry bones would once again come to life.

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