What Does the Bible Say About Jewelry?

by E.L. Anglin

The first live debate in which I ever participated was in Bible College. Our class instructor was a kind and godly man who wasn't afraid to examine sacred cows, though less inclined to get rid of them altogether. He believed that if we were ever to become able public speakers we should be able to defend our beliefs, thus he created a debate format with numerous possible topics.

Each student was required to pick an issue and then argue for or against. As a good legalist I chose to argue that jewelry was not forbidden in scripture. I took the "pro" jewelry stance to stretch myself. Understand, up to this point I had always accepted the church's position that jewelry was sinful. The church in which I was raised forbade even wedding rings.

As is my custom, I spent many hours preparing my defense. What I found shocked me. There is not one Bible verse that forbids jewelry, nor is it ever spoken of negatively.

The most famous verse used to defend total abstinence from jewelry is 1 Timothy 2:9-10.

"And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do."

Uneducated people read this passage and determined that wearing gold or pearls is sinful. Oddly, however, they completely ignored the part about fancy hairdos and expensive clothes.

This is selective application built on a faulty premise. Paul was not promoting abstinence from jewelry, he was merely stating that "goodness" and appropriateness (modesty) is what makes a Christian woman attractive, not her external possessions and efforts.

The other famous supposed anti-jewelry passage is 1 Peter 3:3-4.

"Don't be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God."

Again, this passage has been used to strictly forbid jewelry but no such prohibition exists. The focus is upon too much concern about appearances. The writer not only focuses on jewelry, but also fancy hairdos and expensive clothes. He contrasts artificial beauty with beautiful character but never forbids dressed hair, nice clothes or jewelry.

In many modern churches the anti-jewelry stance has been relaxed. Now it's generally accepted to wear most any sort of ring, tie bar, cuff links, or hair jewels but still unacceptable to wear earrings or necklaces. Why? Who determines that some jewelry is acceptable and some unacceptable? What scripture is used?

In my opinion this dissonance, this duplicity, is nonsensical.

During that Bible College debate, years ago, my opponent came unprepared, overconfident that all of the cliches he had been fed over the years were enough to sway the audience. His two premises were that in the Bible only whores wore jewelry and that the Bible always mentioned jewelry negatively.

Here are a few of the scriptures I used to counter those arguments.

Joseph:

"Then Pharaoh removed his signet ring from his hand and placed it on Joseph's finger. He dressed him in fine linen clothing and hung a gold chain around his neck." Genesis 41:42

Rebekah:

"Then at last, when the camels had finished drinking, he took out a gold ring for her nose and two large gold bracelets for her wrists." Genesis 24:22
"Then he brought out silver and gold jewelry and clothing and presented them to Rebekah. He also gave expensive presents to her brother and mother. Genesis 24:53

David:

"David removed the crown from the king's head, and it was placed on his own head. The crown was made of gold and set with gems, and it weighed seventy-five pounds. David took a vast amount of plunder from the city." 2 Samuel 12:30

Esther:

"When it was time for her to go to the king's palace, she was given her choice of whatever clothing or jewelry she wanted to take from the harem." Esther 2:13

The Prodigal Son:

"But his father said to the servants, 'Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet." Luke 15:22

Many other Old Testament scriptures speak of jewelry positively, comparing God's people to a bride He has decked with jewels. The same imagery is carried all the way through to the Book of Revelation.

The anti-jewelry crowd has no scriptural foundation. To accept their premise is to believe that characters from many of their favorite Bible stories would not be allowed on the platform of their churches.

In all things live in tempered liberty.


This writing is the copyright of E.L. Anglin and is reprinted on this site by permission. View all of his available articles here.


Page added February 28, 2015

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