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Jewelry:  Does the Bible Say it's a Sin?

What the Scriptures Really
Say

by Jason Young



There are two separate verses in the New Testament that, at first glance, appear to teach against wearing jewelry.  The first is 1 Pet 3:3 which reads,  

“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel…” 

The second and very similar verse is 1 Tim 2:9 that says,

“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array…”

But are these scriptures forbidding the use of jewelry by Christians? 

A number of holiness-based Christian groups have come to that conclusion, but doing so fails to consider the numerous other passages in the Bible that actually appear to endorse the use of jewelry.  In fact, many places in the Bible show that God uses jewelry as a blessing to his children.

One of the first passages in the Bible to deal with jewelry is Gen 24:47, 48 which reads, 

And I asked her, and said, whose daughter art thou? And she said, the daughter of Bethuel, Nahor's son, whom Milcah bare unto him: and I put the earring upon her face, and the bracelets upon her hands. And I bowed down my head, and worshipped the LORD, and blessed the LORD God of my master Abraham, which had led me in the right way to take my master's brother's daughter unto his son.

Here we have a rather tender story of Abraham's servant giving jewelry to Rebekah, who was the woman God had specially chosen for Isaac. The servant then bows his head and worships God.  If jewelry were sinful, his offering it as a gift to Rebekah, and then subsequently worshipping God, would be irreverent and inappropriate.

We find another such example in Gen 41:42, which says,

And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck...

Joseph was one of the greatest men of the Old Testament, and God blessed him greatly because of his faithfulness.  In this verse, we find Joseph accepting jewelry as a gift from Pharaoh.  If God forbade jewelry, undoubtedly, Joseph would have rejected this gift.

David, the man said to be after God’s own heart,1 writes in Ps 25:12,

As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.

David compares gold earrings to the way an obedient ear accepts wise instruction.  Surely if jewelry were a sin, David would never have made a comparison between wise behavior and something that is sinful. 

The prophet Isaiah wrote in Isa 61:10,

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, 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.

Isaiah compares righteousness and salvation to a bride and bridegroom who adorn themselves with jewelry.  Would Isaiah compare a sinful activity to the salvation and righteousness of God?  

God, through Jeremiah, speaks of jewelry in this way:

Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number. (Jer 2:32)

God compares forgetting about him to a maid who forgets her jewelry.  Again, if jewelry were sinful, God would never have made such a comparison. 

In Ezek 16:11-13, God says that he has blessed his children with bracelets, necklaces, earrings, jewels and crowns,  

I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck. And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head. Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom.

God would not offer his children something sinful as a gift or reward. 

Some may argue that God once gave and blessed the use of jewelry, but because of the vanity and disobedience of Israel, he no longer does, which is why it is forbidden in the New Testament.  The problem with such an assertion is that it is not taught in the scriptures.  In fact, the scriptures contradict such an idea.  Luke 15:22 says, 

But the father said to his servants, bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand…

This verse is from the parable of the Prodigal Son, given by Jesus.  Surely, Jesus would not have used a sinful practice as part of his parable. 

Considering the overwhelming body of evidence that God not only doesn’t condemn the use of jewelry but has actually given it as a gift to his faithful children, it cannot reasonably be stated that jewelry is a sin.  In light of this, let's take another look at the verses used to support the belief that the use of jewelry is forbidden: 

“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel…” (1 Pet 3:3)

“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array…” (1 Tim 2:9) 

What exactly are Peter and Paul teaching in these verses?  They are simply teaching that Christians should be more concerned with beautifying the inward man than beautifying the outward man.  They are teaching that as Christians, we should not be overly concerned with outward beauty.  Jewelry, like every other good thing from God, can and has been abused by carnal man. 

It is important not to take one or two passages in isolation and make a doctrine out of them without first considering the entire weight of scriptural teachings.  Doing so will inevitably lead to errant teachings and inaccurate assumptions about God’s word.  These verses that deal with outward modesty are certainly no exception.  A careful and honest evaluation of all relevant scriptures reveals that Paul is not forbidding the use of jewelry; he is merely instructing us to use it in moderation and to place the greater emphasis on inward adorning.  

Acts Eighteen


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Bibliography:

1 - Ps 89:20, 1 Sam 13:14, Acts 13:22

 

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