God Sees the Heart
Beauty and Adornment in the Bible
I used to condemn women for wearing jewelry. If a lady came to church with a necklace or earrings, I looked at her cross-eyed and judged her: “She must not be a member of my denomination,” or ”She must be a backslider, or worldly and rebellious.” Unfortunately, I spent most of my life criticizing the ladies in my church. “How dare they wear earrings? How dare they rebel against God?”
By God’s grace, I recently stumbled upon some Bible verses that shocked me. When I first ran across them, I thought it must be a misprint because they actually say jewelry is good! In fact, they show that God likes jewelry. I couldn’t believe it. It was so opposite from what I had been taught.
Then I searched the whole Bible and collected every verse that mentions any form of jewelry—over 100 pages of Bible texts. I was amazed to find that jewelry is a good thing—a beautiful blessing given by God. The holy, saintly women of the Bible enjoyed it. Christian women can enjoy it today. Here is a summary of a few representative texts that show what the Bible really says about beauty and adornment.
Then the Lord God said: I entered into a covenant with you so that you became Mine, declares the Lord God. . . . I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your hands and a necklace around your neck. I also put a ring in your nostril, earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your dress was of fine linen, silk and embroidered cloth. . . . so you were exceedingly beautiful . . . . Then your fame went forth among the nations on account of your beauty, for it was perfect because of My splendor which I bestowed on you, declares the Lord God. (Ezekiel 16:8-14)In that text, God clearly views jewelry as a good thing—even a nose-ring! He compared His blessings upon Israel to putting jewelry on a daughter—because it’s a nice, beautiful thing. (I was amazed by that verse. So was a church lady that I shared it with. She said: “That can’t be true because I know adornment is wrong.” But how can she “know” it’s wrong when God says it’s right?)
Jesus also viewed jewelry as a blessing; He recognized the adornment used by the devoted religious women of Israel when He said: “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs” (Matthew 7:6.) In other words, wear your pearls because they are good things. Jesus commended the merchant who was looking for fine pearls and bought the pearl of great price (Matt. 13:45-46). Jesus mentioned a ring in a positive light (Luke 15:22) and praised the woman with the “ten coins” which every married women wore as jewelry on her forehead (Luke 15:8-10). Critics may say, “Well, those are just parables.” But His parables reflected real life and holy biblical practices. If Jesus considered those practices bad, He could easily have said: “By the way, the jewelry that I praised in my parables is actually evil; stop wearing it.” He never said such a thing because it is not evil.
Some churches have invented unbiblical rules, and they continue to judge and condemn their women for “failing” to follow those man-made rules. For instance, some pastors ignore the dozens of verses in the Bible that speak of jewelry as a good and beautiful thing, and instead they preach only from I Timothy 2:8-10. That’s the text where Paul says: “I do not allow a woman to teach . . . but to remain quiet” and they “must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness” so therefore “I want women to adorn themselves with inexpensive clothing, with proper moderation, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works. . . .” In other words, Paul said “women must sit down, shut up, and not waste their husband’s hard-earned money on frivolous pursuits like looking pretty.” But isn’t it strange that the legalistic churches pay attention to only a small part of that verse? They no longer prohibit women from speaking in church. They don’t condemn expensive dresses or fancy hairstyles. They are not worried about “braided hair or costly garments.” They only care about one little phrase in the verse: “gold or pearls.”
They are taking that verse out of context and missing the point. God does not change, and Paul could not contradict the dozens of verses where God said jewelry is good. The truth is, I Timothy 2:8-10 does not prohibit jewelry. Nowhere does it say: “Thou shalt not wear jewelry” or “jewelry is bad.” No. It only reminds us to avoid extravagance and wastefulness in unduly-expensive clothes, unduly-expensive hairstyles, and unduly-expensive jewelry. It is a message of moderation.
We should not be like the snobbish woman I once met in Sears. She entered the store, marched up to the cashier, and boasted: “I don’t shop in Sears anymore; I now shop at Dillards!” If Paul were writing today, he would probably say: “Shop at Walmart instead of Macy’s.” Or “be happy with a $25 JCPenney purse instead of coveting a $198 Michael Kors designer handbag.” Or “be satisfied with a $19 K-Mart watch instead of craving a $19,000 Rolex.” Or “be happy with a Chevy instead of coveting a Jaguar.” Or “be content with a regular cell phone instead of coveting an expensive iPhone.” Paul might say: “Get your jewelry on eBay, not from Elite Prestige Jewelers.”
In Isaiah 3:15-23, God warned His people about oppressing the poor. Because the Israelites had ignored the needy, God threatened to strike the Israelite women with a scab and take away all of their finery, including necklaces, rings, scarves, perfume, purses, mirrors, and fine dresses, if they continued to oppress the poor. (Note: in that verse, the scarf, perfume, purse, mirror, and fine dresses are all treated exactly the same as jewelry: no different, no better, no worse. All of those things are “finery.”)
On the other hand, in John 12, Jesus praised Mary (sister of Martha) for engaging in some extravagance, and condemned Judas for a false concern for the poor:
Martha served, while Lazarus was . . . at the table with Him. Then Mary took . . . an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair. . . . But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “. . . . You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have Me.” (John 12:1-8, NIV.)
Similarly, Jesus might praise a Christian woman for engaging in a little extravagance to make memories with her husband and look nice for him, or look nice for church. Yes, it is nice to wear jewelry to church.
It is amazing how “conservative” Christian women will proudly wear a glittery brooch (they circumvent the “no jewelry” rule by saying “jewelry is okay as long as it doesn’t touch your skin”). They love to wear tall, expensive, showy hats with fancy feathers that serve no purpose but to compete with the other women (and block the view of the person unfortunate enough to sit behind them in church). They will gladly sport a $5,000 diamond-studded solid gold watch (they say it’s okay because it’s “functional” rather than ornamental). Now even necklaces are available with a little watch face in the pendant, so those are “okay” because they are technically “functional.” I've even seen dangling earrings with little watch faces on them so they can be deemed “functional” and thus “okay” by ladies who would shun ornamental jewelry. Maybe anklets and belly-button rings with tiny watch faces will be next. That strikes me as a silly game and hypocrisy, similar to the Pharisees who would not walk more than 2,000 cubits from their home on the Sabbath; but they got around that rule by placing an item of food every 2,000 cubits the day before and deeming the food to be their “home.”
Yet these same women condemn the sincere, humble lady in the next pew, who happens to be wearing tasteful dollar-store earrings. It’s illogical and hypocritical. Jesus warned: “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly” (John 7:24, NIV). “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly” (John 7:24, NLT). Jesus said: “You people judge by outward appearances; I do not judge anyone” (John 8:15, NET).
“But,” you ask, “doesn’t I Peter 2:9 say we should look ‘peculiar’?” No. That is not what it says. First, it doesn’t say we should “look” any certain way. And second, the old King James translation was completed in 1611 and used some archaic terminology in that verse: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people. . . .” In 1611 “peculiar” meant “belonging to” or “owned by” or “special.” It did not mean “weird” or “strange.” The New King James Version now translates it: “His own special people.” The Lord does not want you to look peculiar. He wants to you look beautiful—and God Himself equates jewelry with His splendor in Ezekiel 16:8-14 and other verses. Jesus did not say people will know we are His disciples by looking plain or peculiar; He said: “By this everyone will know that you are My disciples: if you love one another” (John 13:35).
Some churches also take I Peter 3:1-5 out of context and twist it to fit their agenda. (Apparently these churches think: “If we command our female members not to wear jewelry, they’ll have more money to put in the offering plate.” And “if we keep our women looking like Plain Jane, men outside of our own denomination hopefully won’t want to date them.”) That is the text where Peter tells wives to be gentle, quiet, and submissive to their husbands.
Peter says the best adornment is being quiet and “submissive to their own husbands.” (1 Peter 3:5.) Peter said: “you wives, be submissive to your own husbands . . . [with] chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit” (NKJV). Or as the NIV says: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles . . . or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (1 Peter 3:3-4.)
So Peter was simply saying: if a wife doesn’t feel beautiful, maybe she should seek counseling for low self-esteem. Too many women fail to realize how pretty they are. Some of the most gorgeous models focus on flaws that only they can see. God made every woman beautiful and valuable to Him. No amount of designer clothes, wardrobe accessories, or fancy hairstyles will truly make a wife feel beautiful if she doesn’t understand how valuable she is to her Creator, and if she doesn’t understand that real beauty is on the inside. But this verse does not prohibit visiting the hairdresser, nor wearing a pretty dress, nor wearing jewelry. (By the way, some churches totally overlook two of the three items named in that verse. They are fixated solely on the “gold jewelry.” They also ignore the fact that the verse does not apply to silver or diamond jewelry.) Read the text again. Read the verses before and after. It only suggests that our self-worth and sense of feeling beautiful are not based on any of those things. And you won’t be beautiful on the outside if you’re mean and ugly on the inside. “Beauty is as beauty does.” A cow dressed up with ribbons is still a cow. A woman with a pretty face will be ugly if her personality is sour and critical. After all, “charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30, NIV). But the truth is: Peter does not say any of those outward adornments (clothes, hair, or jewelry) are evil, bad, or wrong. They simply must be used as decoration, not as a crutch or the source of our self-esteem.
A friend of mine looked at these verses and said, “Well, maybe jewelry itself is not bad, but it’s wrong to focus on which one to buy and put on.” However, it’s no different from deciding which dress to buy (and the costume jewelry in Walmart is a lot cheaper than the dresses). Selecting appropriate jewelry is no different from selecting an appropriate dress. It’s all part of your “costume.” Today I ran across an interview with plus-size model Kristen M. She explained her reluctance to enter that field because she is twice the weight of other models. But she has learned to accept herself as beautiful. What she said sounds just like what the Apostle Peter wanted women to understand:
“I’m beautiful because I try to see beauty and purpose in everything. I believe in order for someone to be beautiful they must first have a beautiful soul. I believe my soul and heart is beautiful. Physical beauty is secondary to inner beauty. Without inner beauty you have nothing.” And Kristen went on to say: “I love statement jewelry. A cool necklace or bracelet always spices up any outfit.”
Kristin is right. And once you accept yourself as beautiful on the inside, you are free to enhance your beauty with some outward adornment such as a pretty dress, nice hairstyle, or tasteful jewelry.
God does not change (Malachi 3:6). What God declared to be a good and beautiful blessing in the Old Testament did not suddenly become evil in the New Testament. Peter could not, and did not, contradict God’s statements about the beauty and goodness of jewelry in dozens of other verses, such as Jeremiah 2:32 (“A young woman does not forget her jewelry, a bride does not forget her wedding ornaments” and Revelation 21:2 (“I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her groom.”)
“But didn’t God tell the Isrealites to take off their jewelry?,” you may ask. Yes, temporarily, because they had used most of their jewelry to melt down and make a graven image of a golden calf to worship as an idol, and then they lied about where it had come from. Aaron claimed the statue appeared magically out of the fire where he had told the people to put the jewelry to melt it down. The people bowed down to the calf because they thought Moses (and God) had abandoned them. (Exodus 32:1-24.) The problem had nothing to do with wearing jewelry. The problem was: they had taken off their jewelry misused it; they melted it down into a statue. That is why God told Moses, “they have made for themselves an image of a calf. They have bowed down to it, sacrificed to it, and said, ‘Israel, this is your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.’” (Exodus 32:8). In His righteous anger, “God said, ‘Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.’ When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments” (Exodus 33:3-4). That was a sign of mourning, similar to the custom of putting on sackcloth and ashes when mourning or repenting (Esther 4:3).
It was like our modern custom of wearing black at funerals or flying the flag a half-staff in times of national mourning. (They were not repenting of wearing jewelry; they were mourning over God’s threat not to go with them to the promised land due to their making and worshiping the idol calf.) It was in that context that God had said, “You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you ..., I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments [i.e., go into deep mourning for a season] and I will decide what to do with you.” (Exodus 33:5-6. See also Ezekiel 16:17.) Shortly afterwards, God described himself as “the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Exodus 34:6-7). He made a covenant with Israel to avoid making graven images as idols (Exodus 34:17).
Once the mourning was finished and the covenant relationship was restored, the jewelry went back on. By the next chapter, the people willingly made a freewill offering, donating some of their jewelry, linen, yarn, leather, wood, spices, and oil, to decorate the tabernacle and priestly garments. (Exodus 35:20-28.) They had a lot of jewelry left to wear, and they clearly wore it, as most of the positive verses about wearing jewelry in the Bible came after that time. Their first king was described (in a positive sense) as having adorned the Israelite women’s garments with ornaments of gold. (2 Samuel 1:24). The Lord reminded them, centuries later, that God Himself had given them jewelry as a blessing for beauty: “I gave you lovely jewelry, bracelets, beautiful necklaces, a ring for your nose, earrings for your ears, . . . so you were adorned with gold and silver. . . . more beautiful than ever” (Ezekiel 16:11-14). And more recently, Jesus Himself spoke of jewelry in a positive light.
As I now see what the Bible really says about jewelry as a good and beautiful blessing from God, I can see the hypocrisy of our man-made anti-jewelry doctrines. Preachers have condemned jewelry but failed to condemn pride (as in “I’m proud that I don’t wear jewelry like that sinner over there!”). The preacher condemned the lady with a cute little $10 necklace, but he never spoke out about the pride of the deacon who made a big show of putting a $100 bill into the offering plate. He slammed the dainty $8 bracelet on the humble single mother’s wrist, but he never said a word about the $18,000 Rolex watch on the proud church treasurer’s wrist. He denounced the $3 pair of earrings on the sincere teenage girl, but he failed to speak out against the $33,000 BMW that the proud elder showed off in the parking lot. He bashed the $5 anklet on the reverent lady in the back row, but he saw no problem with the showy scarf or gaudy brooch on the organist’s $500 dress from Saks Fifth Avenue. (By the way, the Bible says scarves and brooches are adornment just like jewelry. See Exodus 35:22 and Isaiah 3:18-20.) “You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:24). “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3).
One haughty church lady boasted: “I keep the rules. I’m proud to be a rule-keeper. But I don’t condemn girls who wear jewelry. That’s between them and God.” A lot of things are wrong with that statement. She forgot that all our righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). She took pride in blindly keeping “the rules” without checking to see if they are biblical. She hinted that any girl wearing jewelry is a rebel who has a problem with God. The lady failed to consider that God Himself told the Israelite women to put jewelry on their children and God gave all kinds of jewelry to the women in the allegory of Ezekiel 16:8-14 and in Isaiah 61:10, among many other verses. The person who really had a problem “between her and God” was the haughty “rule keeper.”
Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘Oh God, I thank you that I am not like other people or even like this publican. I fast twice a week and give a tithe of all my income.’ But the tax collector humbly stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but smote his chest and said, ‘Dear God, please have mercy on me, a sinner.’ This man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. (Luke 18:10-14)
We should not and must not prohibit the jewelry that God has clearly blessed in verse after verse in the Bible. We should not take little snippets of verses out of context to create man-made doctrines and unbiblical burdens. What God has called good, let no man call bad. “Don't say that the things which God has made clean are impure” (Acts 10:15). “In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9, ESV). “They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules” (Matt. 15:9, NIV).
“But what will my friends say? What about my church denomination? What if my pastor tells us not to wear jewelry?” Who should you follow: a man-made church doctrine, or Jesus? “Woe to those who call ... good ‘evil’ ” (Isa. 5:20). The Lord said: “Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God” (Matt. 15:9, NLT). We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus. We are not saved by friends, pastors, or a denomination.
Several denominations that sprang up in the 1800’s borrowed a doctrine from the Holiness movement that was popular at that time—including a man-made doctrine against jewelry. The United Pentecostal Church still mandates this prohibition. But it is nice to see some church denominations moving towards a more biblical approach. For example, the Methodist Church stopped regulating jewelry in 1852 and started to expressly allow wedding rings in 1872. The Church of God relaxed its rules against ornamental jewelry in the late 1800s. The Mennonites relaxed their stance against jewelry after World War II. The Seventh-day Adventist Church removed a prohibition against “gold and pearls” from the baptismal vows in 1941 (although some pastors and members apparently didn’t get the memo in 1941, as they are still condemning Seventh-day Adventist women today as if the 1940 baptismal vows were still in force instead of the 2017 baptismal vows). An Adventist book admitted in 2001 that, for every verse that may seem to speak of ornaments negatively, there are “two or three [times more] in which God speaks of them favorably.” (Lifestyles of the Remnant, Review and Herald, p. 59). And jewelry is no longer condemned in the Adventist Fundamental Belief 22 (which now implies moderation in outward adornment by paraphrasing Peter when it says: “our dress is to be simple, modest [in moderation, not extravegant], and neat, befitting those whose true beauty does not consist of outward adornment but in the imperishable ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit.”). Adventist colleges are also moving toward a more biblical policy. For example, the handbook of Pacific Union College, a Seventh-day Adventist university, admits that a “tradition of dressing ‘jewelry free’” is only “a sign of respecting the Adventist subculture. . . . not a matter of morality, but rather a part of the Adventist heritage [tradition]”—not as a biblical mandate. (As a pastor friend of mine recently tweeted: “Adventism is a message, not a subculture. I embrace the message; I reject the subculture.”) Loma Linda University’s nursing program allows jewelry in moderation and defines modest jewelry as a set of rings on each hand and one earring in each ear. That is a step in the right direction; but it is still a lot more restrictive than the biblical truth, such as where God said: “I [God] adorned you [My chosen people] with ornaments, put bracelets on your hands and a necklace around your neck. I also put a ring in your nostril, earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head” (Ezekiel 16:11-12). You see, God likes jewelry!
Look at this comment from Rana, a former Holiness member, explaining how her obedience to a man-made tradition of “no makeup or jewelry” actually created a stumbling block or barrier between her and the lost people that she was trying to witness to:
I recently left the Holiness denomination, after being raised in it and living that way for over 25 years. It never bothered me that I couldn’t wear jewelry and makeup, or that I had to follow the other rules laid down by the denomination, because I simply didn’t care. I love (and loved) the LORD with all my heart, and, as I was convinced that was what HE wanted, I followed it without question.
But in my young adult life, I went away to a Christian missionary and language training school, where my belief in these “standards” was shaken to the core. Young people of various denominations were there, and a more dedicated, Godly group of young people, I have never met. My friends asked questions about my “standards,” in a lovingly curious way (not as a challenge), and I told them I would be happy to research the Scriptures and provide them with the reasons behind my appearance. They were eager for me to do so, with several stating that whatever God required, they would be happy to do, too.
That’s where it got sticky . . . as I delved into the Scripture on my own, without the influence of the church back home, I was shaken to find that the wording of the Scripture did not support my belief in these standards as Heaven or Hell issues.
Once I became thoroughly convinced in my own mind (over the course of about a year) that these were unnecessary. . . . I still continued to live the Holiness lifestyle, as a matter of respect and tradition. Besides, like I said, I didn’t mind. I was far more comfortable in a long skirt, having only worn those my entire life.
But in evangelism, I couldn’t help but notice that my friends (who were lovely, well-behaved, and modest and conservative in appearance although wearing makeup and some jewelry) were far more effective than I. People tended to regard me with suspicion, as though I were there to recruit them for some cult. I was often asked about my appearance, but almost never about the truth of Jesus Christ, as my friends were.
Through much prayer, careful study—and great personal loss of my relationship with my family and former community—I decided to start looking normal (although still modest and conservative), so that my appearance would not be such a distraction to those whom I wished to win for Christ.
I have great respect for those who follow the [man-made] traditions, if it is done from the heart and with the aim to please GOD (as I believe it usually is). However, I found it to be a stumbling block to my neighbor, and, as the Scripture did not require it of me, I walked away. Today, I wear some jewelry and makeup. . . .
That is something to really think about: if you avoid makeup and jewelry, you could actually be putting up a road block that creates a barrier to the people you are trying to witness to.
Costly name-brand clothes, fancy hairstyles, Michael Kors handbags, expensive watches, or expensive cars, should not be the ultimate source of our feelings of beauty and self-worth. “Your adornment must not be merely external. . . .” (1 Peter 3:3-4). But the Bible simply does not condemn jewelry.
We have followed man-made traditions in the hope that God would save us for “being good” and “playing by the rules.” Unfortunately, however, those rules were man-made inventions, not God’s commands. And no amount of outward “simplicity” or plainness can save us. Jesus is our standard of truth. Jesus said salvation comes through loving God with all our heart, and loving our neighbor as our self. (Luke 10:27.) “What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world” (James 1:27, GNT.) Jesus paid the price for us, and “whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV.) “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV.)
Jesus never condemned adornment. The only thing He ever said about it was in a positive sense, regarding pearls (Matthew 7:6 and 13:45) and rings (Luke 15:22) and the “ten coins” that were worn as jewelry on the forehead (Luke 15:8-10). Even the most vehement critic of jewelry, Samuele Bacchiocchi, admitted in chapter 5 of his book, that jewelry is “a minor thing that should not obscure more important matters. . . . There is more to Christianity than [worrying about] jewelry. . . .” The Bible says real Christianity is loving God with all our heart and loving our neighbor as our self (Luke 10:27); taking care of orphans and widows (James 1:27); giving a cup of cold water to a child (Matthew 10:42); giving food to the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, showing hospitality to strangers, giving clothes to the naked, comforting the sick, and visiting prisoners (Matthew 25:35-37); and loving one another (John 13:35). The fruit of the Spirit is not outward plainnness, but rather a new heart full of “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22, 23).
Jesus looked at the heart. Jesus would “not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear. . . .” (Isaiah 11:3.) Jesus said: “You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one” (John 8:15, NIV). “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7).
A woman may look like Plain Jane and may be corrupt in her heart. One of my favorite devotional books explains:
. . . there may be an outward correctness of deportment without the renewing power of Christ. . . . By what means, then, shall we determine whose side we are on?
Who has the heart? With whom are our thoughts? Of whom do we love to converse? Who has our warmest affections and our best energies? If we are Christ’s, our thoughts are with Him, and our sweetest thoughts are of Him. (Steps to Christ, p. 58)
The Pharisees did not have that kind of loving relationship. Their religion was a checklist: what you must not do and a bunch of extra things they said you must do. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for adding burdens of rules and regulations that God Himself had never imposed. Religion is not a list of do’s and don’ts. It’s not about judging and criticizing. “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save it.” (John 3:17.) We can have a refreshing love relationship with our Savior. Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30.) Enjoy the “liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1) to the the “commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9).
In the past I had read and relied upon books and articles by Crews, Batchelor, and Bacchiocchi. I was so steeped in their ideas that I could argue against jewelry in my sleep. But I had not read all that the Bible itself says. When I recently collected and read everything the Bible actually says on this subject (dozens of pages of verses), with an open mind looking only to find out what it really teaches (not to prove a preconceived notion), I began to see how those other books were slanted and intended only to support the author’s ideas. They started with the premise that jewelry is bad, then they cherry-picked Scripture to suit their agenda, ignoring verses they didn’t like, and taking other verses out of context. They twisted and stretched their favorite texts to justify their preconceived beliefs rather than trying to find out what the Bible really says. The truth is: the Bible does not say jewelry is evil. There is not even one verse telling us not to wear it.
Now I finally understand that God is not against jewelry. It’s not bad; it’s biblical. It’s not worldly, it’s godly. (Of course, too much of a good thing can look silly. There is no need for gaudy bling like 23 rings on each hand. The key is moderation.) God gave jewelry to His people as a blessing. The scriptures speak of it in a positive light. God alluded to jewelry as something to be treasured when He said that He wished His people would love Him with the same devotion that young women have to their jewelry; God used jewelry as an example of a beautiful thing to enjoy (Jeremiah 2:32). The biblical truth is: God likes jewelry, and Revelation 4:3 says God Himself looks like jewels of jasper, sardius, and emerald. God’s people should enjoy it, too.
It’s hard to admit when we’re wrong. The honorable thing to do when we make a mistake, is to admit it and apologize. That’s what this page is: my admission and apology. I regret spending most of my life arguing against jewelry and condemning the ladies who wear it in my church. Personally, I have never had any desire to wear jewelry; it's "just not my thing." Now I realize that part of my attitude of condemnation was: “If I don’t wear it, they better not wear it either!” I was wrong. They were not being worldly or rebellious, they were being biblical. I don’t want to be “conservative” or “liberal.” I just want to be Biblical. As my new year’s resolution, when I see sisters in Christ wearing earrings in church, I plan to encourage them: “God bless you, sister. By the way, nice earrings. Thanks for having the courage to do what is biblical. God likes jewelry!”
The author is a Christian academic and counselor on the East Coast.
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