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Is the wearing of jewelry just a matter of our choice? How we feel about ourselves? After all, God does not care about the outside things but the heart...right? Can't I just wear a little jewelry? After all, I am not worshiping it. Go to article two: Colorful Cosmetics and Jewelry
Article One: Jewelry: How Much is Too Much
I am intrigued by clever oxymorons. An
oxymoron is a statement or pairing of two words that contradict each
other, such as "black light" or "pretty ugly." A few
humorous, personal favorites are "military intelligence,"
"criminal justice," "civil disorder," and "rap
music" (the rap I've heard does not even slightly resemble music).
Some oxymorons are more serious, like "little sin,"
"innocent gossip," and "safe premarital sex."
A few years ago, while wandering through a
Christian bookstore, I came upon a glass display case with a sign above it
that read "Christian Jewelry." I thought to myself, "Now
there's another intriguing oxymoron-something like 'Christian rock.'"
How can jewelry be Christian when the Bible strongly admonishes believers
not to wear it? Clearly, "Christian jewelry" is a conflict in
I realize this topic has been hotly debated
within recent years, but my purpose is not to pour fuel on the fire. I
hope to shed light, not heat. My desire is for people to find their faith
and practice in the Word of God. The Scriptures plainly address the
subject of a Christian's external appearance and adornment. But
unfortunately, many churches are strangely silent on this subject.
Jewelry has been described by some as a small
issue. No doubt someone is thinking, "With all the problems in the
church, why would you want to focus on something so insignificant and
widely accepted?" Well, friends, remember that Jesus said, "For
that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of
God." Luke 16:15. Often, it is the things that seem small on the
surface that have major implications. And I believe this is just such an
There are unseen and subtle dangers connected
with the wearing of jewelry. So if you are a converted Christian who seeks
to know how to better reflect the Lord in these last days, please keep
your mind open as we reason together from the Scriptures.
Fruit, Not the Root!
The power of the gospel begins on the inside,
transforming the heart while unseen by human eyes. But then it continues
to flow and seep into every area of the life, producing obvious external
changes. Just like a plant, the seed first comes to life below the earth.
But if the root is healthy, the plant will soon become visible and bear
fruit above ground. Jesus said, "By their fruits ye shall know
them." Matthew 7:20.
Notice that He did not say you will know them
by their roots that grow underground. He said the fruit, not the root!
Therefore, we are commanded to be aware of the external, visible evidence
of our faith.
When a person accepts Christ as Lord, the
Holy Spirit begins impressing that individual to make dramatic
adjustments. There will often be changes in what appears on the table
during dinner and on the television after supper. (In fact, He may lead
some to get rid of the television altogether.) From the bookshelf to the
closet, Jesus will penetrate the whole life. When He is in the heart, He
influences every other area.
This is a basic teaching of Christianity. The
apostle Paul warned Titus of those who "profess that they know God;
but in works they deny him." Titus 1:16. And James is crystal clear
that a relationship rooted in Jesus will produce external evidence.
"Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy
faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works."
James 2:18. You can't be a Christian in your heart without it showing on
We, the Church, are the hands and feet, the
eyes and mouth, and yes, even the ears of Jesus in the world today. We are
the Body of Christ. Our Lord said, "As my Father hath sent me, even
so send I you." John 20:21.
We have been sent into the world to
demonstrate who Jesus is and what He is like. Through the Holy Spirit we
become His representatives-to reflect His image in everything from the way
we talk and work to the way we eat and dress. In 2 Corinthians 3:18, God
says that "we all ... are changed into the same image from glory to
glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
A few years ago, shameful scandals surrounded
several well-known television evangelists in North America. Those opposed
to Christianity rejoiced, mocking the immorality and hypocrisy exhibited
in the lives of these men and their wives who professed to speak for
Jesus. During this tragic time, the secular media often made reference to
their flamboyant dress and gaudy jewelry as proof that these professed
Christians were not genuine. These inconsistant TV preachers even inspired
one famous musician to write a popular song entitled "Would Jesus
Wear a Rolex?" I'm sure angels wept as Christian leaders, due to
their immodest appearance, became a deserving target for the lost. It is a
sad day indeed when Christians win the medal for opulent external
Let's take a look at the origin of jewelry.
God made all of the gold, silver, and precious jewels in the world, and He
intended for them to have a practical use. Since even small amounts of
these minerals are so rare and valuable, long ago they began to be used as
Over time, people began wearing their money
in order to impress others with their wealth. When shoppers went to the
market to buy an expensive item, they would simply pull off one of their
rings or bracelets to pay.
After Rebecca had watered the camels for
Abraham's servant, the Bible says that he paid her in this way. "And
it came to pass, as the camels had done drinking, that the man took a
golden earring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of
ten shekels weight of gold." Genesis 24:22.
When the children of Israel brought an
offering to the Lord to build the tabernacle, they used the jewels they
had received from the Egyptians. It was their money. "And they came,
both men and women, as many as were willing hearted, and brought
bracelets, and earrings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold: and
every man that offered offered an offering of gold unto the Lord."
There is obviously nothing wrong with having
money. But the question is, does God want Christians to wear their wealth
for all to see? Of course not. "The love of money is the root of all
evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the
faith." 1 Timothy 6:10. Since it is a sin to covet, why would you
want to entice a brother or sister to covet your money by wearing it for
all to see? What could possibly be the motive for a Christian to do this?
The reason gold and jewels are so valuable is
that they are rare and expensive to mine from the earth. Angels must
marvel when they see us put on jewelry to signify value and wealth. In
heaven, gold is used for pavement, and diamonds are the stones that form
the walls of its mansions! Just think of it. From heaven's perspective,
gold is asphalt and diamonds are blocks! How silly it must appear to
heavenly beings when we dangle asphalt and bricks on our ears and wrap
them around our fingers. Wouldn't you look twice if someone walked into
your church next week wearing a black asphalt pendant and a matching tar
In evangelism, I've met many sincere people
who had attended the popular churches in their towns only to turn away
disappointed because they discerned a spirit of pride and display among
the members. These genuine seekers of God entered the sanctuary hoping to
find a church home, but instead they found extravagance with which they
could not compete.
How happy I've been to offer them a church
where the wealthy and the poor choose not to parade their status by
wearing fancy clothing and jewelry. These individuals have been thrilled
to worship where they don't feel that they're looked down on if they don't
wear the latest fashions. I hope that my church will always stay with the
Bible truth on this subject. We have too much to lose otherwise.
Those who seek to justify the wearing of
jewelry usually point to Bible stories in which God's children wore gold,
silver, or jewels. For example, the Scriptures report with no comment that
Joseph wore a ring and "a gold chain about his neck" (Genesis
41:42), that Saul wore a bracelet (2 Samuel 1:10), that Mordecai was given
a ring by Ahasuerus (Esther 8:2), and that King Belshazzar gave Daniel a
scarlet robe and "put a chain of gold about his neck" (Daniel
But, remember, just because we see something
done in Bible times does not mean that God condoned it. The Scriptures
simply record a faithful history of God's people-including all their
failures. Noah drank wine and became drunk (Genesis 9:20, 21). Lot had sex
with his daughters and got them pregnant (Genesis 19:30-38). Judah hired a
prostitute for a night, impregnated her, and later discovered she was his
daughter-in-law (Genesis 38:12-26). We cannot assume that God condones
such unsavory practices just because these incidents were mentioned in the
Bible. Other passages of Scripture clearly tell us that God condemns
alcohol, incest, prostitution, and jewelry as anti-productive to
accomplishing His purposes for humanity.
One story that is often cited to justify
jewelry is that of the prodigal son. Since the father "put a ring on
his hand," some say that we can assume God wants us to wear jewelry.
Obviously, as we've just seen, this parable is not an inspired comment on
whether Christians should wear rings. Furthermore, the ring the father
gave his son was most likely a signet ring. Signet rings contained the
family seal. People used them to press this unique seal onto official
documents. It was the family's signature. Rather than an ornament for
display, signet rings were a tool for officiating documents and were
usually worn on the index finger.
Before the prodigal son left home, he asked
his father for his share of the inheritance. Once he received his money
and goods, he left home to spend it all on "riotous living."
Luke 15:13. Out of money and destitute, the foolish prodigal later found
himself flat broke, hungry, and poorly clad. In desperation he returned
home, trusting in the goodness of his father to at least take him in as a
servant. The prodigal felt that he no longer deserved to be a son, since
he had squandered half of his father's hard-earned savings.
But instead of rejection, his father showed
him unlimited acceptance. He replaced the prodigal's rags with a
comfortable and clean robe and put shoes on his bare feet. He filled his
son's empty stomach with a feast. And to the son who just wasted his
riches, this father gave the signet ring-the family checkbook- with free
access to his remaining fortune.
Be a Stumbling Block?
One reason I do not drink any alcohol is
because one person in seven who imbibes will eventually become an
alcoholic. Even though I might be able to drink moderately, I do not want
my bad example to cause another person's downfall-especially for something
so unnecessary as intoxicating beverages.
The same principle holds true for jewelry. We
have all seen people who cover themselves with gold and precious
jewels-gem-aholics, if you will. Most people who wear lots of jewelry do
not sense their personal worth. They hope to feel more valuable by
covering themselves with expensive articles. Others believe they are
unattractive and hope to increase their perceived beauty by adorning
themselves with beautiful gems. They can't control themselves. They think
that if one is good, then 10 would be better. (Just for the record, I have
never heard a man say: "Isn't she beautiful? Just look at her
jewelry!") I'm sure everyone would agree that there is a point when
enough is enough!
Well, here is the big question. What is that
point? If it's okay for women to wear earrings, then who is to say it's
wrong for men? If one ring or earring is acceptable, then why not three or
four? If the laymen can wear jewelry, why not the clergy? If a ring in the
ear is all right, then what's wrong with a bone in the nose?
Perhaps you have noticed the modern craze of
body piercing. Four earrings in one ear and rings in the nose with a chain
between them. People are now piercing their flesh and wearing rings in
their eyebrows, navels, tongues, and other places we can't mention in a
Christian publication. Why would a Christian want to be a stumbling block
for someone else and encourage this trend by wearing any jewelry? It's all
unnecessary. Especially for people who are preparing to meet Jesus.
Speaking of people living in the time of the
end, the prophet Ezekiel warns, "They shall cast their silver in the
streets, and their gold shall be removed: their silver and their gold
shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord:
they shall not satisfy their souls, neither fill their bowels: because it
is the stumblingblock of their iniquity." Ezekiel 7:19.
If I were to wear any jewelry, I would
instantly open the floodgates of inconsistency by my example and cause
many to stumble. If I really love my brother, why would I insist on taking
that risk for something so frivolous and unnecessary as jewelry?
Whenever you are unsure about which course to
take on a spiritual issue, take the safe position. I know that on the
judgment day, God will not condemn anyone for not wearing enough jewelry.
So the safe thing is to not wear any.
The original purpose for clothing was to
cover the nakedness of our first parents. Adam and Eve never would have
dreamed of hanging gold or silver on their bodies to accent their fig
leaves! Clothing was for modesty and to protect them from the changing
climate. Someday God will place a golden crown of victory on the brow of
the overcomers. Yet even then the saved will remove their golden crowns in
God's presence (Revelation 4:10, 11).
Notice what God told the prophet Isaiah about
jewelry and fancy clothing. "Moreover the Lord says: 'Because the
daughters of Zion are haughty, And walk with outstretched necks And wanton
[seductive] eyes, Walking and mincing [swaying] as they go, ...' In that
day the Lord will take away the finery: The jingling anklets, the scarves,
and the crescents; The pendants, the bracelets, and the veils; The
headdresses, the leg ornaments, and the headbands; The perfume boxes, the
charms, and the rings; The nose jewels, the festal apparel, and the
mantles; The outer garments, the purses, and the mirrors; The fine linen,
the turbans, and the robes." Isaiah 3:16-23, NKJV. A woman in Bible
prophecy symbolizes a church. In this prophecy, the women (churches) were
to be severely judged because of their pride, which is directly connected
with external adornment.
Because we wrestle with sin and temptation,
now is not the right time to glorify our exteriors. The supreme goal of
the Christian is to attract attention to Christ, not to self. Decorating
our mortal bodies with glittering gems and minerals usually springs from
pride and is diametrically opposed to the spirit and principles of Jesus.
"And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles
himself will be exalted." Matthew 23:12.
Pride of appearance was a large factor in
Lucifer's fall and rebellion. When God originally created Lucifer as a
perfect angel, He gave every precious stone as his garments-"the
sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the
sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold." Ezekiel 28:13.
Unfortunately, Lucifer chose to
misappropriate God's gifts. Filled with pride, he decided he was beautiful
enough to have God's place on the throne of the universe. "Thine
heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom
by reason of thy brightness." Ezekiel 28:17. Pride led to rebellion.
Rebellion led to war in heaven. And war in heaven led to sin on earth.
Ever since Adam and Eve's fall into sin, we
humans have had to struggle with the same sinful nature that has pride at
its root. God, therefore, has commanded us to not wear jewelry. In our
sinful condition, we are no better able to resist the tendency to sinful
pride than was Lucifer. When our physical bodies are changed at the second
coming of Jesus, we will no longer be tempted to sin. Only then will Jesus
consider it safe to place a crown of gold on our heads.
So until then, we would do well to follow the
counsel given by the apostle Paul on the subject of adornment: "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, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with
good works." 1 Timothy 2:9, 10, NKJV.
Christians are to be faithful stewards of the
means God entrusts to their care. Some display gems on their bodies that,
if sold, could build an entire church in the mission field. Our money
should be spent to spread the gospel in a practical, effective way. The
Lord asks, "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not
bread?" Isaiah 55:2. (See also Matthew 6:19-21.)
No doubt you will find glaring examples among
church members (and in churches) where money has been squandered on some
needless extravagance. I confess that I too have been guilty of this. But
one inconsistency never justifies another. God's money should not be spent
for parading diamonds and gold or even cheap costume jewelry. All the
jewelry will melt when Jesus comes, and I would prefer not to be wearing
any when that happens!
The Bible declares the folly of such
"investments" in James 5:3: "Your gold and silver is
cankered [corroded]; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you,
and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together
for the last days." The only valuables going to heaven will be
When I present the Bible truth regarding
jewelry, I rarely hear complaints from those who are newly converted. But
the folks who have been in the church for years will often pout and argue,
"Doug, it is such a little thing!" My response is, "If it
is such a little thing, then why is it so hard for you to take it
off?" A little gold or silver can become a big idol.
Perhaps the most striking demonstration of
this fact was the experience of the Israelites with the golden calf. The
Bible records: "And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden
earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your
daughters, and bring them unto me. And all the people brake off the golden
earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he
received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after
he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel,
which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." Exodus 32:2-4.
When the children of Israel passed the
offering plate, they had enough jewelry to make a small calf. I fear that
if we were to pass the plate today in the churches of those who profess to
follow God's Word, we would have enough jewelry to make a whole golden
After the golden calf experience, God
commanded the people to remove their jewelry lest they be consumed.
"For the Lord had said unto Moses, Say unto the children of Israel,
Ye are a stiff-necked people: I will come up into the midst of thee in a
moment, and consume thee: therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee,
that I may know what to do unto thee. And the children of Israel stripped
themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb." Exodus 33:5, 6.
Notice the similar warning God gives to His
people living in the last days: "In that day a man shall cast his
idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for
himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; To go into the clefts of
the rocks, and into the tops of the rugged rocks, for fear of the Lord,
and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the
earth." Isaiah 2:20, 21.
for the Occasion
There was a time when God winked at the
wearing of jewelry and other evils such as slavery and polygamy. It was
not because He approved of these practices, but because His people had
bigger problems to deal with at that point in time.
Acts 17:30, 31 tells us: "And the times
of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to
repent." Why? "Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he
will judge the world in righteousness."
We are living in the days just before the
coming of Jesus-a time in which the church is being judged. "For the
time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God." 1 Peter
As an illustration of the judgment process,
God gave to His people the Day of Atonement. It fell on the tenth day of
the seventh month in the Jewish year and was a solemn day on which the
Lord would sanctify and judge the children of Israel. In preparation, the
people conducted a thorough personal examination. They were filled with an
attitude of confession, repentance, and humility. "For it is the Day
of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God. For any
person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from
his people." Leviticus 23:28, 29, NKJV.
On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest-who
normally wore a jeweled vest and fine garments that were symbolic of the
glories of heaven-changed into a simple, white linen robe. It is his plain
dress that we should emulate, because we live during the prophetic Day of
Atonement. Just as the entire camp of Israel was required to clean and
change their clothes on Judgment Day, so are we who live in the judgment
hour just before Jesus returns to earth called to purify our hearts and to
separate ourselves from all pagan influences.
Other Bible stories further illustrate how
people changed their dress when they prepared to meet God. Here is one
from Genesis 35:1-4: "And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to
Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared
unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother. Then Jacob
said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the
strange [foreign] gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your
garments: And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an
altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me
in the way which I went. And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods
which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears;
and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem."
We can learn two very important lessons from
this story. First, notice that the foreign gods and jewelry were
classified and buried together. Pagan worship and jewelry have always
enjoyed a close association. And in order for Jacob and his household to
commune with God, they had to abandon all such influences. Thus God
ordered Jacob to make not a temporary removal of these articles, but a
Secondly, the word Bethel means "House
of God." We are now living in the time of judgment and are preparing
to meet with the Almighty in His heavenly house. Now is not the time to
adorn our mortal exteriors. Before we go there, God wants us to separate
from the things of this world that will compromise our relationship with
Him. "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith
the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you." 2
Are God's Temple
The most beautiful building of antiquity was
the temple of God built by King Solomon. Its exterior was covered with
precious, pure white marble stones. Interestingly enough, the gold was on
the inside of the temple. The Bible says that this is a good pattern for
living temples, as well. "Your beauty should reside, not in outward
adornment-the braiding of the hair, or jewelry, or dress-but in the inmost
centre of your being, with its imperishable ornament, a gentle, quiet
spirit, which is of high value in the sight of God." 1 Peter 3:3, 4,
NEB. Like Solomon's temple of old, our gold should be on the inside!
Friend, your body was made by God in His
image. To try to improve human appearance by poking holes in the ears or
nose from which to dangle lifeless minerals would be like trying to
improve on the perfect beauty of Solomon's temple by releasing a street
gang in the marble courtyard and telling them to express themselves with
spray paint. "And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?
for ye are the temple of the living God." 2 Corinthians 6:16.
I believe angels turn away their faces and
weep when professed Christians pierce, scar, chain, mutilate, and tattoo
their bodies as a sacrifice to the gods of fad and fashion. God plainly
says of His people: "They shall not make ... any cuttings in their
flesh. They shall be holy unto their God." Leviticus 21:5, 6. And if
God says we should not cut our bodies, what makes us think that piercing
the ears is somehow permissible?
"Know ye not that ye are the temple of
God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the
temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which
temple ye are." 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17. In essence, you should not
poke holes in priceless marble. Our bodies are to be holy, not full of
The Bible principles against the wearing of
jewelry have been a blessing to God's cause. They are liberating to the
members. God's people have more money to spend on sharing the gospel and
relieving the needs of suffering people. They are freed from feelings of
insecurity. No longer do men need to worry about whether the ring they
give their wife or girlfriend is large enough or makes a big enough social
statement. And women don't have to invest an ounce of emotional energy in
comparing their jewelry with others. God's standard has been a tremendous
blessing, and we need to keep it!
Appearances Do Count!
Two symbolic women appear in Revelation
chapters 12 and 17. They represent the two great religious powers that are
in conflict throughout church history. Although neither of them ever
speaks, we know that one is true and one is false. How? The primary way
the Bible identifies who they are is by what they are wearing.
Revelation 12:1 says, "And there
appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the
moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars." The
first woman, who represents God's church, is wearing natural light. His
church is clothed with the pure, unadulterated light that He made.
By contrast the second woman, who represents
an apostate church, is bedecked with jewelry and fine apparel. Her beauty
is external and artificial. Revelation 17:4 says, "The woman was
arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious
stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations
and filthiness of her fornication."
Obviously these things are associated with an
appearance of evil, and we are commanded to "Abstain from all
appearance of evil." 1 Thessalonians 5:22.
Jesus Himself commanded: "Let your light
so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your
Father which is in heaven." Matthew 5:16. God's Word tells us to let
our inner light (not our external jewels) shine so that others might see
our works (not our wealth) and glorify God (not ourselves).
At this point someone might be wondering,
"What about a wedding ring?"
Very simply, support for the wedding ring
cannot be found anywhere in Scripture. The Bible doesn't say that some
rings can be worn and that others shouldn't. It simply includes rings in a
long list of jewelry and ornamental clothing.
The wearing of wedding rings is strictly a
tradition that springs from paganism and has since been embraced and
"baptized" by many churches. Cardinal John Henry Newman points
out that the wedding ring, along with many other pagan customs,
infiltrated Christianity through the compromising influence of his church.
"The use of temples, and these dedicated to particular saints, and
ornamented on occasions with branches of trees; incense, lamps, candles;
votive offerings on recovery from illness; holy water; asylums; holy days
and seasons, use of calendars, processions, blessings on the fields;
sacerdotal vestments, the tonsure, the ring in marriage, turning to the
east, images at a later date ... are all of pagan origin, and sanctified
by their adoption into the Church."1
Of course, today we have found the wedding
ring to be a deeply ingrained tradition. But if sincere seekers of God's
will study this topic and are convicted to remove all jewelry, God will
give them the grace to follow Him above tradition. "And he [Jesus]
said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may
keep your own tradition." Mark 7:9.
Is Our Example
I've also been asked many times if wearing a
cross would be okay. Well, Jesus never asked us to wear the cross. He asks
us to bear the cross. Taking up our cross and following Jesus is much more
challenging than wearing a bumper sticker, tee shirt, or little golden
cross as frivolous advertising. Jesus said that bearing the cross means a
Christian will "deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow
me." Luke 9:23.
Whenever in doubt, ask this question:
"What would Jesus do?" If we follow Jesus, we are always safe.
Personally, I cannot picture my Jesus drilling holes in His ears, nose, or
anywhere else in order to hang glittering minerals from His extremities.
The example of Jesus in the Scriptures is consistently one of practical
simplicity and modesty. When He was crucified, the Roman soldiers divided
his garments among themselves. Notice that they did not cast lots for His
jewelry. He didn't have any. Instead, they had to settle for His most
valuable piece of clothing-a modest, seamless tunic (John 19:23, 24).
Here is a message that bears repeating. When
we love Jesus, we will want to follow His example. "He who says he
abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked." 1 John
In the small town where I used to live, there
was a house that was well known for its dilapidated appearance.
Broken-down trucks, garbage, and miscellaneous junk cluttered the yard.
The peeling paint, broken windows, and hungry yard dogs were an
embarrassment to the entire community. Then one day, after taking an
extended trip, I drove back through town and was stunned by the dramatic
change that had come over this infamous structure. The old, peeling paint
had been stripped off, and a beautiful natural stain now covered the wood.
Clean, new windows had replaced the broken ones, and all the junk and old
vehicles were gone! The yard was clean and covered with new grass. I
didn't even have to ask what had caused the change. Instantly I knew that
the house had a new owner.
All of us have at one time or another
resembled that old, broken-down house. Sin reigned in our hearts, leaving
us broken, filthy, and cluttered. But whenever a person allows Jesus to
take over the heart, a cleansing process begins immediately. Jesus will
remove those things that distract from the Christian's inner beauty, and
people will notice the outer improvement as well!
Jesus laid aside His heavenly throne and
crown when He came to our world to save us. Then He surrendered His
earthly garments when He died on the cross for our sins. Is it too much
for Him to ask us to lay aside our lifeless baubles and beads that we
might better reflect His simple purity in this lost world?
As we have seen in this study, there are many
good reasons for Christians to abstain from wearing jewelry. But if I had
to pick two of the best, it would be these-love for God, and love for our
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by
the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy,
acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not
conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your
mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect,
will of God." Romans 12:1, 2.
Article Two: Colorful Cosmetics and Jewelry
FIRE ESCAPE RELIGION One of the most frequent and mistaken complaints that
people make against religion is that it is too restrictive. In this
permissive age when all the emphasis seems to be upon "doing your own
thing," an unreasonable attitude of self-will has developed. This
attitude has even intruded into religion. Church members and non-members
seem to be in quest of the same thing: a religion which does not interfere
with personal rights and freedom. Suspicion is aroused instantly against
any doctrine which demands the "giving up" of anything.
As this liberal spirit has grown stronger,
many church members have turned more and more critical of the high
spiritual standards upheld by the church. Obviously embarrassed by the
widening gap between the church and the world, and unwilling to meet the
social stigma of being a "peculiar" minority, these members have
sought to justify their compromise in the area of Christian standards.
They often argue that the church is being narrow and legalistic and that
many fine people are being discouraged from joining the church by this
"arbitrary imposition of rules."
If these complaints are valid, then some
basic changes surely need to be made in the doctrine of the church. If
they are not valid, then we desperately need to know how to present the
standards of Christian conduct in their true biblical setting. In other
words, we must definitely establish whether these rules were made by God
or by the church. We must also find out if they are arbitrary prohibitions
or God's loving regulations for our own happiness.
In contrast to the popular revolt against any
absolute law of individual conduct, we must consider the Bible facts about
the Christian life in general and morals in particular. How compatible are
these modern demands for personal freedom with the standards of God's
Word? Let us suppose that the true biblical position could be presented
with all the love and persuasion of an angel from heaven. Would the truth
be easy for anyone to accept?
Let's face it. The path to eternal life is
not a soft, flowery way of ease. Jesus laid such emphasis upon this in so
many texts that we cannot be blind to it. He said, "Strait is the
gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be
that find it." Matthew 7:14. One of the very first principles of
being a Christian is self-denial. Christ said, "If any man will come
after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow
me." Luke 9:23. To be a Christian involves complete surrender. Our
Lord's parable of the pearl and the merchantman reveals that we must be
willing to invest every single thing we have in obtaining that tremendous
prize of eternal life. If we allow one thing or one person to come between
us and doing the will of Christ, we cannot be saved.
Have we been guilty of discounting the price
of discipleship so that people will not feel that the path is too narrow
and restrictive? Jesus said, "Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh
not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:33. The rich
young ruler was told by Jesus that he lacked only one thing in his
preparation for heaven, but that one thing he was not willing to do. He
would have to surrender his wealth in order to be saved, but he was not
willing to give it away. He loved something more than he loved the Lord,
and he went away sorrowful and lost. The position of Christ was so strong
on this point that He even said, "He that loveth father or mother
more than me is not worthy of me." Matthew 10:37.
Now, I believe that we should search for the
kindliest, most tactful and loving way to present the claims of Christ to
men and women. But I also believe that it will make little difference how
it is presented if individuals have no love for the Lord Jesus. The fault
does not lie with the message; some of the fault lies with the preachers
in the way they present it, but much of the fault lies in the attitude of
the complaining Christian who feels rebellious against the truth because
it requires a degree of self-denial.
Let me illustrate how personal feelings and
attitude can make all the difference in the world. Marriage is the most
restrictive experience that any human being can voluntarily assume in this
world, aside from his spiritual commitment to Christ. The man promises to
surrender many of his former attachments and practices. He yields up his
freedom to date other girls, and solemnly binds himself to that
one-and-only for the rest of his life. The bride also makes similar
restrictive pledges, and agrees to forsake all others in her devotion to
the man at her side. The wedding vows are undoubtedly among the most
narrow, rigid commitments any human being can make in his lifetime. If
restrictions and rules are the cause of so much misery, then weddings
should be the most miserable, unhappy experiences for all concerned. But
not so! They are the happiest events. Why? Why is the bride so radiant as
she stands up to pledge her very life away to the groom? How can the man
be so happy to make the promises which will inhibit his activities for the
rest of his life? The answer is simple. They love each other. It is their
attitude and feeling toward each other that makes the restrictions a joy
Have you ever heard a bride complaining after
the ceremony? Probably no one has ever heard her say bitterly, "Now I
can't date Jim and Andy anymore. It's not fair. The State is forcing me to
be faithful to my husband. This married business is too restrictive."
No, you've not heard that. Neither have you heard a new bridegroom
complaining that he is now compelled to give part of his salary to support
his wife. True, the law demands that he do it under penalty of
imprisonment, but he is not even conscious of the law. Public opinion is
ready to condemn the bride if she commits adultery, but she doesn't even
think of such a possibility. They are in love, and love changes
everything. They are not being faithful because of fear of punishment or
reproach. They are being faithful because they want to please the person
whom they love so deeply.
The most miserable men and women in this
world are the ones who are married and no longer love each other. Here is
almost literally hell on earth. They chafe and complain about the
restrictions and impositions upon them. Similarly, the unhappiest church
members in all the world are those who are married to Christ through
baptism, and yet do not love Him. They are often bitterly blaming the
church and their instructors for imposing upon them their narrow,
But is it the religion or the pastors who are
at fault? The sad fact is that those people have never entered the
personal love-relationship which is the cornerstone of all true religion.
Many of them have learned the right texts for the Bible study course and
are quite able to explain the order of last-day events, but they have had
no personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Somewhere, and perhaps
everywhere, along the lines of the indoctrination they were not taught, or
did not choose to accept, the true basis of heart religion. It is not a
set of rules or a list of doctrines, but a deeply personal involvement in
a love affair with the man Jesus Christ.
The difficulty with millions of Christians is
their motive for being church members. They have a fire escape religion.
They do certain things only because they are afraid of the fire at the end
of the road. They serve the Lord fearfully because they tremble at the
thought of being cast into the lake of fire. No wonder they are long-faced
and miserable! What a perversion of the truth! Christians should be the
happiest people in the world - happier even than the newlyweds as they
leave the wedding chapel! The Christian should love the Lord even more
than he loves his own wife and family.
Do you think a home could be happy if the
wife prepared her husband's favorite dish each day because she feared he
might divorce her? Earthly relationships would collapse under this strain.
She prepares that dish because she loves her husband and wants to please
him. When his wife's birthday approaches, a loving, Christian husband
often watches and listens for an indication of what his wife would like to
have. And usually she doesn't have to hit him over the head to let him
know! He gladly buys her the gift because he loves her and wants to please
her. In the same way the Christian will be searching the Bible daily to
discover ways of pleasing the Lord. He will constantly be looking for
signs and indications of how to please the One he loves supremely. In the
Twentieth Century translation of the Bible, we read these words,
"Always be trying to find out what best pleases the Lord."
Ephesians 5:10. What a motto for every Christian! Indeed, this is the
supreme desire of those who love the Lord sincerely. No wonder Christ
summarized the first table of the law in these words: "Thou shalt
love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with
all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment." Matthew
The real reason some Christians chafe and
complain about the rules and the strictness is because they have only
enough religion to make them miserable. The scope of the Christian
"experience" is based upon a constant struggle to live up to the
rules - an effort to keep the law. Now certainly there is nothing wrong
with obeying the commandments of God any more than there is with a husband
obeying the state law to support his wife. But if the demands of the law
are the only reason for obeying it, then something is seriously wrong with
the Christian and with the husband. Love lifts the legal load and makes
delightful what could be a burden and strain.
A mother of three boys was having a terrible
struggle trying to enforce the laws of good grooming and cleanliness. Like
most little boys, these three resisted the rules about washing ears,
combing hair, and shining shoes. It was a daily battle which mother won
only through the long arm of authority and force. But one day the oldest
boy, in his early teens, walked out of his room looking the model of
impeccable neatness. Every hair seemed to be in exactly the right place,
and the shoes below the well-turned cuff were shining to perfection. The
mother almost fainted. Hardly able to suppress her surprise and delight,
she wisely decided to wait and watch for the answer to this turn of
events. The solution to the puzzle was not long in coming. The very next
day Mother learned that a new family had moved in down the block, and
there was a girl in the family. Perhaps the girl had not seen Johnny, but
he had already seen her and it had profoundly affected him. We'll not say
that it was love which changed his attitude toward the laws of good
grooming, but he definitely wasn't cleaning up from fear of mother's
enforcement any longer.
The point is that the Christian life is not
composed of just "do's" and "don't's." There are
restrictions, to be sure, in this spiritual marriage, just as there are in
physical marriage. But those restrictions are imposed by love which seeks
always and ever to please the object of the affections. Those Christians
who are in love with Christ are exuberant, beaming witnesses that this is
the way of true happiness. Unfortunately, there is a larger group of
church members who are miserably enduring what should be blissfully
enjoyed. They are bitter and complaining about not being able to eat what
they please or dress as they wish to. They blame the church for their
being forced to "give up" so many things. Their religion seems
much like the man with a headache. He didn't want to cut off his head but
it hurt him to keep it. Their joyless attitude seems to assume that their
religion is the product of some committee of gloomy preachers bent on
including all the prohibitive rules that could make men, women, and young
But is this true? What about the spiritual
principles which make up the doctrine which we call Christian Standards?
Is it an arbitrary church law that one should not attend the theater? Is
it God's decision or man's decision that dancing is improper for a
Christian? And what about the use of colorful cosmetics and jewelry - is
it pleasing to God or displeasing? The truth is that every point of our
faith and doctrine should be based soundly upon the principle of doing
God's will as revealed in the Bible. Love for Him will always provide the
question, How can I always be trying to find out what best pleases the
The answer to that question is found in
scores of Bible texts which give indications and clear signals on how to
please Him rather than ourselves. This is the only really relevant
question concerning any activity or practice. What does God think about
it? It doesn't matter what this preacher or that preacher thinks of it, or
what this church or that church believes about it. The great,
all-important question is this: Is it pleasing or displeasing to the Lord?
If we find texts which reveal that God doesn't approve, there should be no
further debate with the genuine Christian. We love Him too much to risk
displeasing Him. Our delight should be to find and execute those things
that please the One we love and to eliminate from our lives those things
that displease Him.
When people are in love they do not need to
threaten each other or lay down ultimatums. They constantly search for
ways to show their love and to please one another. Those who fulfill the
first and great command of Christ will not feel it a burden to obey. God
is searching for those who will be sensitive to the slightest indication
of His will. He is not pleased by those who must be constantly prodded
into line by fear of punishment. God says: "I will instruct thee and
teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine
eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no
understanding; whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they
come near unto thee." Psalm 32:8, 9.
Many Christians are
"bit-and-bridle" followers. They respond only to threats and
obey because of fear of punishment. God says, "I want you to be
corrected by a look from me." Only those who love Him supremely and
are watching for indications of His pleasure will recognize the loving
glance of correction. Searching the Bible with one purpose - to discover
what pleases Him - they will immediately obey the slightest revelation of
His will. This is the essence of true Christianity - ordering every
level of life in harmony with His revealed will, because of love.
With this little background on how to make
love the motivating factor in setting up Christian standards, we are now
prepared to illustrate how the principle operates in practice. Although
any one of the "conduct" standards of the church could be used,
let us choose one which has evoked considerable complaint - colorful
cosmetics and jewelry. Multitudes of sincere members have laid aside the
use of these artificial adornments "because the church says so."
This is a poor reason for doing anything in the Christian life. Hopefully,
after reading this chapter, the explanations about arbitrary church rules
on the subject will give way to personal conviction based on loving and
pleasing the Lord.
Repeatedly, pastors have faced the questions:
"What is wrong with my little wedding ring? Do you think God will
leave me out of heaven just because I wear this bit of jewelry?" My
own heart has been dismayed and troubled on many occasions over this
negative approach to Christianity. Please note what the question implies.
The questioner is obviously seeking to know how much he can get by with
and still make it to heaven. His attitude reflects a legalistic desire to
do only the things which are laid down as divine "do-it-or-else"
But this approach is wrong, wrong, wrong! The
true Christian will not ask, "How much do I have to do in order to
remain a child of God?" but rather, "How much can I do to please
Jesus whom I love?" This is the positive approach based on seeking
God's will on the question and loving Him enough to obey His will happily
as revealed in the Bible. Once this open-hearted, loving premise is
accepted, it remains only to search through the Scripture to find
indications of God's will concerning the use of colorful cosmetics and
ornaments. This we shall now proceed to do.
In Genesis 35:1-4, Jacob was told by God to
take his family to Bethel where they were to be presented at the altar of
the Lord. This was a very sacred spot to Jacob - the place of his
conversion in earlier days, after seeing the heavenly ladder in his dream.
But before they could be consecrated at that holy spot, Jacob told his
household to "put away the strange gods that are among you."
Verse 2. Apparently the family had picked up some of the heathen customs
in their tarrying in the land. There were certain objects which had to be
laid aside before they went up to the altar, because they were pagan
objects. Please notice, in verse 4, what these objects were: "And
they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and
all the earrings which were in their ears: and Jacob hid them under the
oak which was by Shechem." In Judges 8:24, we are assured that
earrings were worn by those who were Ishmaelites. The context strongly
implies that they wore ornaments as a mark of their apostasy from the true
God. Genesis 34 reveals that Jacob's sons had committed some grievous
sins, and Jacob was coming before God to make a solemn atonement for them
and for his family. It was a time of heart-searching and repentance.
Everything was done to make wrong right and to open the way for God's
blessing to come upon them. The custom of wearing heathen ornaments was
given up, along with the strange gods. The earrings were laid aside.
Under similar circumstances a reformation
took place in Exodus 33:1-6. A terrible apostasy had developed in the
previous chapter while Moses was in the mountain receiving the Ten
Commandments. A large number of the Israelites had worshipped the golden
calf, bringing plague and destruction which threatened the nation. Moses
called for them to repent in these words: "Consecrate yourselves
today to the Lord, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that
he may bestow upon you a blessing this day." Exodus 32:29.
In the next chapter, Moses went up to the
tabernacle to plead with God for the people, who were still adorned with
their heathen trappings from the day of indulgence and sin. The
instruction God gave for the restoration of Israel included a change of
dress, just as it had earlier in the case of Jacob and his family. God
said, "Say unto the children of Israel, Ye are a stiff-necked people;
I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee:
therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do
unto thee. And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their
ornaments by the Mount Horeb." Exodus 33:5, 6.
We are left in no doubt as to the attitude of
God concerning the wearing of those ornaments. God, who changes not, told
them to take off those things and present themselves for judgment, to
answer for their apostasy. It is of more than passing interest to note
that this prohibition was laid down in connection with their going into
the promised land. God said, "I will send an angel before thee; and I
will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite ... for I will not go up in the
midst of thee; for thou art a stiff-necked people." Exodus 33:2, 3.
It is significant that they were required to strip off the ornaments
before they could enter the promised land. Does this have anything to do
with us? Indeed it does. Paul assures us in 1 Corinthians 10:11 that
"all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are
written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are
come." He likens their Red Sea experience to baptism in verse 2, and
in verses 7 and 8 he refers to the great apostasy experience of Israel in
Exodus 32, when they made their golden calf. Then immediately he explains
in verse 11 that these things which happened to them were for "our
admonition." This can only mean that God's dealing with them over
their apostasy is to teach us something. His command for them to remove
the ornaments before going into the land of Canaan applies to us before
going into the heavenly Canaan. The parallel is obvious in the context.
The earliest record in existence concerning
the use of colorful cosmetics is found in 2 Kings 9:30. Many have
questioned the origin of the expression "painted up like
Jezebel." The answer is found in this text. "And when Jehu was
come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she painted her face, and tired
her head, and looked out a window." The history of that infamous
heathen queen, who put hundreds of God's prophets to death is well known
to Bible students. To trace the biblical origin of the custom to Jezebel
certainly casts an unholy shadow over the practice. But we shall see in a
moment that the use of colorful cosmetics was a consistent mark of heathen
women and unfaithful women throughout the Bible record.
Through the prophet Isaiah, God sent one of
the most scathing denunciations of jewelry that can be found anywhere in
the Bible. Nowhere do we find a more direct and unequivocal revelation of
God's feelings toward the wearing of ornaments. In Isaiah 3:16 God does
not generalize about ornaments, but gives a long list of specific articles
which were being worn by the "daughters of Zion." Now, let's
notice whether God, the same yesterday, today, and forever, was pleased
with the wearing of these things. "Moreover the Lord saith, Because
the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and
wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with
their feet ... in that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their
tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, ... the chains, and
the bracelets, and the mufflers, ... the ornaments of the legs, and the
headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings, The rings, and nose
jewels." Isaiah 3:16-21.
Let's pause in the midst of this recital and
ask the question, how will God take away these things? In the next
chapter, verse 4, we read, "When the Lord shall have washed away the
filth of the daughters of Zion ... by the spirit of judgment, and by the
spirit of burning." Don't overlook the fact that God refers to all
these objects of adornment as "filth." He further describes most
graphically the ones who survive the "washing away" of the
ornament, "In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and
glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for
them that are escaped of Israel. And it shall come to pass, that he that
is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy,
even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem." Isaiah
In bold, clear strokes the prophet reveals
the abhorrence of God for the manifestations of pride in wearing
ornaments. After the washing away of those artificial baubles, God
describes the women as being "comely," "holy," and
"beautiful." Apparently, He does not appraise beauty in the same
way that we do. The women put on all their jewelry to make themselves
beautiful, but God said it was filthy. When it was all washed away, He
said they were comely and beautiful. Do not miss the extreme significance
of this truth. God uses that word "comely" to describe His
Bride, the Church. "I have likened the daughter of Zion to a comely
and delicate woman." Jeremiah 6:2.
As if to reinforce His assessment of the
inordinate pride displayed in His people, God made the following
observation: "The shew of their countenance doth witness against
them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto
their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves." Isaiah 3:9.
No question is permitted to remain about the shamefulness of outward
It will be well to take note at this point
that God identified rings as part of the "filth of the daughters of
Zion." What kind of rings was he talking about? High school seniors
will answer immediately, "My class ring is symbolic of my being a
senior. It's not worn as an ornament. God was talking about other kinds of
rings." The Mason will defend his masonic ring in almost the same
words: "God wasn't talking about my ring. It simply represents my
belonging to the Lodge." And then there are the birthstone rings, the
engagement rings, and the wedding rings - they also have symbolic
meanings. How easy to justify the one we happen to be wearing, and to
claim that God was not talking about that one. But how do we know God
wasn't talking about the very one we are wearing? Would it not be
presumptuous to feel that God makes an exception for the one we are
wearing, just because we don't want to give it up?
What did God mean when He said
"rings?" Did He mean only certain kinds of rings?
I asked my mother a similar question one day.
You see, she had forbidden me to take any icing off the cake after it was
frosted. I was permitted to "lick the pan" by scraping up all
that Mother left in the bottom of the container, but it was a law of the
house that I could not remove any from the cake.
But one day Mother went to the store and left
me alone with a beautiful, fresh-made chocolate cake in the middle of the
table. I watched the luscious icing ooze down the side of the cake and
collect on the rim of the plate. The temptation was too great, and I
quickly scraped up all that excess icing on my finger - but not quickly
enough. Just at that moment Mother walked through the door.
Believe me, Mother hauled me off to the
bedroom very quickly while I tried to forestall the inevitable. I still
remember the crux of my fast talk to escape punishment. Mother said,
"I told you never to take any icing off the cake." Triumphantly
I replied, "But you didn't say chocolate cake."
Somehow my wise Mother was not the least
impressed with that bit of sound juvenile logic. I wonder how it might
sound to our all-wise heavenly Father when we say, "But you didn't
say wedding ring." And that is true. Mother just said
"cake," and God just said "rings," and to quibble over
what kind is but a childish attempt to justify our obvious violation of
God's revealed will.
After all, why are we searching the Bible on
the subject? Are we not trying to find out what best pleases the Lord? We
are not seeking for ways to get around what pleases Him. Our sole purpose
is to find His will in order to do it. We love Him too much to risk
displeasing Him. This is why the true Christian will not quibble over the
kind of ring, or seek a rationalization in going contrary to God's will.
Lay aside all rings. Isn't it patently obvious that if one symbolic ring
can be defended, then all symbolic rings can be defended? In no instance
do we find any biblical precedent for wearing a physical sign of marriage.
The history of the wedding ring is tainted with pagan sun-worship and
papal superstition. Not one argument put forward in its favor carries any
weight in comparison to the one great fact that it is not pleasing to
the Lord! A carnal Christian could argue that it is not clear that one
will be lost for wearing a ring. But the Christian who loves God supremely
will answer that it is enough to know that it displeases our Lover and
Incidentally, history gives us a very clear
picture of the relationship between early church apostasy and the
introduction of the wedding ring. The famous Catholic Cardinal, John Henry
Newman, described it in 1845 in his monumental book Development of
Christian Doctrine, p. 373: "Constantine, in order to recommend
the new religion to the heathen, transferred into it the outward
adornments to which they had been accustomed in their own. It is not
necessary to go into a subject which the diligence of Protestant writers
has made familiar to most of us. The use of temples, and these dedicated
to particular saints ... incense ... candles ... holy water ...
processions ... the ring in marriage, turning to the east, images
at a later date ... are all of pagan origin, and sanctified by their
adoption into the Church."
The prophet Jeremiah, like so many other Old
Testament writers, added more counsel concerning the type of people who
wore artificial ornaments. God moved upon those holy men to represent the
church prophetically as a woman. When God's people were backslidden, they
were portrayed by the prophet as a harlot or an unfaithful wife. Thus we
read texts like the following: "And when thou are spoiled, what wilt
thou do? Though thou clothest thyself with crimson, though thou deckest
thee with ornaments of gold, though thou rentest thy face with painting,
in vain shalt thou make thyself fair; thy lovers will despise thee, they
will seek thy life." Jeremiah 4:30.
Through Ezekiel, God symbolized His
apostatized people, Judah and Israel, by two harlots named Aholah and
Aholibah. His description of their bold ornamentation matched the lewdness
of their conduct. "And furthermore, that ye have sent for men to come
from far, unto whom a messenger was sent; and, lo, they came: for whom
thou didst wash thyself, paintedst thy eyes, and deckedst thyself with
ornaments." Ezekiel 23:40.
Hosea expresses the same thought when he
describes the hypocrisy of Israel. Again, the unfaithfulness was well
dramatized by a decorated woman. "And I will visit upon her the days
of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself with
her earrings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgat me,
saith the Lord." Hosea 2:13.
Over and over again, the Bible connects the
wearing of colorful cosmetics and jewelry with sin, apostasy and
heathenism. When they turned away from the Lord they put on the ornaments
which, as Isaiah said, "declare their sin." There is no lack of
texts which spell out the truth clearly and without equivocation - the
great God of heaven was displeased with those things, and used them to
symbolize departure from His will.
Turning to the New Testament, the picture
comes into even sharper focus. John, in the book of Revelation, describes
the scarlet woman of sin (symbolizing the false church) as "decked
with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand
full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication." Revelation
In contrast, the true church is depicted in
Revelation 12:1 as a beautiful woman clothed with the glory of the sun.
This woman is called the bride of Christ in Revelation 21:9. Notice that
no ornaments are worn by the bride of Christ. These types of the true and
the false religious systems also point out the estimate God places upon
the use of artificial adornment.
Two final texts from the writings of Peter
and Paul will reveal the firm, consistent views of the early church
concerning this practice. Both of these stalwarts occupied positions of
influence among the disciples, and their Spirit-filled letters represent
the unchallenged view of the apostolic church. Paul wrote, "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 (which becometh women professing godliness) with good
works." 1 Timothy 2:9, 10.
Peter wrote in much the same manner, except
that he especially addressed Christian women who had unbelieving husbands.
"Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if
any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the
conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation
coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of
plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not
corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the
sight of God of great price." 1 Peter 3:1-4.
These words of Peter contain counsel for
every Christian wife in the church today, and they deal with one of the
most perplexing problems that faces Christian women whose husbands are not
with them in the faith. How far should the believing wife go in trying to
please her unregenerate husband? To what degree should she compromise the
truth of God in little things to keep things smooth at home and possibly
to help win her husband? Peter's advice is simple and clear-cut. Don't
compromise truth and principle at all. Even if the wife is not permitted
to speak about her faith, she can win her husband by her "chaste
conversation." Other translations use the more proper term
"conduct" instead of "conversation."
But notice how the conduct of the Christian
wife will manifest itself. Peter asserts that she will win her husband
much more readily by laying aside the outward adornment. Surely the Spirit
of God anticipated the dilemma of the wife who feels that she needs to
wear a wedding ring to please her husband, even though she knows it does
not please the Lord. This text makes it exceedingly clear that God should
come first, and that such a decision also will do more to win the husband
than any other course. Hundreds of evangelists and pastors could bear
witness that this is true. The women who eventually lead their husbands
into the faith are the ones who hold firmly to the standard of God's word.
The ones who do not win their companions are those who will let down the
standard in little things to be more compatible with their unbelieving
This may seem contradictory, but the
practical results are demonstrable. As long as the wife is not living up
to all the points of her own belief, the husband figures that it must not
be very important. He cannot get excited about doing something which does
not even claim the full compliance of his sweet, Christian wife. But if
she does take a firm stand to please the Lord above all others, even in
the face of his own displeasure, the husband is deeply impressed that this
"religion bit" must be important. He probably will say nothing
about his true feelings. He may, in fact, affect great indignation, but
his respect and admiration will be secretly stirred by the firm,
conscientious stand of his wife.
We must anticipate right here the argument
that is advanced by the wives who are not inclined to part with their
wedding rings. They say, "I don't want to give up my ring because it
shows that I am married. I'm proud of my husband. I want everyone to know
that I'm married. I think marriage is a most sacred and important
thing." No one can find fault with these sincere sentiments. Every
wife should love her husband and be proud of him. Marriage is important,
and she should want everyone to know that she is married. But let's ask
this question: Is there anything in a person's life which is more
important than marriage? Yes, there is just one thing which is more
important than being married to a husband or wife and that is to be
married to Christ. The claims of Christ's love are the only claims which
should ever take priority over the love of husband and wife. In the light
of all the overwhelming Bible evidence, we have discovered that ornaments
are displeasing to the Lord, our Lover. It is true that the wedding ring
will tell everyone that the wife is married to her husband, but it will
also tell something else. It will tell that she has chosen to please her
husband even above the Lord Jesus. It will reveal that she is placing
someone else's will above the Bible-revealed will of God. As such, it
bears a wrong testimony to the world.
Some may object that such a conclusion is too
strong. Some are bound to say, "You are judging and testing my
Christianity by a little thing like a ring or an ornament." No, this
is not the case. It is love for God which is being tested, and the Bible
clearly points out the criteria for the test. That test not only involves
keeping the plainly revealed commandments of God, but also includes laying
aside everything else that we discover does not please Him. Here is the
evidence: "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep
his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his
sight." 1 John 3:22.
Please do not overlook the two things which
true Christians will always be doing. They obey the direct, overt
requirements that God lays down in His law, but they also go further by
searching out everything that would please Him. In other words, they will
obey the injunction to "always be trying to find out what best
pleases the Lord." Ephesians 5:10 (20th Century Translation). Jesus
exemplified and dramatized this divine principle in His own life and
teachings. He said, "The Father hath not left me alone; for I do
always those things that please him." John 8:29. The arbitrary
commandments are obvious even to a carnal man, but the little things that
please God are revealed only to the loving heart of the Christian who
searches the Word for indications of His will. It is a solemn fact that
those who will be saved at the coming of Jesus are symbolized by Enoch,
who "was translated that he should not see death ... for before his
translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God." Hebrews
11:5. Paul describes the glorious coming of Christ in 1 Thessalonians
4:16. In the same text he portrays the resurrection of the righteous dead,
and the catching up of the righteous living. But, speaking of those saints
who should be ready for translation, Paul said, I "exhort you by the
Lord Jesus ... how ye ought to walk and to please God." 1
Thessalonians 4:1. One of the marks of those who are redeemed out of the
earth is their willingness to please the Lord in everything.
Listen, if you know a certain thing is
pleasing to the Lord, and yet you refuse to do it, what are you really
doing? You are pleasing someone else above the Lord. You may say,
"But it's such a small, small thing." Of course it is a small
thing, but love is actually tested and proven by the little things we do
for one another. Ask any housewife if it isn't so. Her husband may give
her a washing machine on her birthday and she would appreciate it. But if
he brings home flowers in the middle of the week and says, "Honey,
let me dry the dishes for you," any wife will tell you that it means
more than the washing machine. Why? Because it reveals more of his true
feeling to do the little things than to do big things that are more or
less expected. God is pleased when we keep His Ten Commandments, but we
really show our love more by going beyond the commandments, to please Him
in the little things which are revealed in the Bible.
Right and wrong never have been, and never
should be, measured by the amount. It is the quality of sin, not the
quantity, which presents the largest problem to the Christian. The Bible
reveals the fact that colorful cosmetics, rings, etc. are displeasing to
the Lord. The word of God does not reveal that a certain quantity of
colorful cosmetics is wrong, or that a certain type or number of rings is
displeasing to Him. Even the smallest deliberate violation of the revealed
will of God is serious. It indicates an inward rebellion against placing
God first. The devil's favorite argument today is, "a little bit is
all right." This was Lot's foolish argument when he was ordered by
the angels to flee into the mountains. He begged for permission to go into
another city close by Sodom and Gomorrah. His argument was, "Is it
not a little one?" Genesis 19:20. Can you understand why he wanted to
go into another city after losing everything he had in Sodom? Yet the same
rationalization is used by many Christians today. They debate and quibble
over the size of their ring or the amount of the immodesty.
Satan is delighted to hear people trying to
decide just how much they should violate the will of God. Never forget
this: it is not the degree of the deviation from the Bible standard
which is so important, but it is the fact that there is a deviation
which constitutes the real problem. The size of the step is not the thing
of greatest importance but rather the direction in which the step leads.
Sometimes ministers are accused of making a
big issue out of the wedding ring, because they wait for the candidate to
remove it before being baptized. Actually, experience has proven that the
ring is not the problem at all. The ring is merely the symptom of a much
more serious problem - the lack of full surrender. When the heart is
yielded, and God is made first in the life, no convert will allow a little
ring to stand in the way of uniting with the body of Christ by baptism.
When love of Christ is stronger than love of self or husband or wife, then
nothing will stand in the way, least of all a small metal ring.
In this final chapter we shall give
consideration to another aspect of biblical evidence on this subject which
some consider to be the most persuasive of all. It answers the objection
raised by the few who are still unconvinced that jewelry is displeasing to
God. In the most explicit manner it demolishes the last stronghold of
defense for even the wedding ring.
Before moving into Paul's eloquent discourse
on this point, let us establish a fact which is well known to all who are
engaged in full-time soul winning. Those who persist in wearing their
ornaments, after becoming members of the church, have been responsible for
placing a stumbling block in the path of interested souls. Almost any
evangelist or pastor could break your heart with stories of men and women
who were turned back almost at the baptistry by the inconsistency of a few
church members. After being taught the full Bible truth about Christian
standards, these candidates are shocked to see church members, and
sometimes church officers, wearing rings or other adornment. Many drop
back in disappointment and refuse to join the church at all.
Someone is bound to object, "Well, they
should not be looking at people so much. They ought to accept the truth
because it is the truth." This is very good and true, but just
remember that we are dealing with souls who are searching for loopholes
around the unpopular message of the Bible. It is our business to close
every loophole patiently and meet every argument so that they finally
surrender in full obedience. The fact is that these people have a right to
expect the church to be practicing what it preaches. A few inconsistent
members can counteract months of prayerful study and preparation of
candidates on the part of the pastor. It isn't right that anyone should be
a stumbling block to another individual.
Paul penned the most solemn warning to those
who would discourage a single soul in their Christian growth. "Let us
not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no
man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother's
way." Romans 14:13. Jesus spoke out on the very same topic except
that He described the enormity of causing a child to stumble. Perhaps His
words will have more meaning for us if we read them with the children's
Sabbath School teachers in mind. "Whoso shall offend one of these
little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone
were hanged around his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the
sea." Matthew 18:6. Serious words indeed! But no more serious than
the offense it describes - the misleading of little children who look to
teachers as examples. How often have little girls questioned the Bible
standards about rings after seeing a ring on the finger of a favorite
In one particular church, a kindergarten
teacher who wore a wedding ring was idolized by a little girl in her
department. During the church service the child would often be permitted
to sit with the teacher and her husband. Since they had no children of
their own, the couple was delighted to have the well-behaved little girl
sit with them. She would usually occupy herself with things in the
teacher's purse, but being of an affectionate nature, she would cling to
the hand of her teacher much of the time. One Sabbath during the sermon,
the woman glanced down at the little girl and noticed she had slipped off
the wedding ring and placed it around her small finger. Somewhat
perturbed, she recovered the ring and put it back on her own finger.
Week by week, much to her chagrin, she
noticed how obsessed the tot seemed to be with the ring. She fondled and
caressed the ring and often tried to remove it unobtrusively, so that she
could slip it around her childish fingers. The growing fascination of the
little girl for the golden circle became an increasing concern to the
older woman. Knowing the Bible teachings about ornaments, her conscience
had not been at ease from the time she had started wearing the ring. Now
she was unable to enjoy the worship service, as she sought to divert the
girl's vain attention from the article of adornment.
At last she could bear it no longer. Under
deep conviction that she was placing a stumbling block in the path of the
child, she removed the offending ring once and for all. Later, she related
the experience to her pastor and described the feelings of guilt which
tormented her for placing temptation before the face of an innocent little
"But I don't see anything wrong with
rings. Why should I be a hypocrite and take them off just to impress
someone?" This is a question which Paul answers with devastating
effect in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13. That entire chapter is concerned with the
problem of foods offered to idols. The early church was seriously divided
over the issue. The Gentile Christians who had come in from paganism
believed that it was wrong to eat such meat. They remembered offering the
food in sacrifice to idols. Even though they were now Christians, they
still felt it was somehow giving allegiance to the idol to eat the food.
On the other hand, the Jewish Christians who had come into the church from
Judaism felt that the food was perfectly good to eat. Since the meat was
not "unclean" and since it was sold along with other meats in
the marketplace, the Jewish Christians bought it with no question of
The contention became so severe between the
two groups that Paul finally had to deal with it at considerable length in
1 Corinthians 8. Notice his decision in the matter: "As concerning
therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto
idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is
none other God but one. ... Howbeit there is not in every man that
knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a
thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.
... But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours becomes a
stumbling block to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast
knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of
him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to
idols; And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom
Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak
conscience, ye sin against Christ." Verses 4-12.
These tremendous verses, with their spiritual
focus on love for others, apply with even greater force to those who feel
at liberty to wear rings in the church. The application is stronger
because the ornaments are condemned by God, whereas the meats offered to
idols were not condemned. Still, Paul said it was a sin to eat such food
because it was a stumbling block, or hindrance, to someone else. Since the
rings have been stumbling blocks in the same way, to other fellow
Christians, we cannot escape the conclusion that such an offense is also a
"sin against Christ."
This brings us right back to the central
theme of this little book - love. Whether we are looking at
Christian standards from the viewpoint of loving and pleasing God or
loving our neighbor, the result is just the same. The whole idea is to put
self last of all. A religion based upon such love will not be satisfied
merely to fulfil the letter of the Ten Commandments but will search the
Word of God daily for indications of His will. As John reminds us.
"We keep his commandments, and do those things that are
pleasing in His sight." 1 John 3:22.
May I ask a question concerning what you have
read up to this point? Has it raised a doubt about the wearing of
ornaments? Does the evidence of all these verses, scattered through the
Bible, suggest that the practice is open to question? One couple said,
"We are not convinced yet that God would keep us out of heaven for
wearing a piece of jewelry." I asked them, "Even though you
don't feel you would be lost by wearing it, do the many texts raise at
least some question about the practice meeting the full approval of
God?" "Oh, yes," they said, "We cannot say that the
issue is not a bit cloudy." My next question was this: "Do you
think there is a 10 percent chance that wearing your ring could be
displeasing to God?" After thinking a moment, they both agreed that
there was at least that much chance that it was questionable. Then I asked
them this question: "As you stand on the brink of baptism and the
complete surrender of your lives to the Lord Jesus Christ, do you want to
run a 10 percent chance of displeasing the Lord who has laid down His life
Slowly they reached down and began to remove
their rings. "No," the husband said, "we don't want to run
the smallest chance of displeasing Him. We want to go all the way with
Jesus. Since there is a doubt, we'll give Him the benefit of the
I will not try to pretend that this kind of
surrender is easy. Jesus said, "If any man will come after me, let
him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me." Luke
9:23. Saying "No" to self is what the Master was talking about.
He was saying that everyone will have to battle it out with something that
self doesn't want to surrender. The individual who is coming to Christ and
learning His ways will have to deny self, or say "No" to
something that his whole nature craves to keep. That is what self-denial
means. Some people fail the test at one point, and others at a different
point. I have seen some who could not deny self on the point of money. To
obey God might jeopardize their job or cut their salary, and they were not
willing to say "No" to their love of money. Others had to give
up friends to go all the way in following Christ, and they were not
willing to deny themselves their friends. Appetite has stood in the way of
many who were not willing to deny themselves the alcohol, tobacco, or
unclean foods as required in the Bible. A few have failed the test on the
point of vanity and pride. They have been unwilling to deny themselves the
inordinate pride of dress.
It is always interesting to see how the truth
weeds people out of an evangelistic audience. No one drops out until we
present the claims of God which demand a change of life and practice. If
we did not preach all the counsel of God, most listeners would
gladly respond to the invitation. Struggle takes place when the truth
challenges a darling self-indulgence. The tests of the Sabbath, tithe, and
diet are all aimed at some element of the self nature. Many fail on each
of these points. But strangely enough, the greatest battle seems to ensue
when God's will touches the area of personal pride. Vanity is deep and
pervasive. Self-love has a thousand faces and exhibits itself in as many
Mark it down, somewhere along the line for
every soul the devil will use self to make a last desperate stand against
the will of God. Only those who love Christ with all their heart, soul,
and mind will be able or willing to make the 100 percent surrender to Him
that is required. The happiest people in the world are those who let
nothing stand in their way of pleasing God in everything.
It has already been mentioned that Christians
who live to please the Lord are the happiest people in the world. Jesus
said, "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as
I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things
have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your
joy might be full." John 15:10, 11. No wonder, then, that fully
committed Christians are so easily recognized. There is a holy radiance
and joy shining from within which even transforms the countenance.
Although they have laid aside the adornment of the world, they have put on
another adornment of the Spirit, which identifies them instantly. Some
women feel almost naked after removing their jewelry, but very soon they
recognize that God has replaced the artificial with the real. David wrote,
"They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not
ashamed." Psalms 34:5.
It is this "new look" of the
new-born Christian which has caused the world to marvel. For every evil
thing that is given up, the child of God receives a spiritual replacement.
As Paul said, "Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and
let us put on the armour of light." Romans 13:12. And please notice
how dramatic this exchange can be when it involves the clothes and
adornment of an individual. The bride of Christ receives special
attention. Isaiah contrasts the marriage dress of God's people with the
dress of the world. "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul
shall be joyful in my God; for he hath covered 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 61:10. When we are married to Christ and
take His name, we are not to adorn ourselves as worldly brides and
bridegrooms. We are joyfully to be clothed with the "garments of
salvation" and the "robe of righteousness." This is what
lightens the face, and presents the new radiant appearance which amazes
This vital point should be given careful
consideration. The face has much to say about a person's character and
experience. Our most powerful Christian witness may simply be the witness
of our shining countenance. One of the most convincing arguments I have
ever heard against the use of colorful cosmetics was based upon this very
fact. Frances Parkinson Keyes, the well-known Catholic author, explained
why she had never "touched up" her face or hair with artificial
adornment: "A quarter century of living should put a great deal into
a woman's face besides a few wrinkles and some unwelcome folds around the
chin. In that length of time she has become intimately acquainted with
pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow, life and death. She has struggled and
survived, failed and succeeded. She has lost and regained faith. And as a
result she should be wiser, gentler, more patient and more tolerant than
she was when she was younger. Her sense of humor should have mellowed, her
outlook should have widened, her sympathies should have deepened. And all
this should show. If she tries to erase the imprint of age, she runs the
risk of destroying, at the same time, the imprint of experience and
character." Words of Inspiration, p. 198.
What a tremendous truth is contained in that
statement! Christian women have a witness to bear by the expression of
their faces. Righteousness, dignity, purity, and calm faith in God - these
attributes are often clearly revealed by the countenance alone. Perhaps
this is what Jesus meant when He said, "Let your light so shine
before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father
which is in heaven." Matthew 5:16. The spiritual light and radiance
of an unadorned face may attract more attention to the religion of Jesus
Christ than a dozen sermons or Bible studies.
We have spent considerable time on the
subject of artificial adornment in order to demonstrate how love leads to
the Bible, to search out what pleases the Lord. We could just as well have
used other examples of Christian standards. The same principles provide
the motivation for seeking always to please Him in what we do about
dancing, movies, gambling, diet, and dress. It could be shown just as
clearly that these high standards of the church are not based upon any
committee actions of men, but upon the revealed will of God in His Word.
May God help us to find our greatest joy and delight in doing the things
that please Him.