What does the Bible say about wearing jewelry?

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The UPC, along with many other holiness groups, teaches against wearing jewelry. I know that when I was in the movement I took the teaching for granted. I think that many others did as well. If new converts asked questions then the general answer went something like this: “It’s an inward change of the heart that is reflected by an outward change of appearance; as Christians we are called to be separate from the world.” Alternatively, the new convert might be given a well-meaning lesson on respecting pastoral authority even if we do not “see it for ourselves.” If the person questioning is not a new convert then they are often judged as being “cold on God” or “lukewarm.” I am ashamed to admit that I was often guilty of judging people that way.

When I was part of the apostolic Pentecostal movement I happily went along with the doctrine of no jewelry without really questioning it. I had this vague idea that there was biblical support for it. There must be, right? Otherwise, why would we be teaching it? It was not until I began to question many of the doctrines of the UPC that I studied the no-jewelry doctrine for myself. When I did, I was surprised to find out that there is literally no biblical support for the doctrine. In fact, the Bible has more good to say about jewelry than it does bad!

In this article I will share some Scriptures and make some comments. I think that the Scriptures will speak for themselves, but hopefully you will find my comments beneficial. As always, I encourage you to study Scripture and formulate your own opinions.

What Do Holiness Organizations Say About Jewelry?

First, let’s look at what the UPC and a couple of other apostolic holiness organizations have to say about jewelry. The doctrinal section of the UPC’s Web site says:

[The Christian woman] has dedicated herself to the cause of Christianity. This manner of dedication avoids expensive, extravagant clothing and superfluous, ornamental jewelry, permitting only the functional use of a wristwatch and a wedding band to designate her wedlock1.

Their conclusion comes from these two passages: 1 Tim. 2:8-10 and 1 Pet. 3:1-5. I will come back to those Scriptures in a moment.

The Articles of Faith of the ALJC—an organization that allows its member churches more autonomy on how much jewelry they allow—also cites 1 Pet. 3:1-5 as “instruction to wives about their behavior and appearance.”2 They conclude that “Holiness is not only an inward presence of God but it is also reflected in the outward life of the Christian in his conduct in this world.” On the surface this is a very generic statement, and one that every Christian would agree with. In practice, though, the “outward life” is translated into a dress code.

The Articles of Faith of the WPF says:

The glory of the female believer is manifested, among other ways, through the emanation of the divine glory in her appearance (I Peter 3:3,4). All artifice is viewed as obstruction to her authentic beauty and is to be avoided (I Timothy 2:9,10). Jewelry, (I Timothy 2:9), make-up, (II Kings 9:3) dyes, and any other artificiality, as well as immodest apparel, are viewed as attempts to artificially induce beauty (Isaiah 3:16-24 RSV, I Peter 3:1-5) and replace the lost glow of God’s glory as seen in the face of the believer as well as in the heavens. All this is Scripturally associated with Jezebel, who is both an Old Testament (I Kings 18:4, 19:1-2, II Kings 9:7,30), as well as New Testament, example of seduction and artificiality (Revelation 2:20,22). Thus, “cosmetics,” derived from “cosmos” (arrangement, as in the universe) are attempts to “make-up” the sparkle and glow, which is normative in the presence of the living God as well as within the believer (Philippians 2:15)3.

It is clear that out of the three views the WPF’s is both the most restrictive and the one with the most Scripture citations. I could write an entire article responding just to the things that the WPF said in the above quotation (and I probably will). For now I would just like to point out two things. First, Jezebel was never condemned for her artificiality; she was condemned for trying to kill the prophets of God (Rev. 2:20). It is Western society that has associated Jezebel with extreme make-up and jewelry; that idea is not found in the Bible. Second, Phil. 2:14-15 is talking about not grumbling and disputing. The reason Paul says not to grumble and dispute is because we “appear as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15). To say that I think it is a logical stretch to teach that cosmetics are wrong because they make us sparkle and glow would be an understatement. (Come to think of it, I’ve never seen any cosmetics that make someone glow; I think it would be pretty cool.)

If we exclude the WPF’s connection between cosmetics and artificial glowing then it becomes apparent that there are only two passages that are used to support the no-jewelry (or limited jewelry) rule: 1 Tim. 2:8-10 and 1 Pet. 3:1-5. I will deal with those two passages in a moment, but first let’s look at some Scriptures that the holiness groups probably never showed you.

Some Scriptures Your Pastor Never Showed You:

Ezekiel 16:8-15, NASB
Then I passed by you and saw you, and behold, you were at the time for love; so I spread My skirt over you and covered your nakedness. I also swore to you and entered into a covenant with you so that you became Mine, declares the Lord God. Then I bathed you with water, washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. I also clothed you with embroidered cloth and put sandals of porpoise skin on your feet; and I wrapped you with fine linen and covered you with silk. 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. You ate fine flour, honey and oil; so you were exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. 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. But you trusted in your beauty and played the harlot because of your fame, and you poured out your harlotries on every passer-by who might be willing.
4

Song of Solomon 1:10-11, NASB
Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments, Your neck with strings of beads. We will make for you ornaments of gold With beads of silver.”

Pro 1:8-9 NASB
Hear, my son, your father’s instruction And do not forsake your mother’s teaching; Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head And ornaments about your neck.

Son 7:1 NASB
"How beautiful are your feet in sandals, O prince’s daughter! The curves of your hips are like jewels, The work of the hands of an artist.

Isa 61:10 NASB
I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Isa 49:18 NASB
"Lift up your eyes and look around; All of them gather together, they come to you. As I live," declares the LORD, "You will surely put on all of them as jewels and bind them on as a bride.

Now, when I read these Scriptures I asked myself a question: If jewelry is so sinful, then how come God repeatedly used it as an analogy of beauty? If it’s such a sin to wear jewelry then why would God promise to clothe people with "garments of salvation…as a bride adorns herself with jewels"? If jewelry’s a sin then isn’t God making some really, really bad analogies?

To put it another way, if jewelry is bad, then was God really saying, “I’m going to give my bride a bunch of jewels, and they’ll make her look really beautiful, but she’d better not wear them because they’re bad!” Or, “Wow, my bride rocks, the curve of her hips are like jewels! Too bad she can’t wear jewels because it’s a sin.”

Isn’t it a stretch to think that God would make these analogies if jewelry is bad?

Does the Bible Ever Say That Wearing Jewelry Is A Sin?

This is a really important question. You see, everything that is a sin in the New Testament was also a sin in the Old Testament Law (I.E. Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy). Let me say that again: Everything that is a sin in the New Testament was also a sin in the Old Testament Law.

Now, the converse is not true. Everything that was a sin in the Old Testament Law was not necessarily a sin in the New Testament. The reason is because the Mosaic Law was broken into three parts: Moral, Ceremonial, and Penal. The moral law was (for the most part) what we call the 10 Commandments, as well as commands against fornication, homosexuality, drunkenness, and so on; the ceremonial law involved the sacrifices, the foods that a person could eat, whether or not you could dig your donkey out of a ditch on the Sabbath, and things like that; the penal law gave the penalties for breaking the moral or ceremonial law.5

When Jesus came on the scene He fulfilled the ceremonial law and the penal law. He did not fulfill the moral law.6 Instead, He "put [His] laws upon [our] heart[s]" (Heb. 10:16 NASB).

I said all of that to say this: You cannot find a sin in the New Testament that was not also a sin in the Old Testament Law. The reason is simple–the Law defines sin! Paul put it this way: "I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "You shall not covet" (Rom. 7:7 NASB).

Now let’s get back to my original question: Does the Bible ever say that wearing jewelry is a sin? The answer is apparently “No.” The Bible never says that jewelry is a sin. For that matter, it has more good to say about jewelry than it does bad!

So What Does The Bible Say?

As I showed at the start of this article, the no jewelry (or limited jewelry) doctrine is defended by two Scripture passages: 1 Tim. 2:8-10 and 1 Pet. 3:1-5. Before we look at those passages, though, please allow me to make one brief point. If I thought that the Bible even hinted that jewelry is a sin then I would be one of the doctrine’s strongest defenders. When I was in the apostolic movement I never had any desire to wear jewelry; I never cared one way or the other. So please do not think that this article is about me wanting to wear jewelry, or me “rebelling,” or anything like that. Because it’s not.

With that said, let’s look at 1 Tim. 2:8-10 and 1 Pet. 3:1-5. Let’s do 1 Pet. 3:1-5 first.

1Pe 3:1-5 NASB
In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your 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, which is precious in the sight of God.  For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands.

Now, when presented with a passage such as this, we have two options. The first option is to assume that the author is presenting a principle, and that the examples that he uses to illustrate the principles are just that: examples. The second option is to assume that the author is laying down a set of rules, and that he expects people to take him literally. The one thing that is not an option is to take part of the passage literally and part of it figuratively—yet that is exactly what the UPC and other holiness organizations frequently do.

For example, if Peter expects us to take him literally then we need to do just that. If he is speaking literally, and he is laying down rules, then here is what we can glean:

  1. Peter is speaking only to wives. The things that he is saying do not apply to single women.
  2. Wives cannot braid their hair.
  3. Wives cannot wear gold jewelry (other kinds are presumably allowed).
  4. Wives must not wear dresses.

That is option one.

Option two is that Peter is using fancy hair styles, gold jewelry, and fancy clothes as examples because they help him make his point. If option two is correct then we can glean these principles:

  1. Peter is speaking specifically to wives—especially those who have unsaved husbands—but the principle can apply to us all.
  2. His principle is that we should not focus on our outer appearance—on our lavish hairdos, fancy clothes, and expensive jewelry—but we should instead focus on cultivating “chaste and respectful behavior.”

I will let you decide which of those two options is correct. All that I will say is that one of them has to be correct. I want to stress again that it is illogical and absurd to read this passage and pull one word out—jewelry—and teach that it is wrong while maintaining that braided hair and dresses are alright.

Now let’s look at 1 Tim. 2:8-10:

1Ti 2:8-10 NASB
Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension. Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.

We are once again presented with two options. Is Paul using braided hair, gold, pearls and costly garments as examples in order to make a broader point, or is he laying down a set of rules?

If he is laying down a set of rules then this is what we can glean:

  1. Men always have to lift their hands when they pray. Furthermore, they cannot lift their hands if there is any wrath or dissension in their heart.
  2. Women must dress modestly and discreetly.
  3. Women must not braid their hair.
  4. Women must not wear gold or pearls.
  5. Women must not wear costly garments.
  6. Women must wear good works (what store do you buy those in?).

There are a couple of problems with the first option. One might reasonably wonder how a woman can wear good works. On the other hand, if Paul is making a broader point, and he is just using braided hair, gold, pearls and costly garments as an example, then this is what we can glean:

  1. Men need to cultivate a holy attitude. When they pray they should examine their hearts and make sure that they are not harboring any wrath or dissension.
  2. Women need to do the same thing. They need to make sure that they are focusing on the inside and not the outside. They need to dress modestly and discreetly. If they are poor then they need to not worry about not having gold and pearls and servants to give them fancy hairdos, and they should be content that they can dress modestly. If they are rich then they should not focus on their gold and pearls and fancy hairdos—they might even want to consider getting rid of some of that and helping folks out who are in need. That’s good works, and that’s what a godly woman should be worried about.

Now you might disagree with my broader interpretation of what Paul is saying to women, and that’s fine if you do. But my original point remains the same. Either Paul is speaking literally or he is making a broader point using examples that were common for his day. It’s one or the other, it can’t be both at the same time. It makes no sense to say, “Paul said don’t wear gold or pearls but it’s OK if we braid our hair!” That makes no sense at all.

Conclusion

Do you see how ridiculous this gets? The UPC and associated organizations allow women to braid their hair, but they don’t allow them to wear most jewelry. They allow women to wear “costly dresses,” even though Peter said they shouldn’t wear dresses at all (if we take him literally). Most of them allow women to wear gold wedding bands, almost all of them allow gold watches, and every single one allows gold-rimmed glasses, but they won’t let them wear a silver necklace (even though neither Peter or Paul said anything about silver).

Folks, I have a name for this sort of teaching: Hypocrisy. Apostolic Pentecostal organizations have no problem taking Scriptures figuratively when it fits their agenda. They have no problem saying that when Stephen saw Jesus standing on the right hand of God he was speaking figuratively. They have no problem saying that Paul was giving a cultural command when he commanded (on four separate occasions) for brothers to great each other with a holy kiss. They have no problem saying that women can talk in church even though Paul specifically commanded against it.

And you know what? I agree with the UPC’s interpretation of those passages. I do think that the command for brothers to kiss each other was entirely cultural. I do think that Paul’s command for women not to speak in church was a command for order in the church, and the reason that he specifically commanded women not to speak was because of the cultural norms of his day. I do agree with the Oneness Pentecostals and Trinitarians when they say that God the Father does not have a physical body. Frankly, I don’t know what Stephen saw, but the one thing that I do not think he saw was two Gods. Two Gods is both logically and Scripturally impossible, and the Trinitarians would agree with me on that.

Folks, God gave us a brain…let’s use it! At some point we have to step back and look at a Scripture passage and capture the meaning as well as the words! If one steps back and just reads the passage with an open mind then it becomes clear that Peter and Paul were saying the exact same thing: Both men and women should be focused on cultivating inward holiness and not outward beauty! We should dress modestly and discreetly and avoid gaudiness and extravagance so that people can see our good deeds and our good behavior.

Conclusion:

If you are an apostolic woman reading this article, and you feel that God has led you to not wear jewelry, then I want you to know that I am not ridiculing you at all. You have my respect. My problem is not with you, it is with a religious system that creates man-made rules and regulations and then demands that people follow them. My problem is with a religious system that adds to the offense of the Cross. My problem is with any denomination, organization, or church that creates barriers between the lost and God.

You have heard my opinion of the subject, but if you would like to read “the other side of the story” then you can do so at these two links:

Additional Study:

Studying the subject of jewelry can be hard since different words were used (ornaments, ornamentation, pearls, etc.). If you would like to do your own study into the subject then here are a couple of links that I hope will be helpful!

  • ISBE – This is a link to the ISBE (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia) article on "Ornament."
  • Smith’s Bible Dictionary – A link to the "Ornaments, personal" article in Smith’s Bible Dictionary.
  • NASB word search – A link to the results of a search for the word "ornaments" in the NASB (New American Standard Bible).

References:

  1. United Pentecostal Church International – Modesty, Accessed 2006-12-22 []
  2. Assemblies of the Lord Jesus Christ, Accessed 2008-06-23 []
  3. Worldwide Pentecostal Fellowship, Accessed 2008-06-23 []
  4. New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995 []
  5. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia , James Orr, M.A., D.D., General Editor, "Law In the New Testament” []
  6. Ibid. []

185 thoughts on “What does the Bible say about wearing jewelry?

  1. Ezeani okeoma grace

    I wish above all things that the eyes of our understanding will be opened that we may see and know exactly what the word of God says concerning issues like this which has remained controversial for ages past. May the lord grant you more insight in his word. We all appreciate you

  2. Maria

    Thanks, this was helpful. I just received the hold ghost this past weekend and I have questions about the rules of APC as I was raised Catholic. There is so much to learn!

  3. Christina Maxwell

    Thank you for this wonderful article and for being obedient to post it. I truly have myself struggled with some of these issues and have friends who do also.

  4. inna levchenko

    Great article! I just wanted to make a comment about 1 Peter 3:1-5. It clearly says to not let yourselves merely (only, solely) focus on outward appearance. . But rather on spiritual. So it’s ok to still make yourself look good and presentable just don’t make that be your priority. Both are needed but the focus should just be on the spiritual aspect. God bless.

  5. Edward Tembo

    You can use scripture to your own destruction and be damned. When Eve was told to eat the fruit she was told your eyes will be opened and the author of this think they have a clear understanding but it’s just leading her to worldliness. Just because you find a scripture that says Judas hanged himself does not imply the Bible is in favor of that.
    Your new understanding will lead if not already to worldliness ! Check your photos of then and now and the difference will be seen.

  6. Nhlakanipho

    Do not interpret the bible with your own wisdom, but pray to the Lord to give you his wisdom and to open your ‘spiritual’ eyes

  7. Love

    The spiritual ornament of The Lord is not same as the physical. Also since the day that the children of Israel turned ornaments to gods and began to worship it as gods, the God of the universe hated it on us. It was cursed in heaven.

    Joshua was commanded to get it all off The bodies of God’s children as they prepared to appear before God in the next morning. He got them removed and he BURRIED them under oak tree

    For any believer to be clean and enjoy God’s presence, those artificial things must be removed

    Also read Romans 12 vs 1-2. We must present even our bodies a living sacrifice, Holy and acceptable to God. Friendship with the world are those ornaments we wear., which are enemity with God. Love not the world and things of the world please.

    Believers should dress like believers, Moslems dress in hijab s, and when we see Nurses, doctors, police, soldiers, Airforce men etc, we could clearly identify them through their uniforms. We can’t be dressing like the world in same manner and way using all their useless materials and claim to be saved. We must be seen to be different in addition to our pure clean hearts. How do we think that the Awesome Mighty Fearful God wants our lips nails and face painted like masquerades as we appear before Him. Do we really know the God we go to worship at all in His house? Let’s stop joking with hell. Let’s start practicing how to live natural and contend,y to glorify Him. We are fearfully and wonderfully made and all His creatures are beautiful and very good. We need no devilish items in our bodies as they defile us

    1. Josh (Site Admin) Post author

      Also read Romans 12 vs 1-2. We must present even our bodies a living sacrifice, Holy and acceptable to God. Friendship with the world are those ornaments we wear., which are enemity with God. Love not the world and things of the world please.

      I dealt with that viewpoint here: http://www.whyileft.org/frequently-misinterpreted-scriptures/romans-121-2-misinterpreted-scriptures/. It’s reading something into Scripture that simply isn’t there.

      As far as Joshua goes, I’m not sure offhand which Scripture you’re referring to. If you’re talking about Jacob burying jewelry under a tree then I dealt with that here. It was almost certainly related to pagan practices. The interpretation that you and Pastor Blankenship gave is a very good example of reading something into Scripture that just isn’t there. It’s just a historical passage saying something was done, it is in no way a universal commandment. If it was then we would all have to ride camels too. It’s ridiculous. Just because the Bible says somebody did something doesn’t mean that we all have to do it.

      If you’re referring to God instructing the Israelites to remove their jewelry after the golden calf incident, then that was a traditional sign of mourning in that culture. Again, it was not a universal commandment and, even if it was, it would have applied to the ancient Jews, not to us.

  8. Tega

    This was an eye opener. Thank you so much. God bless. Its high time we stopped lifting some things from the bible and emphasizing them so much, while ignoring the entire context of the writing.

    1. M Juarez

      Thanks so much for sharing your testimony and insight on this subject.
      I believe that we should respect God and use common sense when it comes to presenting ourselves as holy, but not make that a number 1 message. We need to preach the message of the cross and let the Holy spirit move in the hearts of the people.

    2. Mike

      So are you speaking on God’s behalf and your proclaiming the jewelry, ornaments, makeup and women wearing pants is biblical speaking ok? Your Gods voice on this is what I’m asking? I was raised Baptist and your telling me it’s ok to look like the world and dress like them? What happened to come out from among them and be ye separate? Don’t conform to the world but be ye transformed? Would you please tell me? Your using this internet to testify that God says it ok to look and be like them? You were among that organization and now your testifying against them! Please tell me more about coming out and what it’s ok to do! Doesn’t the military, McDonalds and Burger King have a uniform, if so, Why can’t the church have a uniform that identifies who they belong to?
      Sincerely
      Pastor Mike Bryan

      1. Josh (Site Admin) Post author

        Mike, no, I’m saying that wearing make-up and women wearing pants doesn’t make you look like the world. Why do you wear pants? Most Western men who are unsaved wear pants, so shouldn’t you be wearing dresses? After all, being separate from the world isn’t something that’s reserved for women.

        Being separate from the world has nothing to do with the way we dress. I dealt with that here, as well as numerous other places on this site: http://www.whyileft.org/frequently-misinterpreted-scriptures/romans-121-2-misinterpreted-scriptures/

        In Christ,
        Josh

        In Christ,
        Josh

    3. JW

      Your website has helped me so much. I was raised in the ALJC church and many of my family members are ALJC and UPC pastors as well. God has taken me down a very different path. My heart’s desire is to know what the Bible says and to please the Lord. I’m not interested in following traditions and keeping up appearances. I truly appreciate all the time and work you’ve put into this website. You have helped me so much in my studies!

      1. Josh (Site Admin) Post author

        JW, I’m so glad this helps :). I spent quite a bit of time in the ALJC…I recognize your name, I think we’ve crossed paths before. Anyway, thanks for writing, and I’m so glad the site has helped you!

        In Christ,
        Josh

    4. Robert

      You know Tega did you read the book of Ecclesiastes 10:12-14 about full of words,in verse 14 a fool also is full of words,you tell to everyone of us that you are former apostolic member,I think for me it’s better that you didn’t know the truth because you just put it to waste.Figuratively or spiritually based on your comment, you are not well rooted in Pentecostal doctrine,You don’t even attends i think any bible studies or Sunday school services because of your nonsense comments.may God bless you and open up your mind.Please also use king James version on your reading.

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