Jewelry - How Much Is Too Much?

by Doug Batchelor

I am intrigued by clever oxymorons. An oxymoron is a statement or pairing of two words that contradict each other, such as "pretty ugly." A few humorous, personal favorites are "military intelligence" and "rap music" (the rap I have heard does not even slightly resemble music). Some oxymorons are more serious, like "little sin," "innocent gossip," and "safe premarital sex."

A few years back 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 clever oxymoron-something like "Christian rock." The Bible clearly teaches that "Christian jewelry" is a conflict in terms.

The Fruit, Not the Root!
The power of the gospel begins on the inside, transforming the heart while unseen by human eyes. But then it will continue 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 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 TV after supper. (For some people, it would be better if the TV disappeared altogether.) From the bookshelf to the closet, Jesus will penetrate the whole life.

Even though the Scriptures plainly address the subject of a Christian's external appearance and adornment, many churches are strangely silent on this subject. 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.

I believe 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.

God's Ambassadors
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, the Scripture 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, scandals surrounded several popular TV 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. The TV preachers even inspired one famous songwriter to write a popular ballad 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 adornment!

Wearing Our Wealth
Let's take a look at the origin of jewelry. God made all the gold, silver, and beautiful 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 money.

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." Exodus 35:22.

There is obviously nothing wrong with having money. But the question is, does God want Christians to wear their money for all to see? "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.

Remember, just because we see something done in the Bible does not mean that God approved of it or condoned it. The Scriptures simply record a faithful history of God's people-including all their failures. Jesus did not come to lower the standard for Christians. He came to raise it!

Why Be a Stumbling Block?
One reason I do not drink any alcohol is because one person in seven who drinks later becomes 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, 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 it, why not the clergy? If a ring in the ear is all right, then what's wrong with a bone in the nose?

Have you 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, and 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.

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 it is a sin to covet, then 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?

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 unnecessary as jewelry?

Whenever your 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 me for not wearing enough jewelry. So the safe thing is to not wear any.

Modesty and Humility
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 springs from pride and is diametrically opposed to the spirit and principles of Jesus.

The apostle Paul gave this counsel 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.

And 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 that others might see our works (not our wealth) and glorify God (not ourselves).

Poor "Investments"
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 (see 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 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! Besides, in heaven the gold will be used for pavement and the diamonds for walls.

James 5:3 declares the folly of such "investments:" "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 transformed people.

Little Idols
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 plate, they had enough jewelry to make a small calf. I fear 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 buffalo!

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.

Dressing 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 4:17.

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.

Whenever the people of God were preparing to meet with their Maker, they were to clean and change their clothes and to separate themselves from all pagan influences. Here is one example 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 get rid of all such influences. Thus Jacob ordered not a temporary removal of these articles, but a permanent burial.

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. Now is not the time to adorn our mortal exteriors. If we look like the world when Jesus comes, there is a good chance we will share its fate! "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 Corinthians 6:17.

We 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. 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 jewellery, 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. Leviticus 21:5, 6 plainly says: "They shall not make ... any cuttings in their flesh. They shall be holy unto their God." 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 holes.

First 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. God made the sun, moon, and stars, and His church is clothed with the 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 colour, 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.

Christ Is Our Example
At this point someone may be wondering, "What about a wedding ring?"

Very simply, support for the wedding ring cannot be found anywhere in the Bible. It is strictly a tradition that springs from paganism and has since been embraced and "baptized" by many churches. "And he [Jesus] said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition." Mark 7:9.

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.

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. His most valuable piece of clothing was 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 2:6, NKJV.

Change of Ownership
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 whole 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 improvement!

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 He asking too much for 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 neighbors.

"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.

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