I recently read a thought-provoking book titled Women’s Adornment: What Does the Bible Really Say? by Ralph Woodrow, which was kindly lent to me. The book, only 64 pages long, presents lots of insightful revelations on the Bible’s true teaching on women’s adornments that I feel compelled to share. It’s a very good read and touches on many different areas such as ‘Should women wear jewellery?’, ‘Should women wear cosmetics?’ and more. I highly recommend getting a copy for yourself – I was able to do so on Amazon, however it can also be purchased from Abebooks.com.
Strict rules can lead to legalism
From my knowledge and experience, a great number of churches lay out strict rules on how their congregation and workers should dress. These rules often include:
- Women should not wear jewellery
- Not even the wedding band worn by both men and women
- Women should not wear make up
- Women should not wear trousers
- Men shouldn’t have beards
Unfortunately, such rules tend to place a great burden upon believers and is the adoption of a legalistic approach. This is primarily due to scripture being taken out of context. Ironically, where Timothy 2:9 says we should focus more on the inward person, enacting these rules typically leads to the exact opposite effect. Additionally, it fosters a tendency for people to measure one’s holiness or godliness based on their external appearance. I know that in the past I certainly judged someone if they didn’t fit the dress code that I was so used to hearing was the standard for genuine Christians.
In this book, Woodrow carefully and decisively refutes these teachings with clarity. Evidently, a lot of research was conducted as he shares historical and cultural details for our understanding – It was really interesting to learn about certain things!
Studying the word for yourself
Reading and studying the Bible for ourselves is vital. Likewise, we must pray for pastors and preachers everywhere that they are strengthened by the Holy Spirit and teach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. However, and I speak to myself, we must read and study the Bible to prove all things as it holds all the truth. In this blog post, I want to share what I learnt regarding women and the wearing of jewellery, but before I’d like to share the below.
In Dr Peter Masters’ book Interpreting the Bible: Not like any other book, it gives many clear points on properly studying the Bible:
The outstanding Puritan William Ames is sometimes quoted as expressing this idea when he wrote: ‘There is only one meaning for every place in Scripture.’ Is this true? It certainly is, if we mean words or sentences. A word will have only one sense in any place, the clear ‘dictionary’ meaning (or one of the legitimate meanings) of that word. The expositor…must not attach other meanings from mere opinion or personal choice. p.29
When we study a passage of Scripture, we look at the overall subject and the main themes, but then we look carefully for the subordinate matters that appear. p.30
[The] modern rule of interpretation…says that no biblical doctrine or other text may be allowed to throw light on a passage unless it was known to the original human author. This rules destroys the chief maxim of interpretation spelt out in the great seventeenth-century confessions (and, of course, in the Bible). The Westminster and Baptist (1689) Confessions both declare:
‘The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched by other places that speak more clearly.’ p.39
The Confession writers also spoke of ‘the consent of all the parts’ of the Bible, referring to its perfectly consistent nature. Any text may throw light on any other text, whether before or after it, if it addresses the same subject. p.40
Is it a sin for women to wear jewellery?
When it comes to the matter of women not wearing jewellery, the Bible verses often quoted is that in 1 Timothy 2:9-10 and 1 Peter 3:3-4:
9 In like manner also, that women (also, rather) adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not (only) with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.”Timothy 2:9-10
3 Whose adorning let it not be (only) that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; 4 But let it (also, rather) 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 3:3-4
Just from reading these verses it may seem to teach that women are not to do these things. However just from looking at the latter verse, surely it’s not also telling us that wearing clothes is wrong too?! Of course not. Woodrow points out that these verses are a commonly used Hebrew idiom, where emphasis is placed on the second clause to show its importance over the first. In our language today we would perhaps insert the words “not only” in the first clause and “also” or “rather” for the second clause which can be seen with the highlighted text.
Other verses which follow this same Hebrew Idiom, include:
And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob (only), but (also, rather) Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.Genesis 32:28
The name Jacob was used several times after this verse, even by God himself:
And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I.Genesis 46:2
12 Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours (only); lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee.13 But when thou makest a feast, call (also, rather) the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:Luke 14:12-13
When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death (only), but (also, rather) for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.John 11:4
My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue (only); but (also, rather) in deed and in truth.1 John 3:18
Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me (only), but him (also, rather) that sent me.Mark 9:37
Clearly the first clause is not discounted but gives emphasis on the second clause and should be applied also to 1 Timothy 2:9 and 1 Peter 3:3-4 regarding jewellery. We can then conclude that jewellery is not prohibited, but focus should rather be made on the inward adorning.
Abraham gifts his future daughter-in-law with jewellery
We read in Genesis that when Abraham sent his servant Eliezer to seek a wife for his son Isaac, that he loaded him with many gifts to give her including:
22…golden earring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold…
53 And the servant brought forth jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment, and gave them to Rebekah: he gave also to her brother and to her mother precious things.Genesis 24:22; 53
Other instances included Judah who wore a signet ring (Genesis 38:18), Joseph (Genesis 41:42), Daniel (Daniel 5:29), a bride (Revelation 21:21). Furthermore, the high priest’s garment was arrayed with various gemstones and jewels as was commanded by God (Genesis 28:17-20).
There are many more verses to buttress the point that wearing jewellery is not a sin and the book points to them. Perhaps one other I’d like to mention is regarding Jerusalem and I’ll quote from Woodrow’s book:
In Ezekiel 16:11-13, the origin and history of Jerusalem was compared to a new born baby that had been cast aside. No one else wanted her, but the Lord took her in and clothed her. She grew into a young woman and was given fine clothing to wear.
11 I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck.
12 And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head.
13 Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom.
This passage makes a very strong point. When the Lord drew this parallel, he used jewellery to symbolise his blessings upon Jerusalem. Now if things such as earring and necklaces were forbidden by God, were unholy, were sinful – how could they possibly make the point that was intended in the passage? If these things were sinful, why is the Lord represented as the one who gave them?
As Woodrow notes, none of the cases dictate that women should not wearing jewellery or that by doing so was displeasing to God.
Avoid the extreme
I can at least understand why it is common for people to teach against the wearing of jewellery, perhaps out of fear that some individuals may go to the extreme. This is always possible with mankind’s fallen nature, and this is obviously not to say that one should go on a shopping trip to buy loads of jewellery, after all, jewellery is more often than not, received as a gift, not acquired for oneself.
Teaching the truth of Christ’s saving power is first and foremost – A new believer will certainly be convicted/guided to dress in a manner that brings glory to God. One person may be convicted to never wear jewellery again because of their tendency to idolise it, or feel exorbitantly inflated by it, whereas another would not have that same conviction because how they relate to jewellery is not the same. It should be addressed on a case by case basis.
There’s nothing wrong with looking nice!
Ladies, we should endeavour to look presentable and beautiful and to dress well! (Please read my previous post here on dressing well). Making even a little bit of effort goes a long way. Let’s not look drab and dull, as being this way doesn’t do us any favours. Within marriage, this is vital – Ask your husband what he likes. If he prefers no jewellery or makeup then that’s fine but make sure to dress well for him as well as for yourself. Even as fallen as this world is, we see so many remnants of beauty in it, and this is all God’s creation, from the English song birds to the birds of paradise, in the splendid array of extant flowers to peculiar land animals – see how beautiful they are! But let us be cautious not to overdo it and put our faith in disrepute.