I often see Christians fighting more over such items as this and ignoring more important matters. However, it is a good question and one that deserves an answer. Please understand that I do not consider myself the final word on these matters. I am simply seeking to understand the scriptures to the best of my ability. There are a number of scriptures that deal with jewelry but two New Testament passages seem to be given for instruction in this matter. Here they are:
1 Timothy 2:9-10 - "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 Peter 3:2-5 - "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. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands."
As you know, some people discount these verses entirely while others make even a wedding band a sign of worldliness. While I do not think these passages prevent any jewelry or simple adornment for ladies, it probably does restrict it much more than commonly practiced today. Let me give a summary of some of the principles taught in these verses.
- Woman are to adorn themselves in modest apparel. Though we usually use the word "modest" to refer to that which is virtuous and fully covers the body, modest has another meaning that also applies here. The second meaning is akin to our word "moderate." It refers to the avoidance of extremes, wearing clothes that are proper and decent. This certainly applies to additional adornment of the body. Jewelry or makeup should blend with the person and not draw attention to themselves. They should not draw undue attention to the body either.
- The adorning of women should draw attention to the inner person and not to the outer person. The "shamefacedness and sobriety" deal with not bringing attention to self; not causing a stir by the appearance or actions. Her apparel is to be of such a modest nature so as to reveal "the hidden man of the heart...even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit." I conclude from this and from the scriptural teaching that the "light of the body is the eye" (Luke 11:34) that the appearance of a godly woman should draw attention to her face and not to any other part.
- The adorning of women should not be costly. It is not to be "costly array." Adornment is not meant to show others that you can afford what they cannot. Expensive jewelry or clothes are not pleasing to God. You should not wear what many around you cannot afford to wear. It tends to puff you up with pride and it tends to create envy in others.
Why then do I not feel that jewelry and makeup are prohibited completely? I find the possibility for modest adornment in 1 Peter 3:3 - "Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel." This verse not only refers to the wearing of gold, but it also refers to the putting on of apparel. Certainly, apparel (that is, clothing) is not being prohibited completely. Therefore, we can conclude that Peter is referring to a moderate and modest use of these items and not a complete denial.
Another point that needs to be made is that modest apparel and adornment do not mean going around with an unkept, ragged appearance. This does not honor God either. And it actually brings more attention to the flesh than a modestly attractive appearance.
I am not going to set rules for what is and what is not allowed in minor details. In fact, God does not do this for us either. He gives us biblical precepts. We are to learn these precepts and learn to apply them to each particular case as God's Spirit and our pure conscience gives us leadership. If I were to write anything akin to rules, here they are:
- Do not allow jewelry, makeup, or apparel draw great attention to themselves.
- Do not allow them to draw great attention to the body.
- Do not wear anything that sets you apart from others because of its great costliness.
- Avoid adornment that gives you a proud or haughty look - "shamefacedness."
- Avoid adornment that makes you look trivial or silly - "sobriety."
- Labor first to adorn the inner person with that meek and quiet spirit and try to sensibly show that on the outside.
- Avoid a negligence of adornment that brings undue negative attention and shows a disregard for God's creation in you.