addressing legalism in the Adventist Church: Jewelry
Updated: Jan 9
I have held off on posting this for a long time because I was afraid. I was afraid of how people would react and I didn't want to deal with the backlash that my view might cause. I have reached a point in my spiritual journey, where I just can't hold this in anymore. My strength and my peace no longer come from people or even from a church body, instead, I find my purpose in Christ and in the truths of the Bible. I believe that the way we are handling the following topics in our church denomination today is doing more harm than good- especially for young people such as myself.
I realize my ideas might be radical to some readers, but instead of trying to argue with me or debate each other I encourage you to simply go to the Bible and draw your own conclusions for yourself. Sometimes we rely far too heavily on popular opinion or on "being right". The world is not such a black and white place. It's time to let it go and let some issues work themselves out privately between you and God.
For the sake of clarity, I am defining legalism as dependence on personal moral law rather than on religious faith.
Let's just jump right into the tough stuff. What does the Bible say about Jewelry?
"Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God." 1 Timothy 2:9-10
"Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious."
1 Peter 3:3
"So they came, both men and women. All who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and armlets, all sorts of gold objects, every man dedicating an offering of gold to the Lord." Exodus 35:22
"The Lord enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people: 'It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?” declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty. The Lord says,'The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, strutting along with swaying hips, with ornaments jingling on their ankles. Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion; the Lord will make their scalps bald. In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, the earrings and bracelets and veils, the headdresses and anklets and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, the signet rings and nose rings, the fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses.” Isaiah 3:14-22
I know what every "good" Adventist is thinking, "Melissa! It is so obvious! It says not to wear jewelry directly!"
Yes, I agree with you to an extent. It does say that our adorning should not be external, but I think the real clarity comes from the details.
First off, In each of these passages, the jewelry being discussed was incredibly expensive. In Biblical times, gold, pearls, fine stones, and silver were all the real deal. People were spending the equivalent of $1,000's on these adornments. This is why they are listed off in relation to costly attire. This is also why God asked people to essentially donate them when Temples were being built. Secondly, we see another reoccurring detail that is always included anywhere the Bible speaks on Jewelry. It is pride. Isaiah points out that the women were haughty and purposely flaunting their wealth while at the same time, robbing and mistreating the poor in their community.
I believe that the point of these Bible verses really has nothing to do with the Jewelry itself. Instead, God is telling us that it is wrong to spend money wastefully and it is wrong to be prideful and think we are better than other people. The people in that time were using Jewelry in that manner.
I remember growing up, I was told that I needed to think about jewelry logically. Since Jewelry is just a decoration and serves no "working" purpose, it should not be worn. It was pointed out to me that clothes and watches were okay because we have to cover our bodies or tell what time it is. I was even told that simple foundation (makeup) was okay if I used it just to cover acne scars. I think this is a very hypocritical opinion and here is why:
The last time I bought a pack of earrings (yes, my ears are pierced, don't discredit me yet) I spent somewhere between $5.00 and $10.00 for maybe 20 or so plastic studs. The value of my entire jewelry collection totals around a hundred dollars or so (excluding my wedding band and engagement ring). That is less than the cost of a good church suit.
Think about this- the next time you go to church and you are parking your car, look around the parking lot. What types of vehicles do you see there? Is there a BMW? Lexus? Cadillac? Land Rover? Maybe a luxury model Toyota? How much do you think people paid for those? What was the motive behind choosing that brand or that type of vehicle? While it is true that a car "serves a purpose", let us not be so naive to think that we bought a BMW solely for its transportation abilities.
My point is, Jewelry is not the real problem addressed in these verses, and if we are determined that it is, we better apply that logic to every aspect of our lives. Our clothes, our cars, our houses, our cell phones etc. We all better take a pledge right now to sell all our belongings and join the minimalist movement and only get items for their function and necessity. It is time to admit that the majority of what we purchase or enjoy has an external or adorned element to it.
If you still aren't convinced jewelry might be alright, I have one more verse to point out.
"And I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck. And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen and silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour and honey and oil. You grew exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute. You lavished your favors on anyone who passed by and your beauty became his." Ezekiel 16: 11-15
While the context of this text is really an analogy about God and His people who are rebuking and turning from Him, if the act of wearing Jewelry itself is the sole problem, why is God adorning people!? He literally put jewelry on them as a symbol of how valuable they were to Him. Perhaps you are thinking, yes but this is an analogy and he is trying to appeal to the culture of the time. I mean yes, I'm sure He is, but I don't think God would use something He felt was a sin in his analogy for the sake of fitting into the culture. If the jewelry was a true sin and a true moral issue itself, I don't think it would've been used here. Even in this analogy, we see that the problem arises when people trust their beauty and outward appearance instead of God.
I want us to stop using this stuff to attack people. Is it wrong for me to put on my little plastic studs and go around feeling prettier than everyone else? Absolutely. But the truth is there is no way you can know what my intentions are just from looking at me. You can't know why someone put a glitter bow in their hair or wore a purple tie to church. You can't see me come into church with a necklace on and instantly know that I'm not as close to God as you are. What a hypocritical attitude! Choosing to wear jewelry is something that is a personal decision between an individual and God and while I don't think we need to promote it, I also don't think it is worth reprimanding people over. Allow people to come as they are and let God do the changing.
Oh, and by the way, there is a good chance that there will be jewelry in heaven. Just saying!