May Christian women (or men) wear jewelry, such as earrings, bracelets, etc.?
Two passages are sometimes used to prove that women should not wear jewelry. They are 1 Tim. 2:9,10 and 1 Peter 3:1-6.
It sounds like the passages forbid all wearing of braids, gold, pearls, or costly clothing. But note that 1 Timothy 2 lists kinds of clothing women should "not" wear, but included is simply "putting on apparel" (ASV). Obviously women are not absolutely forbidden to wear apparel.
In Prov. 31:21,22, the worthy woman was praised because she provided for her family and herself clothing of scarlet, fine linen, and purple. In Gen. 24:22 Abraham's servant gave a gold nose ring and gold bracelets to Rebekah when he sought her to be Isaac's wife.
Many Bible passages contain a "not (this), but (that)" expression, which is not intended to absolutely prohibit the first item ("not this"). The intent is rather to emphasize the second item ("but that") as being far more important than the first. The first item may, in some such expressions, be absolutely wrong. But sometimes it is not wrong, but is just not to be emphasized as the second item is.
Example: John 6:27 "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him." Surely this is not prohibiting working for food (cf. 2 Thess. 3:10; etc.). It is just emphasizing the spiritual food. For other examples see: John 12:44; 1 Corinthians 1:17; 15:10; 1 Peter 3:3,4; Mark 9:37; Matt. 10:20; Acts 5:4; 1 Thess. 4:8; Genesis 45:8; Titus 3:5; 2 Timothy 1:9.
So 1 Tim. 2:9,10 and 1 Pet. 3:1-6 are not absolutely forbidding wearing of all braids, gold, etc. They are simply saying that these are not what is important. They may in some cases be so extreme that they violate the modest quietness that should characterize godly women (cf. Isa. 3:16-24). This should be avoided.
But the main point in this part of the verses is to contrast physical clothing with spiritual. Women should be far more concerned about clothing themselves with good works than they are with physical, outward beauty. And we as men should seek wives with inward purity as far more important than outward beauty.
So the emphasis in context seems to be on: (1) not over-dressing for the sake of vanity, pride, and being able to exalt oneself by showing off one's expensive and beautiful wardrobe; (2) not over-emphasizing outward beauty to the neglect of inward character.
(c) Copyright David E. Pratte, 1/2007
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