Looking around at many Seventh-day Adventist churches, you can't help but notice a good deal more sparkle and glitz sprinkled throughout the congregation than you saw twenty years ago.
And it's not the sparkle in the parishioner's eyes that you are seeing. Rather, it is the addition of small, tastefully-worn jewelry. The comments from various church members on this phenomenon, range anywhere from condemnation, to concern, to a mild "live and let live" attitude, to joy that the Adventist church is cultivating an environment of acceptance.
This leaves some questions lingering in the minds of many--both of jewelry wearers and non-wearers. What, exactly, is wrong with wearing jewelry? Is wearing jewelry inherently evil, or is it a form of self-expression? Are those that refrain from wearing jewelry trying to work their way to heaven? Does it matter if jewelry is worn as long as the wearer has a relationship with the Lord?
Before we look at this issue, I would like to tell you a little of my personal experience with it. I grew up in a Seventh-day Adventist home, and was baptized at the age of eleven. Unfortunately, through various influences, I drifted from God and the church in my teen years, and went out into the world as soon as I was able. I was 22 when, like the prodigal son, I "came to myself" and realized that the world wasn't so great and that I needed God.
When I first started coming back to church, I was wearing jewelry. I felt that as long I got rid of anything that was over-the-top, it was consistent to wear jewelry as a Christian. Granted, I wouldn't wear the jewelry to church, because I didn't want to offend anyone, but I wore it the rest of the time. I truly loved and wanted to obey God. But I reasoned that most Adventists didn't wear jewelry because they were following man-made traditions.
One day, my boyfriend (now husband) asked if I had read what the Bible says on jewelry. I initially flared up, but he was very nice and non-condemnatory. As he turned from verse to verse and I read what the Bible had to say on the matter, I became more and more convinced. The clincher for me was when he read Isaiah chapter three about the daughters of Zion, and all their various forms of jewelry and adornment. It listed many of the articles of jewelry that I possessed!
I did not want to give up my jewelry if it was just a "commandment of men", but since I could see that God said it, I got rid of my jewelry that very day and have never looked back.
So, that brings us back the issue at hand. Why would God say that wearing jewelry is wrong? What is the reason? The Bible states in Isaiah chapter three, that the daughters of Zion were "haughty", and that the Lord would "take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments." So, one reason that jewelry is condemned in the Bible is because it has the effect of making a person proud. I have to confess, if I was honest with myself, that was true for me. Inspiration puts it this way,
"Those who cling to the ornaments forbidden in God's Word cherish pride and vanity in the heart. They desire to attract attention" (4T pg.645).
Another problem with the wearing of jewelry, according to the Spirit of Prophecy, is that it goes along with idolatry and forgetting God. The following was written about church members when worshipping in the house of God:
"God is to be the subject of thought, the object of worship; and anything that attracts the mind from the solemn, sacred service is an offense to Him. The parading of bows and ribbons, ruffles and feathers, and gold and silver ornaments is a species of idolatry and is wholly inappropriate for the sacred service of God, where the eye of every worshiper should be single to His glory" (5T pg. 499).
The Scriptures agree with this conclusion, as seen in the following verses: "And I will visit upon her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgat me, saith the Lord." Hosea 2:13 "Then Jacob said... Put away the strange gods that are among you... And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears..." Genesis 35:2-4
The Old Testament links jewelry with pride, forgetting God, and idolatry, but what about the New Testament? Did God do away with the prohibition on jewelry for New Testament believers? Not at all. Instead, Paul was inspired to write the following:
"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 Timothy 2: 9, 10).
In this passage, Paul links good works with modest apparel, shamefacedness, and sobriety; while contrasting these things with the worldly adornments of broided hair, gold, pearls, and costly array. We know that truly good works only come by the grace of God, and not of our own selves. Apparently, worldly adornment leaves the Christian with less inclination to perform good works. So, could it be that adornments tend to separate us from God, the source of all good works?
Certainly, adornment leaves us with less time and money for good works. And yet, we cannot afford to miss out on the doing of good works due to the fact that we were too busy adorning ourselves. Inspiration tells us,
"The crown of life will be bright or dim, will glitter with many stars, or be lighted with few gems, in accordance with our own course of action. Day by day we may be laying up a good foundation against the time to come. By self-denial, by the exercise of the missionary spirit, by crowding all the good works possible into our life, by seeking so to represent Christ in character that we shall win many souls to the truth, we shall have respect unto the recompense of the reward." E. G. White "The Grace of God Manifested in Good Works" (Review and Herald January 29, 1895).
In the last book of the Bible, two women are shown. The seventeenth chapter presents a corrupt, adulterous woman, "drunken with the blood of the saints". Representing a false form of worship, she "was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls". Drawing a clear contrast is the pure woman of chapter twelve, who represents the true church. She is "clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars". Again, the conclusion can be drawn, that those who are true to God will abstain from wearing adornments.
We are instructed in the Bible not to trust to uncertain riches, or in chariots or horses, but, rather, to put our trust in the Lord. God even pronounces a curse on those who put their trust in man. Interestingly, in 1 Peter 3:3-5, avoiding outward adornment is associated with trust in God. If anyone can be trusted, it would be the One who died in our place. And giving up anything for Him could never compare to what He gave up for us. Neither would he ask his followers to forgo something if it was good for them.
The devil wants to keep Christians satisfied with the "the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." He wants to conceal the temporary nature of the things of this world, and obscure our view of the much greater eternal treasure that God will reward us with if we are faithful.
Can a Christian serve God, while at the same time wearing her jewelry and adornments? Jesus himself said no man can serve two masters. We cannot serve both Him and the world at the same time. A dividing of the ways looms just ahead. Which will it be?
"And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever" (Daniel 12:3).