Adventist Adornment (part 2)

In the first part we observed the contribution of the Bible to the question of jewelry in its primary texts.

In this part we look at some complexities.

The Difference between Morality and Church Order

We may disfellowship a man for operating a tobacco shop on Sabbath.  But we won’t take away his membership for playing video games while pigging out on fried chicken.  Both activities are disrespectful of the information God has given to the church.

Again, we will discipline the adulterer.  But we will not discipline the man who admits to sometimes fantasizing about sex with various ladies.  Both are sin.

Again, the state will incarcerate the person that lies under oath in court.  But the chronic liar in your home has nothing to worry about from the law.

These are all ways of illustrating an important idea: God enforces true morality in the judgment.  That is where immoral thoughts, covetous thoughts, prideful thoughts and hateful thoughts will be condemned.  Church laws and state laws, by way of contrast, defend much lower standards.  They exist to allow the church and the state to function best as a body.

There is nothing inconsistent then in the church disciplining someone for wearing jewelry while neglecting to discipline her husband for his Lamborghini.  The church is not, by setting a standard, competing with the judgment in an effort to condemn all wrong.  There is a good reason why it does not discipline pride, gluttony, racial slurs, and hatred, though it should condemn each of these.

Simplicity in dress was chosen as a minimum guideline for church membership because of the very plain reading of the two primary statements.

But the high road of modesty is the goal set before believers.  They have a long road ahead of them in learning about holy living even after being baptized. The church does not address these issues with discipline because it has been told to “judge nothing before the time.”

The Difference Between Beauty and Self-Exaltation

The priests were beautiful in their special robes.

"And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty" (Exodus 28:2).

One part of this outfit even included solid gold and more than a dozen precious gems.  And the sanctuary was incredibly beautiful otherwise with an appearance of massive gold to anyone who entered.

What I am trying to say is that our primary texts are not anti-pretty.  The verses are not recommending the wearing of earth tones only.  They are not advocating a principle that would rob our homes of flower gardens and solid-wood furniture.

What they are saying is that women should resist their natural inclination to use jewelry as a means of publicly exalting themselves.

And, again, some lines are easier to draw than others.  So a school rule against chewing gum indoors is easier to enforce than a rule against depositing gum on furniture.  But imagine a student group protesting the no-gum rule. “Gum isn’t the only gross thing on campus.  What about spitting?  What about hair all over?  What about goo below urinals?  What about teachers whose cars bellow smoke?  What about students who leave crumbs on the floor after lunch? Why not ban all lunches?”  Well.

The fact is that a few rules are all that man can well handle.  And so we outlaw the gum and hope to teach people principles about all the rest.

So when Paul and Peter say “no” to wearing of gold and pearls and costly array, please don’t give them hassle for leaving many other unscrupulous behaviors unmentioned.  This one has, quite reliably, served a purpose of showing which ladies were willing to give up all for Jesus.  And so it seems picking on this point was well done.  

The Truth is not Compelling

In heaven no one is going to say, “Will I get in big trouble if I do this thing?”  Heaven is guided by the idea that men do what they believe would be pleasing to the King.  Let me say this another way. It is not in God’s interest for you to think that every issue is, as they say, “salvational.” If you only do God’s will when you are afraid of eternal consequences for not doing so, you are not submitted to God truly.

If you understand this, then you can easily comprehend why angels don’t blaze the gospel into the sky at night and warn people in loud commanding voices to get ready for the end.  That would be compelling truth.  Men would submit, not because of love and trust, but because of fear and more fear.

This is why Jesus said that very non-intuitive truth that only those who are willing to do what God says will understand what God wants them to do.

If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself (John 7:17).

What I am saying, relevant to this article, is that if you are not pleased with the idea of denying yourself for Christ’s sake in the area of adornment, then the Spirit will not be giving you help in understanding regarding your duty.

Nevertheless, there are four issues that need to be addressed yet. These are:

1.      The Antitypical Day of Atonement

2.      Wedding Rings

3.      Texts Favoring the Wearing of Jewels

4.      The Current Reality of Many Inexpensive Pieces of Jewelry.

 

Four Specific Issues

We Live in the Day of Atonement

The people on the Day of Atonement were to humble themselves. But no recipe for this self-humbling on the Day of Atonement was provided for them. Consequently, they sought in other Scripture for help in knowing what to do. And they found the following story about the aftermath of the golden calf (which was made of bullion from golden jewelry) to be particularly helpful [1]:

And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned: and no man did put on him his ornaments. For the LORD had said unto Moses, Say unto the children of Israel, Ye are a stiffnecked people: I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee: therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee. And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb (Exodus 33:4-6).

We live in the judgment time that was illustrated by the Day of Atonement.  And this does have a practical application to our lives.  While inferring a certain duty to strip ourselves of jewels while the judgment is ongoing would be a stretch (because inferring certain duty is always a stretch) still it matches well with what Peter and Paul gave as a more general instruction.

Our duty to keep the Sabbath, by way of illustration, has always been.  But since 1844, it has been made a test for Christians.  And in view of God’s special instruction in Exodus 33 above to those facing potentially lethal judgments, it makes sense that God would call His people back to holiness on the point of adornment especially during this time.

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Let me say this again: While the Judgment is ongoing we are to be doing something analogous to “afflicting” our souls.  And whatever that means, it most certainly means humbling ourselves.  That is what every last faithful Hebrew did on the Day of Atonement anciently.

And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you:
It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever (Leviticus 16:29-31).
Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD (Leviticus 23:27)

Now our primary texts are quite related to this idea naturally.  They speak of “shamefacedness” and “sobriety” and of a “meek and quiet spirit” in the context of submitting to one’s husband.  In both Ezekiel 16 and 28 it was pride of appearance that came before the fall.  And in Isaiah 3 it was “haughty” ladies that were to be stripped of their jewels.  In short, jewelry is associated with self-exaltation in Scripture.  Humbling one’s self is associated with the Day of Atonement.

And consequently we must be not surprised that the Jews generally removed their jewelry for that day.  We are under no obligation to follow their example.  But we are under the same obligation (to humble self) that led them to put their gold away.

And this is how I explain the very clear call in the Testimonies to come higher and to wear no gems or golden jewels.  For more on this, see the section on the Testimonies.

But if the first and second and tenth commandment enforce the prohibition against wearing jewelry, the seventh requires that we honor our marriage vow everywhere we might go.

The Wedding Ring

It is just like the devil to put two things together that don’t belong.  And in the case of the wedding band, he has done so.  On one hand, we ought to follow any harmless custom that is designed to honor the sacredness of marriage.  On the other hand, we should boycott the jewelry the devil uses to cheat persons who are seeking beauty.

But what to do when the custom is to have a ring to show the marriage?

For the sake of this article it is sufficient to ask the question.  Even if wearing jewelry is contrary to God’s will for us now, it might be best to wear a wedding ring (I don’t think it is).   And even if God wants you to wear a wedding ring, it would be no evidence that He wants you otherwise to be pierced and decorated.  So I leave the question for you.  And if you have confidence in Ellen White, I assure you that relevant material is found there.

Texts Apparently Favoring the Use of Jewelry

We have briefly considered the ring on the prodigal son and the sapphire foundation of the heavenly Jerusalem.  We have shown that humbling ourselves today is preparation for an exalted afterlife.

And there are a few more passages we could study.  First, even good kings of Israel wore crowns.  And Saul apparently even encouraged the wearing of gold on the part of the ladies.  But as the behavior of the kings was never anything like faultless, and as showing off his jewels was the low point in the life of one of the best of them, I won’t spend any time here drawing significant inferences here.

But one difficult passage does come to mind.  God invited the children of Israel to borrow gems from their Egyptian masters just before jettisoning them into the wilderness with those precious items decorating the bodies of their children.

And I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians: and it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty: But every woman shall borrow of her neighbour, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians (Exodus: 21-22). 

We remember that for these people these jewels were their pay for years of service.  It was their wealth and when placed upon the children it showed that it was not being worn in self-exaltation.  When God soon instructed them to build a sanctuary, this was precisely the kind of money that they brought to contribute.

And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing hearted, and brought bracelets, and earrings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold: and every man that offered offered an offering of gold unto the LORD (Exodus 35:22).

In a similar way when the war against the Midianites had been waged successfully, the people brought an offering of thankfulness gathered of the very money they had at the time.  (Jewels make good money, being light, precious, testable, Numbers 31:50.)

To summarize this data, God’s counsel to us in our primary passages not to adorn ourselves with gold is not counsel to avoid owning the same.  Money and Jewelry serve two different functions even if composed of the same materials.  (If we inherit family jewels, we will not wear them.  But neither would we discard them.)

One of the more interesting verses showing a positive use of jewelry by a well-trusted servant is found in Genesis 24. T here Abraham, in his old age, didn’t instruct his servant how to secure a wife for his son.  But the servant was his treasurer and so did have his money under his hand.  And that money would have been precious jewels and gold.

Here is part of the story:

And he said, O LORD God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham. . . .16  And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her: and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up. . . .21  And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or not. 22  And it came to pass, as the camels had done drinking, that the man took a golden earring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold; 30  And it came to pass, … [Laban her brother] saw the earring and bracelets upon his sister's hands, and when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister… (Genesis 24).

Does this story tell us how Isaac acquired a wife?  Yes.  Does it give us any information about how God would have us dress?  Not any at all.  In fact, it isn’t even information on how to find a wife for your late-blooming son.  The story shows God’s providence, but not man’s wisdom.  It is, as they say, descriptive rather than prescriptive.  It shows what happened, not what should have happened [2].

Our primary texts, by way of contrast, tell us what should be done generally by church women.

In a similar way the luxury of Solomon’s court is no guideline for us regarding what is best.  His harem and their jewelry are of interest, but not in a way as to help us know how to dress.  In the Bible there are a number of references to royal courts (of Pharaoh, David, Artaxerxes, Belshazzar) where jewelry was noted in the text.

And that concludes our consideration of the data of texts that are supposed to favor the wearing of jewelry by believers.  We find that faithful persons were sometimes gifted with gold, sometimes traded with gold, and sometimes were corrupted by gold.  But neither some nor all of these amount to God teaching us how to adorn ourselves.  And where we do find passages that show the moral impact on ladies and Lucifer, we find nothing but encouragement to dress simply.

Finance and Cheap Jewels

The world has always been more or less artificial.  Step off the vibrant tourist path on a Caribbean island and you may find squalor only meters away.  Cruise ships have very cramped quarters for service personnel.  And a $3,000 Rolex watch has an almost indistinguishable $20 knock-off manufactured in Asia somewhere.

If the Rolex was purchased for adult show and tell purposes then the spirit of our primary passages would frown on it.  But what about the fake?  The fake serves the very same purpose as the real and falls afoul of good principles for that very reason.

1 Thessalonians 5:22  "Abstain from all appearance of evil." 

Cost is an issue raised in both of the primary passages, but particularly in relation to stylish clothing.  But the cost was never the primary concern.  It had nothing to do with the storylines in Ezekiel 16 and 28.

When you wear the cheap earring, you cooperate with a diabolical plan to fill the earth with vain searching.  You say to your neighbors, “you need to wear it also.”  And to those that despise the artificial, you tempt them to get something more precious.

The Testimonies don’t ask you to compare your needless expenses to the cost of repaving your church drive.  Rather, they ask you to compare it to the value that money would have on the mission front (unless it is paying western wages there).  That $500, for example, could employ a half-time worker all year in several of the countries of Southeast Asia.  That $10 trinket could buy six copies of Ministry of Healing in Malaysia if you give it to the children’s offering this fourth quarter.

Now the truth about these things is not compelling. It is easier to see if you are searching for it.  But as the church ought to present a united front to the world, God has given the church a gift that was intended to strip us of our excuses for not following the plain direct counsel.

That gift is the Spirit of Prophecy.  See the notes for material that matches what we have seen in the Bible thus far.

Conclusion

The Bible is a small book for the volume of issues that it addresses.  Six thousand years of history and prophecy, with counsel on families and parenting and health and health care.  Find there guidance for politicians and pastors, for generals and slaves.  Learn how to form a character that amounts to a fitness for heaven.  And learn how to get a title to the place.

On the issue of dress it speaks with authority.  We find to the two primary apostles both teaching that women should seek “not” outward adorning of gold and pearls and fashionable clothing, but an inward grace of simplicity and meekness.

In the future we will be given mansions and crowns and a glorious existence.  But today we are to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God.

In the past Lucifer thought too much of his beauty.  He accentuated the same.  And those thoughts corrupted the purity that was once his.

In the metaphorical past, God’s special nation thought too much about their beauty and privileges and was corrupted accordingly.

And anyone really seeking to see what the Creator said through Ellen White will find no confusion.  He will find that Paul and Peter were speaking for God in way that should be respected.  They will find that pride in dress as manifested in open disregard of those passages should be disciplined.  And they will find that a slipping into carelessness regarding these things is a step in the wrong direction.

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But if you want to wear jewelry specifically and or to dress like normal worldly people, you won’t see light in any of these things.  You won’t discern the light in them.  No one will likely be able to make you see it.

Nonetheless, lilies will still be more beautiful than Solomon and simple women more beautiful that decked ones.  And these passages will still be in the Bible:

I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.  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 2:8-10).
 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me (Luke 9:23).
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (1 John 2:15).

And this is why I believe that it is no coincidence that the persons you know who are more earnestly seeking to please God and to warn the world of the impending time of trouble, are also the least likely to be wearing jewelry.

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Eugene Prewitt directs the Bible Teacher Training hosted by Aenon.  From there, his teachers train young people from around Asia to reach the various people groups of South East Asia. During school breaks and on weekends he and his wife Heidi frequently travel to put on presentations on Bible topics, canvassing and on Christian Education.

 

[1] Not having the New Testament, they would also have placed more weight on the story of Jacob’s family burying their idols and jewelry (in Genesis 35) while seeking to be “clean” before God.  They would also have likely considered, as opposite of the right spirit for judgment day, the “haughty” women of Isaiah 3 that were decked out in jewelry.

[2] And there is no evidence in this passage that Eliezer pierced Rebecca’s nose out at the well. The word translated “nose ring” in a few translations is generically a ring and usually refers to finger rings in Scripture.