January 22, 2012 Q & A

Is wearing jewelry or wigs sinful?


I'd like clarity on the issues of jewelry and artificial hair. Is it a sin to wear them? Please give Bible references. Thanks.


There are two passages to which people often turn in order to argue that the wearing of jewelry and wigs is prohibited in the Bible. The first is 1 Timothy 2:8-9 where Paul says:

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 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 what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.

The second is 1 Peter 3:3-4 where Peter says, speaking to wives:

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing your 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.

Taken out of context, these verses may seem to prohibit any wearing of jewelry or fixing one's hair in a stylish fashion. In other words, some hold that outward adornment is, in and of itself, sinful vanity and thus prohibited by God. However, the Scriptures celebrate the Lord's salvation of his people in ways like this:

I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, my soul will exult in my God; for he has clothed me with garments of salvation, he has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels (Is. 61:10).

In the Song of Songs, the husband rejoices in the beauty of his wife as he says, "Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments, your neck with strings of jewels" (Song 1:10). Even the High Priest of Israel was arrayed in beautiful garments, with gemstones on the breastplate he wore (Exodus 28). From these few passages we can see that it is not outward beauty or the wearing of jewelry, in and of itself, that the Lord forbids. Rather, as we look at the Scriptures, and study the culture in which Peter and Paul wrote, we realize that what is forbidden is an infatuation and obsession with outward appearance with the goal of impressing those around us and exalting ourselves.

There were those in Paul and Peter's day who wore their hair in enormously elaborate arrangements with braids and curls piled high! These women would decorate their hair with gems to make their hair shimmer in the light. They would then go to church to show off for everyone to see. This was the mark of vanity. Even more, there is evidence to suggest that the temple prostitutes in Ephesus (the city where Timothy ministered) dressed in similar ways to attract men. And so Paul and Peter are calling the women of the church to firmly stand against everything that has to do with immodesty and vanity.

Paul and Peter are both saying that women are to be marked, first and foremost, by their good works, not their good shoes, or their good looks; by their godliness and not their gaudiness. To this end, John Stott said, "The church is to be a veritable beauty parlor because it encourages women members to adorn themselves with good deeds. Women need to remember that if nature made them plain, grace can make them beautiful, and if nature has made them beautiful, good deeds can add to their beauty."

As you can see, the Bible warns us against an idolatrous view of outward beauty and adornment, while approving of the right use of both.



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