Can a Christian wear jewelry?
Women like to wear jewelry. Men do as well. The aim of wearing jewelry is to make oneself look nice before others. So the motivation for it is vanity. Vanity, meanwhile, appears to be a form of pride and, therefore, a sin.
So people begin to wonder if a Christian may wear jewelry. Usually, this question is driven by either resentment or disgust of another person’s ornaments. And the person asking it is looking for an excuse to chastise someone else.
Although the question does have some validity, and one of the Church Fathers has chosen to weigh in on the subject.
Christians are discouraged from wearing jewelry. The purpose of jewelry is to deceive oneself and others by presenting the wearer as something other than what they are. To wear it is a form of vanity, which is a sort of pride. This also applies to makeup and other items which hide one’s true visage.
In the following blocks, we’ll cover some fo the background concerning the morality of ornamentation. Then we’ll review the writings of the Church father Tertullian on the topic.
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Vanity Is a Form of Pride – Can a Christian Wear Jewelry?
Pride is the chief of the sins. It is a character trait which shows itself through certain behaviors. And pride is that which moves one to place themselves as the highest good. Pride is a sin because it breaks the First Commandment. A prideful person places himself above God as the greatest good.
Now, vanity is a form of pride. A vain person places others’ perception of themselves as a high good. The behaviors which one adopts in order to “look good” before others are often dishonest and, therefore, ungodly.
Moreover, when a vain woman places her beauty as the greatest good, then she breaks the First Commandment by placing her beauty above the continued capacity to exist.
Of course, many women depend more strongly on their beauty for their continued survival than do men. So vanity is less of a sin for women than it is for men because beauty is more strongly tied to a woman’s prolonged existence than it is to a man’s.
Pride as a Sin – Can a Christian Wear Jewelry?
The Bible never says that pride is a sin. So sometimes people call themselves Christian pretend that pride is not a sin.
The Bible never says the word Trinity either.
Nor does it say that cannibalism is wrong.
And it certainly doesn’t say that the Milky Way Galaxy exists.
Perhaps it’s not such a great idea to use “well the Bible doesn’t say it” as a method for discerning truth.
On the Apparel of Women – Tertullian
Tertullian was one of the fathers of the Roman Catholic Church. He is the third most influential western theologian; the two before him are St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.
However, despite his importance in developing Christianity and Catholic theology, he is NOT a saint. Many of his views have been rejected because they stem from a false understanding of the Trinity.
Tertullian died many years before the issue of the Trinity had been settled, so he would not have known that he was in error. It is for this reason that his views are easily forgiven. Yet their existence prevents him from being named a saint. In this way, he is similar to Socrates, who was so close to the truth and yet was unable to have it because of something he lacked.
Tertullian’s views on women were… unflattering.
Chapter 1: Modesty in Apparel Becoming to Women in Memory of the Introduction of Sin into the World Through a Woman
Tertullian Blames the Fall on Eve
If there dwelt upon earth a faith as great as is the reward of faith which is expected in the heavens, no one of you at all, best beloved sisters, from the time that she had first known the Lord, and learned (the truth) concerning her own condition, would have desired too gladsome a style of dress so as not rather to go about in humble garb, and rather to affect meanness of appearance, walking about as Eve mourning and repentant, in order that by every garb of penitence she might the more fully expiate that which she derives from Eve, — the ignominy, I mean, of the first sin, and the odium of human perdition.
- If women had as much faith on earth as they are expected to have in Heaven, then they would not wear gaudy clothing.
- Humble dress is the desired fashion for women.
- Women may be able to repent for Eve’s sin by dressing modestly.
- The sin women carry is traced back to Eve. It’s not their fault, but it is their burden.
His View on the Lesser Status of Women
In pains and in anxieties do you bear children, woman; and toward your husband is your inclination, and he lords it over you.
And do you not know that you are (each) an Eve?
The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age. The guilt must of necessity live too.
- All women carry the inadequacy of Eve about with them.
- Women attach themselves to their men, not the other way around, and men are over them for this reason.
- The guilt of the first sin lives on in women of today.
Women Are the Devil’s Gateway
You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack.
You destroyed so easily God’s image, man.
On account of your desert — that is, death — even the Son of God had to die. And do you think about adorning yourself over and above your tunics of skins?
Come, now; if from the beginning of the world the Milesians sheared sheep, and the Serians spun trees, and the Tyrians dyed, and the Phrygians embroidered with the needle, and the Babylonians with the loom, and pearls gleamed, and onyx-stones flashed.
And if gold itself also had already issued, with the cupidity (which accompanies it), from the ground; if the mirror, too, already had license to lie so largely, Eve, expelled from paradise, (Eve) already dead, would also have coveted these things, I imagine!
- The devil was unable to attack man. So he broke Eve first. Then Eve brought down man. Evil enters a people through its weak spots, i.e., its women.
- Man was made in God’s image, and Eve destroyed it.
- Jesus had to die because of woman’s bad behavior.
- Is there anything women won’t covet?
On Woman’s Constant Greed
No more, then, ought she now to crave, or be acquainted with (if she desires to live again), what, when she was living, she had neither had nor known.
Accordingly these things are all the baggage of woman in her condemned and dead state, instituted as if to swell the pomp of her funeral.
- It is best for women not to covet things. If they we to receive what the want at any given moment, then they would bore of it quickly, and they would be unhappy yet again.
- Woman’s inability to be content is proof of her condemned state.
Chapter 2: The Origin of Female Ornamentation, Traced Back to the Angels Who Had Fallen.
When the Devil Fell, He Fell on Women
For they, withal, who instituted them are assigned, under condemnation, to the penalty of death — those angels, to wit, who rushed from heaven on the daughters of men; so that this ignominy also attaches to woman.
For when to an age much more ignorant than ours they had disclosed certain well-concealed material substances, and several not well-revealed scientific arts.
- The angels who fell from Heaven are the utmost source of woman’s fallen state.
- Tertullian asserts that the demons showed many secrets to men to assist his fall. This is why innovation is not an inherently good thing.
What the Devil and His Legions Gave Men
If it is true that they had laid bare the operations of metallurgy, and had divulged the natural properties of herbs, and had promulgated the powers of enchantments, and had traced out every curious art, even to the interpretation of the stars.
They conferred properly and as it were peculiarly upon women that instrumental mean of womanly ostentation, the radiances of jewels wherewith necklaces are variegated, and the circlets of gold wherewith the arms are compressed, and the medicaments of orchil with which wools are colored, and that black powder itself wherewith the eyelids and eyelashes are made prominent.
- Tertullian ascribes metalworking and, therefore jewelry-making to demons of ancient times.
- He also attributes to them herbalism and magic.
Plants (herbs) are used as pigment sin makeup and, in antiquity, as breath-fresheners.
And astrology and the various new-age hobbies were treated by the ancient pagans as credible sources of information. The early Christians devoted much fo their effort to ending this.
- And then he blames the being of circlets, necklaces, clothing pigment, and eyeliner on the demons.
The Goodness of the Teacher and of the Lesson
What is the quality of these things may be declared meantime, even at this point, from the quality and condition of their teachers: in that sinners could never have either shown or supplied anything conducive to integrity, unlawful lovers anything conducive to chastity, renegade spirits anything conducive to the fear of God.
If (these things) are to be called teachings, ill masters must of necessity have taught ill; if as wages of lust, there is nothing base of which the wages are honourable.
- If demons gave the things which Tertullian has ascribed to them, then those things must not be good.
- Even if those things had seemed to be good, they would still carry some type of corruption which would undo their goodness.
- A bad teacher teaches a bad lesson.
The Visual as a Gateway for Evil
But why was it of so much importance to show these things as well as to confer them?
Was it that women, without material causes of splendour, and without ingenious contrivances of grace, could not please men, who, while still unadorned, and uncouth and — so to say — crude and rude, had moved (the mind of) angels?
Or was it that the lovers would appear sordid and — through gratuitous use — contumelious, if they had conferred no (compensating) gift on the women who had been enticed into connubial connection with them? But these questions admit of no calculation.
Women who possessed angels (as husbands) could desire nothing more; they had, forsooth, made a grand match!
- Why do women try to make themselves look pretty with accessories?
Could they not attract men with their personalities?
Or were the men who they were with so unappealing that they had to pay women with jewels?
- Women who had decent husbands would not need to be paid off!
- So the wicked women and their gross husbands made an excellent match!
Beauty as a Cause of Evil
Assuredly they who, of course, did sometimes think whence they had fallen, and, after the heated impulses of their lusts, looked up toward heaven, thus requited that very excellence of women, natural beauty, as (having proved) a cause of evil, in order that their good fortune might profit them nothing; but that, being turned from simplicity and sincerity, they, together with (the angels) themselves, might become offensive to God.
Sure they were that all ostentation, and ambition, and love of pleasing by carnal means, was displeasing to God.
- Sometimes men are able to leave their lust behind and look toward God. When they do, they begin to realize that the natural beauty of women often draws them into evil action.
- Women are often attracted to success. When a man does well in some field, he often finds women as a reward for his achievement. Then they begin to seduce him into misbehavior. In this way, the goodness of the deed is met with the bad behavior it allows.
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Renounce the Teachings of the Fallen Angels
And these are the angels whom we are destined to judge: these are the angels whom in baptism we renounce: these, of course, are the reasons why they have deserved to be judged by man.
What business, then, have their things with their judges? What commerce have they who are to condemn with them who are to be condemned?
The same, I take it, as Christ has with Belial. With what consistency do we mount that (future) judgment-seat to pronounce sentence against those whose gifts we (now) seek after?
- It is the proper role of man to denounce demons as demons.
- But to do this, he himself must be clean. If he judges against what he himself does and loves, then he condemns himself.
- So he must abstain from the bad behavior which he is meant to judge.
- To love of beauty for carnal purposes is one such behavior.
Women Are Meant to be Angels
For you too, (women as you are,) have the self-same angelic nature promised as your reward, the self-same sex as men: the self-same advancement to the dignity of judging, does (the Lord) promise you.
- Women are meant to judge evil in the hereafter, so they must abstain from it now.
Judge Now, for You Will Judge Then
Unless, then, we begin even here to pre-judge, by pre-condemning their things, which we are hereafter to condemn in themselves, they will rather judge and condemn us.
- If we do not now oppose those things which we are meant to oppose then, then they will become our judges.
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