“All old barns can use a little paint,” says Paul Washer when asked whether women can wear makeup. He does not quote a bit of Scripture when answering this question. His argument boiled down to that there is nothing wrong with make-up or jewelry, but Christian women should just not wear too much.
If you find yourself questioning whether outward adornment is permissible, there is a good reason for it: you already know the answer in your gut. Would you keep asking the question if you knew the answer was “all things in moderation?”
Obviously, after some cursory reading of the Bible, you know that there is something wrong about it. Well, there is a reason for that. There are at least eight different negative mentions of jewelry and makeup in the Bible. I tried avoiding any passages which require huge interpretive stretches.
Against Outward Adornment
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 (1 Tim 2:9-10).
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you 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 (1 Peter 3:3-4).
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world (1 John 2:15-16). Note: Jewelry is a possession, so I think it is applicable here.
And you, O desolate one, what do you mean that you dress in scarlet, that you adorn yourself with ornaments of gold, that you enlarge your eyes with paint? In vain you beautify yourself. Your lovers despise you; they seek your life (Jer 4:30).
For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives (James 2:2-4)?
Moreover, the Lord said, “Because the daughters of Zion are proud and walk with heads held high and seductive eyes, and go along with mincing steps and tinkle the bangles on their feet. Therefore the Lord will afflict the scalp of the daughters of Zion with scabs, and the Lord will make their foreheads bare.” In that day the Lord will take away the beauty of their anklets, headbands, crescent ornaments, dangling earrings, bracelets, veils, headdresses, ankle chains, sashes, perfume boxes, amulets, finger rings, nose rings, festal robes, outer tunics, cloaks, money purses, hand mirrors, undergarments, turbans and veils. Now it will come about that instead of sweet perfume there will be putrefaction; instead of a belt, a rope; instead of well-set hair, a plucked-out scalp; instead of fine clothes, a donning of sackcloth; and branding instead of beauty (Is 3:16-24).
When Jehu came to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it. And she painted her eyes and adorned her head and looked out of the window (2 Kings 9:30).
Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion (Prov 11:22).
The teachings in the above reflect a negative view of jewelry and make-up. In the New Testament, where the context of the Law is more thoroughly explained, the warnings against outward adornment are more explicit. However, this would also be true concerning divorce, adultery, and hatred where God very explicitly states that His standards are more demanding than what was traditionally taught in the Law.
So, to argue that Christians now have “freedom” to wear jewelry and makeup ignores that there was never a Law against them to begin with. The fact that Paul, Peter, James, and John felt it necessary to go out of their way to explain how such things don’t have a place in Christian living, just as the same men go out of their way to say the same about sexual immorality and the love of money, is very telling. If we use “Christian freedom” as an excuse to love the world and its lusts, possessions, and adornment we need to take a very critical look at our own faith. It has nothing to do with the Law and everything to do with what it is to be like Christ who “has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him” (Is 53:2).
In Favor of Outward Adornment
Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments, your neck with strings of beads. We will make for you ornaments of gold with beads of silver (Song 1:10-11).
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).
When he saw the ring and the bracelets on his sister’s wrists, and when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister, saying, “This is what the man said to me,” he went to the man; and behold, he was standing by the camels at the spring (Gen 24:30).
Now when the turn came for each young woman to go in to King Ahasuerus, after being twelve months under the regulations for the women, since this was the regular period of their beautifying, six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and ointments for women (Est 2:12).
“I also swore to you and entered into a covenant with you so that you became Mine,” declares the Lord God. “Then I bathed you with water, washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. I also clothed you with embroidered cloth and put sandals of porpoise skin on your feet; and I wrapped you with fine linen and covered you with silk. I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your hands and a necklace around your neck. I also put a ring in your nostril, earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your dress was of fine linen, silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour, honey and oil; so you were exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. Then your fame went forth among the nations on account of your beauty, for it was perfect because of My splendor which I bestowed on you,” declares the Lord God (Ezek 16:8-14).
“Lift up your eyes and look around; all of them gather together, they come to you. As I live,” declares the Lord, “You will surely put on all of them as jewels and bind them on as a bride (Is 49:18).
This list exhaustively covers every positive mention of jewelry and makeup in the Bible. Did you catch what each one had in common? They all pertain to weddings. Yes, every single one. Strange coincidence, right?
Well, if we believe in God’s complete sovereignty, there are no such things as coincidences. We already know from Ephesians 5 that marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church. When we read the description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21 where the Church is a bride descending from heaven and her gates are covered with beautiful jewels, we can understand the context of all the positive descriptions of jewelry.
It all points to our union with Christ, the marriage supper of the Lamb! Christ is our Head, He is the Bridegroom, the Church is His bride. The adornment of brides points to a future reality in heaven.
To rip these verses out of context and twist them into some sort of approval of jewelry and in effect making them abrogate explicit teachings against such adornment, is not only inconsistent hermeneutically but terribly shallow.
Conclusion. So, now that you know what the Scripture teaches, how will you justify yourself? How are you any better than the “homosexual Christian” who thinks he is living out his Christian freedom? If we cannot trust the Scripture to adequately define what is good and bad, then every teaching against lying, murder, and what it means to love is completely incomprehensible.
Yes, “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7) but remember “loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:13). Not going out of your way to wear a gold ring, have a fancy hairstyle, or wear makeup is not a burden. In fact, adorning oneself, the sin, is the burden!
Be honest with yourself, what shows greater obedience to God? With adornment, there are a lot of gray areas. However, we should be careful not to purposely contradict what the Scripture explicitly teaches. We need to examine ourselves to see if we are doing what we feel pleases God, and not ourselves. If so, then we know we are doing the right thing and following God’s commandments.