A Biblical Perspective on Jewelry

Speaker: Categories: Mar 12, 1988


[58min, 7sec / 49min, 45sec]


Some Seventh-day Adventist public statements on the topic of jewelry and adornment seem to allow for cultural adaptations of basic principles as noted in "While recognizing cultural differences, our dress is to be simple, modest, and neat, befitting those whose true beauty does not consist of outward adornment but in the imperishable ornament of gentle and quiet spirit." Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists, from Statement #21, General Conference, Dallas, Texas.

Other statements appear less accommodating, such as "It is clearly taught in the Scriptures that the wearing of jewelry is contrary to the will of God. 'Not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array,' is the admonition of the apostle Paul. 1 Timothy 2: 9" Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, page 352.

These statements certainly must have been intended to resolve ambiguity so that church members and others would clearly understand our denominational position. Yet, practice seems to indicate otherwise. In the June 4, 1987 edition of the Adventist Review (North American Edition), an article by Richard Duerksen was headlined: "WHO IS TEACHING STANDARDS? If I can wear earrings at church, why not at school?"

Does the Adventist church really have a stand on jewelry or is the matter actually left to the discretion of a local pastor or church board to determine? What accounts for the difference in interpretation from congregation to congregation or one geographic area to another? Are the more pious, more devout, more committed SDAs less adorned?

Recently, the General Conference reversed a rather time-honored, yet frustrating stand on the wearing of the wedding band for North American Adventists. Had the Scriptural base for the original policy changed? Was the matter ever Scripturally based at all? Was that base different outside of North America? And now that this matter has been resolved, do engagement rings fall in the same category of acceptance? Do watches worn on right wrists no longer have meaning? Just what is happening to church standards, to the good ol' days when everyone knew what was right?

Are cuff links, tie-clasps or tacks, or collar stays functional and therefore not to be included in the category of jewelry? Is the necktie, itself, functional? Or how about the French double cuffs which required the cuff links? How about the pointed, stiff collar which holds the tie which needs the collar stays?

Is a cameo brooch, if used to hold a blouse neckline discretely in place, functional, acceptable, and in good taste? How about the same brooch moved over six inches, not holding anything in place -- is it functional, in good taste, acceptable? What about a gold or silver (or even durable stainless steel) bracelet holding an instrument for reporting time -- functional, acceptable? The same bracelet without the time reporting instrument -- acceptable???

Inconsistencies on this matter seem rampant. To many, inside and outside the church, these inconsistencies raise serious questions about the authenticity and credibility of the source(s) from which such "rules of conduct" are derived.


Madelynn Haldeman is a graduate of Columbia Union College, 1948, with majors in theology and German. In 1949 she completed a master's degree in systematic theology at the SDA Seminary. This next June she will earn her Th.D. degree from the same institution. Her dissertation is entitled, "The Function of Christ's Suffering in 1 Peter 2:21."

Her teaching experiences include Mount Vernon Academy, Bible, 1949-51; Kingsway College (Ontario, Canada), Chair, Bible Department, 1963-66; La Sierra College (LLU), School of Religion, specializing in New Testament exegesis, 1956 to present.

She is an active and charter member of the Daniel and Revelation Committee of the General Conference and a member of the Biblical Research Committee since 1970. Many pastors and lay Bible students trace their skills in Biblical exegesis to the hours spent in Madelynn Haldeman's classes.

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