Should Christians wear wedding rings?
Some have advanced the idea that Christians should not wear wedding rings, as this custom is allegedly pagan, and some have even gone so far as to claim that it was adopted from occult practices. We understand that the Bible prohibits us to worship the true God with pagan symbolism or activities which were adopted from the way in which pagans worshipped their gods. But we must be careful that we do not carry this injunction too far and prohibit everything, whether it is used in worship services or otherwise, only because pagans might have engaged in it.
We addressed this issue in a recent Q&A, which answered the question as to whether Christians should use symbols which are used by pagans. Among other symbols, we discussed the symbol of the heart, certain symbols which are being used in sign language, the Star of David and the symbols of stars in general. We also pointed out that the mere fact that pagans and occultists attach a particular meaning and human interpretation to certain symbols should not compel a Christian to refrain from using these symbols.
This same principle applies to wedding rings. Some claim that wedding rings were “invented” by pagans and occultists with certain supernatural applications in mind. At the same time, everything else pertaining to weddings and wedding customs could be—and has been—labeled as pagan and forbidden, including honeymoons, bridesmaids, wedding cakes, kissing the bride, the bride wearing white or carrying flowers, and even a bride wearing a veil, which is allegedly linked to sorcery (compare, Reader’s Digest, “Why in the World?”). It can be clearly seen that such extreme views are not sound and must be rejected.
The website of gotquestions.org published the following article about wedding rings:
“The signet ring is the earliest type of ring mentioned in the Bible… Jeremiah informs us that the Israelites wore the signet ring on the right hand (Jeremiah 22:24)… Pharaoh gave his signet ring to Joseph as a symbol of authority (Genesis 41:42)… Upon his return, the prodigal son received a ring from his father as a symbol of dignity and restored position (Luke 15:22)…
“The custom of wearing the wedding ring on the fourth finger of the left hand is based upon a romantic, although unscientific, Greek fable that the artery from that finger flows directly to the heart. However and whenever the custom of the wedding band developed, it is seen today as a symbol of an unending commitment to the marriage relationship. As such, it certainly has a biblical basis in that marriage is to be a lifetime commitment (Romans 7:2). This is not to say that wearing a wedding ring is a requirement for married Christians…”
There is really no evidence that the custom of wearing wedding rings on the fourth finger of the left hand is BASED on a Greek fable. As we will see, the wearing of a signet ring (which is the ancient equivalent to the modern wedding ring) was NOT based on such a fable at all.
The website of biblicalperspectives.com published an article on the matter, which is strictly written from a Seventh-Day Adventist perspective and addresses the transformation from the view point of the Methodist Church (which rejected wearing of jewelry in all of its forms, including rings) to the understanding of the Seventh-Day Adventist position which basically allows the wearing of wedding rings. Although we would not agree with much which is written in the article, especially when addressing all kinds of unverified “superstitions” about the history of the wedding ring, here are some noteworthy comments:
“The story of the finger ring is in a way like the ring itself, without beginning and without end. No one can tell for certain how far back the ring goes. Finger rings appear to have originated with the ancient Egyptians, evolving from the seal or signet… The reason Christians did not oppose the adoption of the betrothal ring [similar to our modern “engagement rings”] is because they perceived it to be not an ornament but a symbol of marital commitment… The ‘sealing’ function of the ring suggests that it was a signet ring that apparently functioned also as a marital ring.”
The Jews used “betrothal rings” and also wedding rings, as Reader’s Digest, “Why in the World?,” points out, “to seal the bond between husbands and wives.”
We need to note that the Bible does NOT say that the wearing of finger rings ORIGINATED in ancient Egypt. But signet rings are mentioned approvingly in the Bible. Scripture does not tell us on what finger the signet ring was worn; Jeremiah 22:24 associates in that particular passage a signet ring with the “right” hand, but it does not say that this is to be understood exclusively, nor, on which finger the ring was worn. It appears that the signet ring could be worn on any finger, including the fourth finger. At least, the Bible nowhere states that it could not have been worn in that way. As a matter of interest, the engagement ring is worn on the left hand in some European countries, and the wedding ring is worn on the right hand (in the USA, the UK and some other countries around the world, the wedding ring is worn on the left hand).
The Worldwide Church of God, under its late human leader, Herbert W. Armstrong who died in 1986, carefully evaluated the question as to whether Christians can wear wedding rings, and it has concluded the following, as stated in a letter from the Letter Answering Department:
“Exodus 35 records that rings were included with the offering the Israelites gave for the building of the Tabernacle. There is not the slightest indication that God was displeased with their wearing rings.
“The Bible records that God was with Joseph when he was sold into slavery in Egypt. Joseph served God, and God caused him to find favor in the eyes of the Pharaoh. In Genesis 41:41-42, we find that Joseph accepted a ring from the Pharaoh. It is plain from the context that the ring was a symbol of the very high office which had been bestowed upon him. God was not displeased with this, and the next few chapters show that God continued to bless and guide Joseph.
“In principle, the ring given to Joseph served much the same purpose as that of a wedding ring. A wedding ring is merely a symbol of the marriage vows that have been made.
“One further example is the famous story of the prodigal son. Jesus used this parable to illustrate God the Father’s love toward a repentant sinner. The father, who pictured God, ordered a ring to be put on the son’s hand (Luke 15:22).
“All of the evidence is positive. The Bible nowhere criticizes the wearing of rings in general or wedding rings in particular.”
In addition, the hands of a bridegroom or husband are compared with gold rings set with beryl (Song 5:14, Authorized Version). We might also mention Esther 8:2, stating that “the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai; and Esther appointed Mordecai over the house of Haman.”
Another meaningful and conclusive passage, which should settle the question once and for all, can be found in Haggai 2:23: “‘In that day,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘I will take you, Zerubbabel My servant, the son of Shealtiel,’ says the LORD, ‘and will make you as a signet ring; for I have chosen you,’ says the LORD of hosts.”
This passage clearly compares the signet ring with a wedding ring, as Zerubbabel had received the Holy Spirit and was already spiritually betrothed to Christ before he died, and when he is resurrected at the return of Christ, he will be spiritually married to Him—the time setting in the above-quoted passage is “in that day”—the time leading to and including Christ’s Second Coming (For the parallel between physical and spiritual betrothal and marriage, please read our free booklet, “And Lawlessness Will Abound…”).
Inasmuch as the Bible has to be our guide on whatever questions might arise, it is immaterial as to what superstitious meanings pagans and occultists may give to their use of wedding rings. Since the Bible clearly allows the wearing of wedding rings, pagan and occult interpretations are meaningless for us—as long as we do not wear wedding rings with a superstitious understanding of occult practices. Some quote 1 Corinthians 10:19-22 for their refusal to wear wedding rings, claiming that in doing so, we would come in contact with demons. This objection is ill founded. Apart from the fact that there is no credible evidence proving that wedding rings are the invention of occultists, the quoted passage speaks, in context, of worship services and warns against partaking in religious activities which might resemble Passover activities, but which are in fact derived from and directed towards honoring and worshipping demons. But Paul also makes very clear that for us, “an idol is nothing,” and that we can even eat clean meat which was sacrificed to idols (1 Corinthians 8:4), as long as we don’t eat it IN HONOR OF idols (1 Corinthians 8:7).
Some have raised the issue that the wearing of rings or wedding rings—especially by women—allegedly violates biblical injunctions such as 1 Peter 3:3-6 and 1 Timothy 2:9-10. This assumption is wrong. First of all, let us note in general that James 2:2-4 speaks about a “man with gold rings, in fine apparel,” coming into our assembly or church services. James is not saying that the man should stop wearing gold rings or fine clothes; rather, his point is that the brethren should not show favoritism towards him and look down on those in the church who do not possess such fine things. In addition, we have seen that God approves of signet rings. You might also look at Ezekiel 28:13 to see how God adorned Lucifer when He created him.
In regard to women, the Bible does not prohibit them to wear jewelry or wedding rings. In Ezekiel 16:9-13, God describes figuratively how He adorned His Old Testament bride, Israel, by clothing her “in embroidered cloth” and “with fine linen” and “silk”; with “ornaments,” “bracelets on [her] wrists, and a chain on [her] neck”; with “a jewel in [her] nose, earrings in [her] ears, and a beautiful crown on [her] head”; and thus He “adorned [her] with gold and silver…” The passage in Isaiah 3:16-23 does not contradict this. It merely points out that in the end time God will take away all these fine things from Israel, including her bracelets, headdresses, rings and nose jewels, due to her sinful and haughty conduct.
The above-mentioned passages in 1 Peter 3:3-6 and 1 Timothy 2:9-10 do not prohibit women to wear jewelry or fine clothes or rings per se (otherwise, this would be in opposition to the passages mentioned herein), but as we also read in Isaiah 3:16-23, they warn against the overemphasis and misuse of the same for wrong purposes, in order to draw undue attention to themselves and their riches. Notice how the Amplified Bible translates 1 Peter 3:3-4: “Let not yours be the [merely] external adorning with [elaborate] interweaving and knotting of the hair, the wearing of jewelry, or changes of clothes; But let it be the inward adorning and beauty of the hidden person of the heart…”
Likewise, the Living Bible renders 1 Peter 3:3 as follows, by accurately conveying the intended meaning: “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty that depends on jewelry, or beautiful clothes, or hair arrangement. Be beautiful inside, in your hearts, with the lasting charm of a gentle and quiet spirit which is so precious to God.”
At the same time, these passages do not say that women should dress inappropriately or sloppy, without adorning themselves in some way, when attending Sabbath services. The Sabbath is a holy feast day, and we are appearing in front of God on that day, who is our King. We would not appear before a worldly king with dirty clothes or in a sloppy and casual attire. When God appeared to Israel to give them the Ten Commandments, He insisted that the people were to “wash their clothes” (Exodus 19:10).
We stated the following in our Q&A on proper attendance in Sabbath services:
“We must understand that we are appearing before GOD. God is a great King. God is the Creator of everything that is good and costly and priceless. He is the Creator of beauty. He most certainly is the Creator of quality. He owns all the gold and silver, and it is He who made it all. If we were to be invited by an earthly king, how would we appear in front of him? Would you want to appear in unwashed, dirty clothing, wearing washed-out jeans, a T-shirt, and sneakers?
“How much more should we appear before GOD, the KING over His creation, in proper clothes! The famous parable in Matthew 22:10-13 about the king’s wedding feast for his son contains a spiritual lesson, but it also describes a physical principle–that we dress appropriately for the occasion. It DID matter to the king—God the Father—how the guests were dressed for the wedding of His Son, Jesus Christ…
“When God gave instructions for the creation of ‘holy garments’ for the priests of Israel, He specifically wanted them made ‘for GLORY and for BEAUTY’ (Exodus 28:2). Regarding how both men and women dress when attending Church services, we find a meaningful example in the time when the children of Israel were commanded to wash their clothes in advance of appearing before God (Compare Exodus 19:10,14).”
In comparison, we must be aware of our awesome responsibility which we have today, when we appear before God and His heavenly throne and majestic surroundings in Sabbath services, compare Hebrews 12:18-24.
Continuing with quoting from our above-mentioned Q&A:
“Likewise, the priests were to wash themselves when appearing before God (Compare Exodus 30:19-20); and, they were to wear special clothing (Compare Exodus 28).”
Note that we are today a “holy” and a “royal priesthood,” as 1 Peter 2:5, 9 points out, also showing our duty to appear before God during Sabbath services with washed and special clothing.
We make the following observations in our Q&A:
“It has been the practice of the Church of God to recognize that we are appearing before God when we assemble for Sabbath services along with other special commanded assemblies as given by God [such as commanded worship services throughout the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles, even though only the first day is a Holy Day]. As such, we do recommend that each person present himself or herself in the best apparel they have available. The foremost idea is to specially prepare to appear before God to honor HIM!”
To conclude, the wearing of wedding rings is most certainly not contrary to biblical injunctions. To believe otherwise would not be in accordance with the Word of God and the binding decision of the Church of God (compare Matthew 16:18-19; 18:18).
Lead Writer: Norbert Link