The topic of whether married Christians should wear wedding rings is one that elicits a variety of perspectives among believers. This article will examine what the Bible says about wedding rings to help Christians think through this issue.
The origin and meaning of the wedding ring
The wedding ring is a symbol of the covenant between a husband and wife. It originated in ancient times as a visible sign that a woman was married and off limits to other men. While some cultures used other items like bracelets or anklets, the ring on the fourth finger became a common tradition in many places. The circular shape represents eternity, fidelity, and completeness (Isaiah 54:5, Hosea 2:19-20).
Today, the wedding ring continues to signify marriage. It reminds the wearer of their commitment and serves as an outward emblem of the internal spiritual bond. The ring does not create the marriage; it simply reflects the covenant that already exists between the husband and wife. For Christians, it can represent God’s unending love and faithfulness.
Biblical mentions of rings and jewelry
The Bible contains several references to rings and jewelry. In ancient times, signet rings were used to designate authority and worth (Genesis 41:42, Esther 3:10-12). Rings, bracelets and necklaces were also given as gifts and symbols of status (Genesis 24:22, Ezekiel 16:11-13). Jewelry could be worn simply for adornment and beauty. God instructed the Israelites to take articles of silver and gold from the Egyptians, which were used for offerings later (Exodus 3:21-22, 12:35-36). Precious metals and jewels were included in the ephod of the priestly garments (Exodus 28:15-21).
However, Scripture also warns against placing too much focus on outward beauty and excessive jewelry. God looks at the heart, not outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7, 1 Peter 3:3-4). The Israelites were condemned for using their jewelry to make idols (Ezekiel 7:19-20, Hosea 2:13). Therefore, believers are cautioned to keep their priorities straight and not worship created things.
Considerations from church history
The early church does not seem to have universally adopted wedding rings. By at least the 2nd century, some Christians used ring symbols and inscriptions to affirm their faith and remind them of spiritual truths. Rings became more extensively used in Christian marriage ceremonies during the Middle Ages and were often seen as sacramental objects. However, some church leaders like Chrysostom, Augustine and Theodore of Tarsus expressed reservations about the use of wedding rings, seeing them as a pagan practice or worldly vanity.
During the Protestant Reformation, differing views emerged over rings. Some Reformers rejected their use because they were not specifically prescribed in Scripture. Other Protesters continued to endorse wedding rings as a fitting custom. Puritans tended to oppose wedding rings at first but then became more accepting. In modern times, many evangelical Christians have adopted the wedding ring without reservation while some Anabaptist and Holiness groups have abstained from using them.
The varying perspectives on wedding rings
Among Christians today, there are three main perspectives on the use of wedding rings:
1. They are required. Some churches teach that rings are mandatory at Christian marriages. Catholicism views matrimony as a sacrament and the ring as a sacred symbol. Orthodox tradition blesses the rings and considers them central to the ceremony.
2. They are permissible but optional. Many Protestants allow believers freedom in this matter. They see rings as a beneficial custom since they represent marriage, but do not command their use. Christians can make their own decision based on conscience and wisdom.
3. They should be avoided. A minority of Christians oppose the use of wedding rings entirely. Some feel the Bible prohibits jewelry. Others see the wedding ring as ostentatious or a pagan Ritual with no clear Scriptural warrant. They advocate abstaining from rings to maintain purity and detachment from the world.
Principles for Christians to consider
In evaluating whether to wear a wedding ring, Christians would do well to reflect on the following principles:
– Our bodies and marriages are temples, so we should glorify God in how we adorn them (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
– Outward adornment is less important than the hidden person of the heart (1 Peter 3:3-4).
– Marriage is honorable and the marriage bed is undefiled (Hebrews 13:4). A ring can honor marriage.
– Symbols have meaning, but we should be careful about reading too much into them. They are imperfect representations of spiritual realities.
– True religion that pleases God is caring for the needy, not outward show (James 1:27, Isaiah 58:5-9).
– Each person must act according to their own conscience and convictions (Romans 14:5).
– Christians have freedom but should be careful not to let their liberty cause others to stumble (1 Corinthians 8:9).
– In matters without direct biblical command, love and unity in the church should prevail over personal preferences (Colossians 3:14, Romans 14:19).
Practical considerations in evaluating wedding rings
Along with the above biblical principles, Christians can evaluate their position on wedding rings in light of practical considerations:
– Rings have personal meaning. They can signify and remind us of marriage covenants.
– Rings are the cultural norm, allowing others to recognize our marital status. This has advantages.
– Some workplaces or professions may prohibit jewelry due to safety hazards or other factors. Rings are not always feasible.
– Rings can burden finances if expensive. Good stewardship is a consideration.
– Losing a ring may be upsetting and feel like losing part of marriage itself. Idolatry of the symbol is a danger.
– For those who abstain from rings on principle, alternatives like a bracelet could fulfill the need for a visible sign of marriage.
– Marital faithfulness does not automatically flow from wearing a ring. The heart matters most.
– People notice rings immediately but what really testifies of Christ is how spouses love each other.
– If rings offend the conscience of either spouse, they should be willing to discuss not using them or look for alternate expressions of commitment.
Issues to consider in relation to wedding rings
Specific issues can also shape Christians’ perspective on wedding rings:
– Are there solid biblical reasons to prohibit rings entirely or does Scripture allow freedom?
– Do circumstances like safety risks or financial hardship warrant exceptions to wearing a ring?
– Do marriage customs like rings risk becoming legalistic requirements?
– Can a wedding ring become an idol if we ascribe spiritual powers to it?
– Does a ring automatically defile marriage just because it originated from pagan cultures?
– If rings are optional, what visual symbols best represent marriage for those who forego rings?
– Is it permissible to re-evaluate use of rings over time as convictions change?
– How can those who differ over rings promote unity in the body of Christ?
– Is wearing a ring a pronouncement of faith or a matter of individual conscience and wisdom?
Conclusions Christians can draw about wedding rings
In weighing the issue of wedding rings, Christians can reach several conclusions:
– The Bible neither mandates nor forbids wearing wedding rings. They are a matter of Christian freedom.
– Rings seem to be a fitting symbol of the marriage covenant, though not an absolutely necessary one. They have value but are not sacred objects.
– Christians should avoid idolizing wedding rings or placing undue significance on their spiritual impact. The condition of the heart is most important.
– Believers with objections to rings based on conscience or convictions have biblical freedom to refrain from using them.
– Churches and families should exercise graciousness, patience, and tolerance when Christians differ over rings. Unity in Christ takes precedence.
– Spouses should thoughtfully consider each other’s preferences about wedding rings and not force their own opinions.
– Absolute dogmatism for or against rings goes beyond biblical evidence. There is room for diverse views.
– Christians can utilize wedding rings while avoiding potential pitfalls of legalism, idolatry, and relying on the symbol instead of the spiritual reality.
In summary, the Bible does not definitively tells Christians whether they must wear wedding rings or not. Believers have liberty to weigh this matter for themselves in faith before God. The principles of Scripture provide guidance for deciding. Most importantly, our marriages must shine for Christ no matter what adorns our fingers.