The Wedding Ring: To Wear or Not To Wear
October 4, 2010 Blogs, Life's Tough Questions by: Tim Jennings, M.D.

Is it wrong to wear a wedding ring? My husband and I used to wear our wedding rings, but later took them off because of [statements from church founders] that church members had pointed out to us.

  I have recently started wearing my wedding ring because of returning to college and working outside of the home with our children being in school.  My husband and I don’t look at the wedding ring as adornment, but like wearing a watch.  We also feel that the wedding ring is cultural and isn’t violating any biblical principles.

Concerns have been expressed to us such as:  a) it is a pagan symbol for concubines to the sun god – symbolizing the loss of virginity and the ring and finger symbolizing a sexual act, b) the Bible says not to wear gold or be adorned, c) we are living in the anti-typical day of atonement and all jewelry came off.

We don’t want to be a stumbling block to anyone or do something God doesn’t want us to do.

Thanks for sending this question, because not only does it give us the opportunity to discuss the question of the wedding ring, it gives us the opportunity to explore a much more significant issue – how do we deal with symbols?

The issue of the wedding ring is on par with Paul’s counsel in Romans 14 regarding food offered to idols. Those of weak faith, who “believe” the food offered to idols will have some “power” over them should not eat because in doing so the “idea” or “belief” that the false god has affected the food and will gain some power over them will negatively affect them. But those of great faith, who realize the idol is nothing but stone or wood and cannot affect them, can eat whatever they want.

Paul’s counsel had nothing to do with the quality of food but with the quality of thoughts a person had when thinking about the food. Likewise is the issue of the wedding ring. There is nothing inherently sinful or wrong in a piece of metal, it all depends on the thoughts or meaning one has about the piece of metal.

If one wears a ring and that ring symbolizes rebellion from God, rejection of His methods, self indulgence, aggrandizing self, etc. the problem is not in the ring but in the attitude one has in purchasing and wearing the ring. Likewise, if one believes the ring to be a symbol of pagan gods and somehow represents a sexual act, the problem is not in the ring but in the mind of one who thinks such thoughts. And if such a person were to wear a ring it would cause them anxiety, worry, guilt and interfere with their spiritual growth, not because the ring has any inherent evil power, but because their minds have been filled with evil thoughts about what they believe the ring represents.

When the prodigal son came home, the father, who represents God, placed a ring on his son’s finger. The ring had no inherent power, but was merely a symbol of authority within the realm of the father’s estate. Likewise wedding rings have no inherent power, but are symbols of something – the question is of what? Does the ring represent the circle of never ending love upon which God’s kingdom is based, as symbolically represented in Ezekiel’s vision (chapter 10)? Or does it represent some pagan rebellion against God? Those with weak faith (believing the ring has some evil power or symbolism) shouldn’t wear it, but those of great faith (understanding the ring is just a piece of metal) and who realize it symbolizes God’s never ending circle of love can wear it with peace.

Some raise the issue of frugality and allege that we divert resources away from God’s cause to buy a ring. This argument is the same one Judas used when the woman anointed Jesus’ feet with an ointment costing an entire year’s salary. And Jesus rebuked Judas for such a position. The marriage is symbolic of God’s love and His relationship with the church and not many people I know spend an entire year’s salary on a ring. Those who raise the argument of diverting money from God’s cause to a wedding ring demonstrate their petty natures and judgmental attitudes.

Regarding the antitypical Day of Atonement, those who raise the issue of the wedding ring show their ignorance of the meaning of the symbols and the purpose of the Old Testament system. The OT system was all symbolic. Jewelry was not about literal jewelry but represented self-aggrandizement, self-promotion, and self-exaltation and thus, in the antitypical day of atonement, it is fulfilled through a character that is humble, meek, and selfless. A wedding ring is irrelevant to this point as one may be quite proud and self-exalting, while refusing to wear a wedding ring, whereas those who wear a wedding ring are quite often Christ-like in their character.

Finally, even one of the founders of the church, who is quoted by those criticizing the wedding ring, did not argue it should never be worn:

I feel deeply over this leavening process which seems to be going on among us, in the conformity to custom and fashion. Not one penny should be spent for a circlet of gold to testify that we are married. In countries where the custom is imperative, we have no burden to condemn those who have their marriage ring; let them wear it if they can do so conscientiously, but let not our missionaries feel that the wearing of the ring will increase their influence one jot or tittle. — Special Testimonies to Ministers and Workers, No. 3, pg. 6

The point is, just as Paul said in Romans 14:5, “let every person be fully persuaded in their own mind.” Our culture has markedly changed from when the above statement was written. Many persons in today’s society do find it imperative to wear a ring and those who understand Christ’s principles will not set themselves up as judge and jury to condemn and criticize those wearing a ring. When we judge others we reveal the condition of our own heart as critical, unkind, and unloving. Our responsibility is, not to spend our time looking at fingers for silver, gold or platinum, but to shine forth God’s character of love in everything we do!

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Tim Jennings, M.D. Timothy R. Jennings, M.D., is a board-certified psychiatrist, master psychopharmacologist, Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Fellow of the Southern Psychiatric Association, and an international speaker. He served as president of the Southern and Tennessee Psychiatric Associations and is president and founder of Come and Reason Ministries. Dr. Jennings has authored many books, including The God-Shaped Brain, The God-Shaped Heart, and The Aging Brain.
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