Wearing finger rings is not compatible with the Biblical principles of modesty; historically, they have tempted people to wear all kinds of jewelry. This principle is derived from the Biblical disapproval of wearing ornamental jewelry (1 Tim 2:9; 1 Peter 3:3-4; Gen 35:2-4; Ex 33:3-5). The only finger ring mentioned in the Bible several times is the signet ring (Jer 22:24; Gen 41:42; Esth 3:10, 12; Luke 15:22), which was used to seal various documents and contracts. The wearing of the signet ring is not condemned in the Bible, presumably because it was regarded as an instrument of authority rather than an ornament.
We have found the betrothal ring was first a plain iron ring used by the Romans to “tie” the betrothal commitment of two lovers. Soon the betrothal ring evolved into elaborate ornamental golden rings worn on practically all the fingers. What happened in ancient Rome was later repeated in the history of Christianity. In the early church the use of the marital ring evolved through three main stages. In the first stage, the apostolic period, there was no apparent use of the marital ring. In the second stage, the second and third centuries, there was a restricted use of only one plain, inexpensive conjugal ring. In the final stage, from the fourth century onward, there was a proliferation of all kinds of ornamental gold rings set with gems to display wealth, pride, and vanity. This was true not only for the laity but also for the clergy. Church leaders bedecked and bejeweled themselves with gold rings, precious stones, and gold embroidered vestments.
What happened in the early church was later repeated in modern denominations. The two examples we have considered, namely, the Methodist and Mennonite churches, show the same pattern. In the first stage, no jewelry or wedding rings were allowed. In the second stage, a concession was made for wearing the wedding ring. In the final stage, the concession to wear the marital ring became a pretext for wearing all kinds of jewelry, including ornamental rings.
The pattern in the Seventh-day Adventist church is very similar. In the first stage of the early days of Adventism, no jewelry or marriage rings were worn. In the second stage, a concession was made for wearing the marriage ring only in those countries where the custom was imperative. In the final stage, the concession to wear a plain marriage band was extended in 1986 to church members in North America. The result of this evolution is a steady rise among Adventists in the wearing of different kinds of jewelry, including ornamental rings.
The lesson of history is evident. Rings seem to exercise an almost fatal attraction. People can become so enamored with their finger ring that they are easily tempted to wear all kinds of jewelry. To play it safe, it is advisable not to wear a wedding ring, unless it is a social imperative. Instead we can wear “the golden link which binds [our] souls to Jesus Christ, a pure and holy character, the true love and meekness and godliness that are the fruit borne upon the Christian tree, and [our] influence will be secure anywhere.”