In a world where people are valued mostly, if not only, for how much money they earn, and where celebrities sport jewelry worth more than most people earn in a year, it’s easy to focus on the superficial.

Christians have long wrestled with the issue of conspicuous consumption and the message that our clothes and other possessions may send about what we value. Some religious groups have gone so far as to mandate simple clothing and lifestyles. At the same time, the Bible shows us a God who celebrates beauty. The high priest wore an outfit decorated with a dozen jewels and precious stones (Exod. 28:17-21). In this case, the jewelry played a very functional role; that is, it wasn’t for display per say, but had a specific function.

The prophet Ezekiel tells a parable in which God dresses His people, represented by a woman, in embroidered cloth and silk garments, and beautiful jewelry, including bracelets, a necklace, and earrings (Ezek. 16:10-13). The apostle John describes the future New Jerusalem, God’s city, as “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2). In these cases, too, one could argue that the jewelry had a role, a function, as opposed to just for show.

In Song of Solomon, the Shulamite woman’s friends tell her, “Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments, your neck with chains of gold. We will make you ornaments of gold with studs of silver” (Song. 1:10-11). When the Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of Egypt, he put his signet ring, a sign of his authority, on Joseph’s finger, and a gold chain around Joseph’s neck, which were typically decorated with semiprecious stones and inscribed with the Pharaoh’s official names and titles. In the story of the prodigal son, the father welcomes his son home by giving him fine clothes and a ring on his finger (Luke 15:22).

But, in special times of consecration, God asked His people to remove their ornaments and jewelry. For instance, when God asked Jacob to return with his household to Bethel, they removed by God’s request “all the foreign gods which were in their hands, and the earrings which were in their ears” (Gen. 35:1-4). After the disastrous worship of the golden calf at Sinai, God asked the Israelites to take off their “ornaments” (Exod. 33:5-6). Insightfully, the book of Revelation portrays the great harlot (i.e. the apostate religious systems) as “adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup” (Rev. 17:4; cf. 2 Kings 9:30) and the pure “woman” (i.e. the true remnant church) as “clothed with sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars” (Rev. 12:1).

The apostle Peter urged, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Pet. 3:3-4, NIV). Thus, however we carry ourselves in general, God calls us to live with humility, not flaunting our blessings or taking them for granted. We are created in God’s image. Don’t let anything obscure your inner beauty.