Nose rings are mentioned in the Bible as far back as the book of Genesis. When Abraham sent his servant in search of a wife for Isaac, the servant prayed that God would reveal to him the right young woman (Genesis 24:12–14). Rebekah came in answer to his prayer, and when she agreed to give him lodging in her father’s home, he gave her some gifts from his master, Abraham. Among those gifts was “a gold nose ring” (Genesis 24:22). This reveals that nose rings were in fashion during that era and they represented wealth and status when given as gifts. They were also considered female attire. The only time men wore anything through their noses was when they were taken as slaves (2 Chronicles 33:10–11).
In Ezekiel 16, God describes the affection He had showered upon Israel in terms of a man showering his bride with gifts: “I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head” (verse 12). The Lord often used figurative speech and familiar objects and customs in order to communicate unfamiliar truths to His people. The lavish adornment, including the nose ring, described in this passage was the way a wealthy, loving husband would have provided for his beloved.
Nose rings are worn for different reasons in different cultures. In some Hindu communities, piercing a woman’s nose marks her as either married or ready for marriage. It is also believed by some that piercing the nose relieves pain during childbirth. In more primitive cultures, nostril or septum piercing is common and has carried a variety of meanings depending upon the region, tribe, or historical era.
In the recent past, nose rings were not considered mainstream in Western culture. The presence of a nose ring indicated rebellion or solidarity with counterculturalism. However, in most Western cultures today, nose rings are simply a matter of personal style and preference. They are usually worn as tiny diamond studs or small rings fastened on one nostril. Wearing a nose ring is neither good nor bad but reflects one’s personal taste. However, if a nose ring represents something evil, then it is wrong to wear one. For example, a teenage girl may get her nose pierced as an act of rebellion against her family’s conservative values. She wants a nose ring simply because no one else in her circle has one and because it will spark controversy. Her parents have told her “no,” but she gets her nose pierced anyway. For that girl, wearing a nose ring is wrong because it is an open, visible statement of rebellion.
For a Christian, the one principle that should define all choices is found in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” The mention of eating and drinking drives home the point that every choice a believer makes can have significance. What we do, where we go, and how we dress all reflect our relationship with Jesus. We can either bring Him glory by our choices or bring dishonor to His name. In the decision of whether or not to wear a nose ring, we can ask ourselves a few questions:
1. In my circle of influence, will wearing a nose ring be likely to cause offense and draw negative attention to me rather than draw positive attention to Christ?
2. What message do I think I am sending by wearing a nose ring? What message might others actually be receiving?
3. Do I have a history of infections or skin irritations that an unsanitary nose ring might aggravate?
4. Will my nose ring be so distracting that it becomes the focus for other people rather than my eyes or my words?
Keeping 1 Corinthians 10:31 as our guideline for every decision—whether it be the style of clothing we wear, the way we fix our hair, or the piercings we get—we also keep our motives pure. When our life goal is to magnify the purity and beauty of Christ in our lives, He helps us stay away from the sensational and seek modesty and humility (1 Corinthians 8:9; Galatians 5:13). With those qualities in place, we have freedom to express the beauty of Christ in a variety of ways, including wearing nose rings.