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Setting Godly Standards for the Family

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Paul J. Bucknell

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There is a reckless attack on Christian values through adopting new cultural standards that reflect the world. We use an example of boys (or men) wearing earrings. This was an unknown fad in previous years but now is even accepted in our churches. This article helps us understand how to handle such cultural changes. Our concern is not to keep tradition but for all believers, whether young or old, to "keep oneself unstained by the world" (James 1:27).

earing"Can our boy wear an earring?"

The question whether it is appropriate for males to wear an earring is only one of the many questions parents are being forced to answer today. As the culture changes, these questions are getting more and more challenging and distressing. Body piercing, tattoos, hair coloring and design, dropped pants and design nails are just a few other items in a long list that make some parents really wonder how to properly respond (see sidebar). Parents and people in authority are wondering how to address such quickly changing and somewhat drastic changes.

Can men wear earings like women?Although this article will focus on the particular fad of men earrings, we trust a better understanding of how to develop principles will also be present. The clearer we grasp the principles behind these new customs, the better we will be able to make clear judgments for our children. Our children are not asking just whether they can do something but why they cannot. We need to have an answer.

The standards for what people can watch, do with their time, whether they can drink or take drugs, use birth control methods, participate in or do on the Lord's Day are other issues needing to be dealt with.
Are these changes merely cultural preferences or morally wrong? If they are merely our preferences, then parents can in certain situations permit them. But if they are things that do not please the Lord, then we need to stand firm on our prohibitions. So let's ask, "Is it morally wrong for boys or men to wear earrings?"

Many people travel widely in our age. They are exposed to other cultures personally or by being exposed to different cultures via the media. Unfortunately, most people conclude from this that standards are relative and do not matter. If people can acceptably do something in their culture, they see no problem copying and doing that in their own cultural setting.

In one culture, for example, they will see that male standards require men to wear a certain kind of clothes, maybe wearing a robe like in Jesus' time. In another culture men wear pants. They assume if they can acceptably do it in one culture, then it is okay to do it in their own. The argument seems to make sense but it has some faults. There are certain tests any custom must first pass.

Test #1 Some things are never permissible.

First of all, we need to ask is there anything that would prohibit a certain custom or preference in all cases? Yes there are many verses that speak to what is not pleasing. Note 1 Timothy 2:9 below.

"Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pears or costly garments." (1 Timothy 2:9)

The principles of modesty, inexpensive, God-pleasing (proper), and un-sensual always help us evaluate right and proper attire. The price of clothes has greatly come down due to manufacturing factories. Nice things can be bought at low prices. Although this passage specially refers to women, the principles would also apply to men where applicable. Can we see how the scriptures here state that some things such as an immodest or expensive dress are always wrong? They are always wrong. God is simply not pleased with it.

Immodest clothing purposely brings attention to ones body rather than ones face. Expensive items are designed to impress and show off ones wealth.

If we would want to understand this subject more, we could ask questions like, "Why is God not pleased with expensive clothing or hair designs?" "Is it the costs or the design itself?" "Does the design lead men to focus on their outer person rather than their inner godly character?"

Test #2 Some things are sometimes permissable.

Some customs, words and styles are always wrong. God does not like them. Other ones are conditional on where it is used or by whom it is used. In our particular question, we are searching whether what one gender does is okay but impermissable for the other. Does God really have gender-designed rules? Specifically, women can wear earrings but can men? Let's look at Deuteronomy 22:5 which helps us understand God's approach to certain cultural changes.

A woman shall not wear man's clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman's clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God. (Deuteronomy 22:5)

Let's draw three principles to help us understand what is being said in this verse.

1) Two clear genders with clear distinctive clothing

We should first see that there is a need to keep a clear distinction between the two genders (male and female). God made two sexes. There is no third category as people are suggesting nowadays (such as transsexuals). God has made no such category. God made male and female. He stopped there and so should we!

Even today, we see a vast difference between men and women departments. The clothes and fashions are very different. Men and women are glad they are different. Each culture holds a clear distinction between male and female apparel. One person relayed to me yesterday why women's clothing is so much more expensive. They were told, "Women are willing to pay much more." They are fashion-oriented. People understand this and recognize the difference.

This scripture verse does not define man or woman's clothing. It doesn't tell us men ought to wear pants. Indeed, the clothing that Jesus wore is vastly different than what men in a western context might wear today. We, however, need to accept that there is a gender distinction, a God-given male/female distinction that is defined by a culture. It is this distinction that needs to remain firm. This is what we call a standard.

2) Men and women are not to wear the other sex's clothing.

Even more clear, however, is the clear command not to cross-wear, that is, men are not to wear women's clothes and women not to wear men's clothes. "Nor shall a man put on a woman's clothing."

It is now common to see men wearing an earring. One is tempted to conclude that because men now wear them, then there is no longer any feminine association with wearing earrings. The culture has changed! This is where Christians are caught off guard.

At any point in time we will see different fads coming in and going out. When does women apparel become acceptable to both men and women (unisex)? Let's discuss this more in the third point.

3) Popularity does not make gender cross-wear permissible.

Certain things which are acceptable to people within a culture are not acceptable to God. God said it is not acceptable to Him even if the culture accepts it. Why? Because it has crossed gender lines. The gender distinction becomes blurred every time men or women wear other clothing or apparel like earrings from the other gender. These things are not just preferences but an abomination to God.

Cultures do change but the changes such as boys wearing earrings are not permissible. Women must keep their style changes within their own gender. Wearing earrings is traditionally a feminine thing. Men just did not wear earrings (in the modern Western context). Women can wear big or small earrings. Both are considered feminine even though one might be popular and the other not. (Remember, though, the other standards mentioned above!) Men need to keep style changes within their own masculine definitions.

Men can wear hats. They can wear all sorts of hats but not feminine hats. Men traditionally do not wear earrings. They must not wear an earring even if other males are starting to wear earrings in one or two ears. The two sides must keep change within their own definitions of what is masculine or feminine.

Cultural fads are okay just so they stay within God's general guidelines (see point 1) and gender guidelines (see point 2). God protects us with His Law to keep us righteous. Let's just expand this idea a bit.

When one man blurs the line of gender distinction by wearing an earring, he is rebelling against God's command. He is stating that men and women can share styles and customs. God says they are not to do this. This is why there should not be any cross gender custom change. If those in our culture have instigated a style change, this doesn't make it right. So in our specific case, just because one percent of men wear earrings, this does not make it right. Even if the percentage increases to ten or twenty, we need to realize that it is not popularity that makes it right or wrong. Because it started off in rebellion, it will remain to be an item that displeases God.


Let me close with two questions that often come up in people's minds when these issues are discussed.

a) Why is gender cross-dressing not pleasing to God?

This is not just some miscellaneous Old Testament law. The law expresses God's hatred for this wearing clothes that are considered appropriate for the other sex. The Lord has made male and female's preferences for apparel quite distinct and means to keep them this way. Even in 1 Timothy 2:9 above, we see this fashion business was a woman issue. It was not a man issue. But let's show you the roots of this problem and perhaps you can better perceive God's love in His laws.

When men started wearing earrings in the States, it was seen as a 'fag' (homosexual) custom. I can remember hearing all sorts of comments being said throughout high school days. Unfortunately, they were not all nicely stated. The earring, the culture that was associated with it, was a sign of other hidden changes. It was an expression of the sodomitic culture. Not all men wearing an earring are homosexual, but we need to better understand why God outlaws cross gender dressing.

People wear things for certain purposes. Men typically care less about their clothing than woman. Women care a lot of looking just right. In sodomitic relationships, though there is only one sex, one acts more aggressive and manish while the other acts more responsive and womanish (sorry if this language is so blunt). It is well known that men wear earrings to look attractive to other men. These are the effeminate. Cross gender clothing and styles, therefore, are prohibited because they foster sodomy. The two are connected.

We need to remember even though our boys are free from problems with homosexuality, if they are wearing an earring, a sodomite will single him out with a special eye. Our daughters are to dress modestly so they are not targeted by the stray eyes of men. And certainly we do not want men attracted to our boys or our own selves (if we as men wear earrings).

b) Does the scriptures agree with this perspective?

This is not legalism. Legalism is the belief that living by certain standards we can please God. We openly acknowledge keeping some laws will never give us the righteousness that we need. Only our faith in Christ can grant us this righteousness. But having been declared righteous, we also desire to live out His commands. Once we know God's standards for some matter such as gender cross dress, then we need to responsibly make applications to our lives. Otherwise we are stating we love God's law when we don't observe it.

God speaks very clearly to how terrible sodomy is. This is the reason He forbids gender cross-wear. Let's note more clearly how God perceives sodomy.

Sodomy is clearly forbidden. Romans 1:18-32 states that sodomy is one sign of a society at moral lows.

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire towards one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. (Romans 1:26-27)

Note how 1 Corinthians 6:9 forbids sexual aberrant lifestyles that are popular such as adultery, effeminate or homosexual.

Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, ... shall inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

Lastly, we should note how adopting clothing from those of other cultures is sometimes wrong. Clothing often brings with it wrong cultural standards and therefore is rejected.

I will punish the princes, the king's sons, and all who clothe themselves with foreign garments. (Zephaniah 1:8)

In this case it is obvious that the ungodly culture came with the clothing. If the custom is adopted, then the associated culture is also adopted.

Gender cross-dressing is an expression of the rebellious sodomitic culture. They don't want to submit to God's gender distinctions. Not every boy or male wearing an earring is a sodomite, but we need to be aware how much the ungodly behavior is connected to cultural items and symbols.


My heart grieves over parents not protecting their children from the world's harm. Yes, they might be ignorant, but still they are not protecting their young ones. In the verse below how the enemy has set up their own banners right in the camp of God's people. A recent acquaintance told me that he knows of quite a few Christian men who wear earrings. Clearly they are violating God's standards. They themselves are bringing the signs of the enemy right in God's camp. This shows God's judgment upon us.

Thine adversaries have roared in the midst of thy meeting place; They have set up their own standards for signs. (Psalm 74:4)

If you as a parent have allowed your son to wear an earring, you should repent before God even if you were ignorant of His laws. You need to explain in age-appropriate terms to your son that God hates gender cross customs. If he is older, you need to explain how this gender cross wear is associated with ungodly sexual customs.

There are many other cross gender customs such as hair and nail design that are becoming popular. We need to realize the beauty of God's law; it protects us when we obey, even if we don't know the reason why.


A Question on Exodus 32:2

Someone asked how she could defend against objections to men and boys wearing earrings when it states in Exodus 32:2 that the boys wore earrings. How is one to counter such arguments?

First, let’s look at the verse, “And Aaron said to them, ‘Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’” The occasion was clearly most unfortunate and later to be judged. God, however, was not judging them for wearing earrings but nor was He rewarding them.

One culture’s actions does not justify another’s adoption, including the Hebrew culture. The Bible here was certainly not stating that we all should wear earrings or not. It only pointed out where the gold to build the golden calf came from.
For the purpose of clarity, we must remark that what the Hebrews did at that point was not necessarily represented of Hebrew culture for it could have been very strongly influenced by the Egyptians.

Remember prior to Israelites leaving Egypt (i.e. Exodus) that they were all desperately poor, working hard as slaves. They had no money to save for jewelry. We can safely assume they did not originally have earrings (men or women) for 400 years until they got them from the Egyptians when they left, from the very people God chose to judge.

We can hardly advise anyone on the basis of this verse to wear earrings for the Egyptian culture had decayed to the low point of judgment. Nor can we trust the standard of those who gave gold to build a heinous idol to be something that we should emulate! It is more important to understand cultural slides into decline which Judges 19-20 so clearly points out to us.

More articles are similar issues.

Decay in society
The three stages of decay in society are clearly outlined in a chart from Romans 1:18-32.

The Moral Slide of Sin
Filled with charts depicting the connection between cultural and personal decay.

Devastating Effects of Secular Parenting
The terrible effects of secular parenting practices are seen in the results.


The material below is designed for two kinds of parents.

(1) The parents who grew up in a generation knowing next to nothing of good parenting. They are looking on how to start a good family.

(2) The parents who are trying to improve their parenting. Some are struggling, maybe on the verge of giving up. Others are trying to go back to the biblical foundations for parenting.
The BFF Parenting Library has all the Biblical Parenting Principles for Toddlers materials in printable form as well as the available Powerpoint slideshows and handouts for Family Digital Libraryeach session.
We have even now inlcuded 9 full length Parenting videos (or audios). Click the picture for more information. Loads of teaching materials too. More info.
Or look at the BFF Marriage Library.

Our own family has gone through most of the problems families face twice. With eight children, some fully grown and our youngest at 18 months, we can see the whole process at once. We see the results of what works and what doesn't work. But even more, we have carefully studied and applied God's Word to parenting. You will be astonished to see how clearly God cares for you by presenting you answers for your practical parenting problems with lots of charts and graphics!