3 Qualities of True Piety

Piety. It’s not one of those words we use every day, right?

It feels a little old-fashioned. But sometimes, a word we don’t use often is the perfect word to make us stop and really think. 

Here’s the definition: the quality of being religious or reverent.  Some of the synonyms for piety include devoutness, devotion, piousness, religion, holiness, godliness, saintliness.

James 1:26-27 offer us a clear description and sure prescription for a life that evidences our relationship with the Lord, a life of true piety.




3 Qualities of True Piety

We’ve been studying the book of James in the women’s Bible study at our church. Last week we finished up our study of chapter one. While I was studying before our group met, I spent some time reflecting on the familiar words of James 1:26-27:

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:26-27

One of the commentaries I looked at summarized what we find in these verses this way: Your lifestyle will reflect and give evidence of the life of the One who lives within you.**

It’s true, you know, the closer we are to Christ, the more our actions, words, and attitudes reflect Him. Put another way, you can say what you think but you live what you believe.

Piety is simply the visibility of the God at work in us. In these two verses James gives us three evidences of Christ at work in us.

Control our speech

Throughout Scripture the power of our words is emphasized. James covers the topic even more in depth when we get to the first part of chapter two.  One of the most powerful statements he makes is found in James 2:9-10—With it (the tongue) we bless our Lord, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth comes blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be.

Our ability to control our speech is most assuredly a mark of maturing in our devotion to the Lord and our pursuit of holiness.

James 1:26-27 offer us a clear description and sure prescription for a life that evidences our relationship with the Lord, a life of true piety.

Care for the helpless

The second indication of our piety is our concern and care for the widows and the orphans. At the time of James’ writing, the widows and orphans were the most helpless demographic. In our world, we see these groups as well as many others who are voiceless, powerless, helpless and often hopeless. It is the call on every believer to take an active role in caring for the helpless in our communities, in our country, and around the world.  

A cursory search of the Bible leads us to understand God’s passion for the poor and oppressed.  Here are a few:

  • Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.—Proverbs 14:31
  • I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.—Psalm 140:12
  • Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.—Isaiah 1:17
  • Looking at his disciples, [Jesus] said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.—Luke 6:20-21
  • If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.—1 John 3:17

Clearly, there is a serious expectation that as we have been recipients of the lavish love and provision of God, we will use our resources to give lavishly to others.

Cling to purity

James tells his readers to remain unstained by the word. Peter gives the same admonition with different words in his first letter:

But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:15-16

Choosing holiness in our lives is no small thing for us. Living unstained by the world will not be easy but it must be the driving force in our lives.  If we are to be “little Christs,” our deepest desire must be to conform to the image of Christ.

And while we will never reach that lofty goal this side of heaven, we must remember it is our aim and mission to allow the Spirit to work in us. Consider Paul’s words to the Philippians, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). While purity and holiness should be our desire, we must also recognize it is only through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and the Spirit’s work in our hearts that we move ever closer to that day of completion — the day we meet Jesus face-to-face in glory.

Surely this life of piety, of devotion and dedication to the Lord, is the highest pursuit we can endeavor. As the writer of Hebrews challenges:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Hebrew 12:1

Let’s lock arms, sisters, and run this race, pursuing piety as we live for His glory!

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Teri Lynne

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