Piety? What is that?

Each morning I have a breakfast of hot cereal, two eggs and a good book. I do not devour my food, I savor it. Currently I am savoring Calvin on Piety by Joel R. Beeke.

Most of my life when I thought of piety I envisioned the pious life of a monk; poverty, chastity, quietness and prayer. In the first chapter Beeke says, “For Calvin, pietas designates the right attitude of man towards God. This attitude includes true knowledge, heartfelt worship, saving faith, filial fear, prayerful submission, and reverential love. Knowing who and what God is (theology) embraces right attitudes toward Him and doing what He wants (piety).” Beeke then shares this from Calvin’s first catechism, “True piety consists in a sincere feeling which loves God as Father as much as it fears and reverences Him as Lord, embraces His righteousness, and dreads offending Him worse than death.” Piety is more than acts of worship it is a life of worship.

This understanding of piety was illustrated to me recently.  I sat in a sheep camp with two friends from Peru. We were discussing the story of Job. In that discussion of suffering the youngest man said that God does not tempt us. I agreed and then asked how we might avoid giving in to temptation. “Through prayer.” he answered. I agreed again and added that in prayer we are speaking to God and then I asked how does God speak to us? This time neither man said a word. I asked it again, “How does God speak to us.” They were silent. “He speaks to us through the Bible.” I said, “It is the word of God.” I then put my right index finger on the table in front of me and moved my hand away from me. As I did so I told them prayer is our communication to God, then bringing my hand back toward me, I said the Bible is God speaking to us. As I did this I realized I had made an oblong circle that revealed an active relationship between God and a believer that does not end. This pious activity was the heart of Paul’s prayer for the Colossians.

Paul begins the letter to the Colossians telling them how excited he was by the news of their faith. His response was to pray for them. In verses nine and ten of chapter one Paul says, “…we have not ceased to pray for you asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” There it is, my hand moving toward God in adoration, petition, and conduct then coming back to me with knowledge of His power, wisdom, glory, triunity, and then again returning upward with greater adoration, wiser petition and purer walk and then back to me again with more knowledge of him. That is piety; that is godliness (1Timothy 4.7-8) which energizes all life and is not restricted to single men walking stone halls but covers men playing with their children and loving their wives.  It is the life of love of God for every saint.