It’ been said that if the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy. We can’t become truly pious if we’re too busy to make time for God and for others. I have a tendency to do this. I become so caught up with expedient things, I lose track of the things that have eternal value. I forget that even Jesus made time to get away and rest. I miss bits of God’s grace and the people He wants me to serve. I forget to listen for his voice. This poem is a good reminder to slow down and pay attention. I had a very hectic weekend, so I even if nobody else needs to hear this today, I do!
Slow me down Lord, I am going too fast:
I can’t see my brother when he’s walking past.
I miss a lot of good things day by day;
I don’t know a blessing when it comes my way.Slow me down, Lord I want to see
More of the things that are good for me.
A little less of me and a little more of you,
I want the heavenly atmosphere to trickle through.Let me help my brother when the going is rough:
When folks work together life isn’t so tough.
Slow me down, Lord so I can talk
With some of your angels.
Slow me down to a walk.Brother John G. Ottis
Years ago I found this description of what piety looks like in a book called The Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith. Hannah was raised as a Quaker and was later influenced by the Holiness movement (John Wesley, founder of the Methodists). I don’t know all there is to know about Hannah’s theological beliefs, so I can’t recommend all of her writings, but I find her comments below helpful in defining what it means to be authentically pious.
“When a consecrated believer follows the Lord faithfully several evidences appear sooner or later. Meekness and quietness of spirit become, in time, the characteristics of daily life. Other outward signs are:
Grateful acceptance of the will of God as it comes in the hourly events of each day
Pliability in the hands of God to do or bear whatever He assigns
A sweet disposition, even under provocation
Calmness in the midst of turmoil and confusion
Willingness to let others have their way
Refusal to notice slights and affronts
Absence of worry, anxiety and fear
Sometimes I read through these qualities as a way to examine my conscience, in other words to measure my own progress in piety. Knowing our weaknesses is the starting point for change. I admit to having trouble with all of these, but find #3 and #7 particularly difficult. You may fall short in different areas. I notice that although these attributes are manifested outwardly, they all spring from an inner desire to trust and obey God, and they’re not easy to fake. It’s not about following the rules, it’s about following Jesus.
Do you find Hannah’s list thought provoking? How might you use it? Let the Lutheran Ladies know what you think.
After a Via de Cristo weekend, participants are encouraged to form or join an accountability group. In this group, we meet on a regular basis to discuss our plans for growing in God’s grace. Since a balanced Christian life includes piety, study and action, group members take turns talking about how they are doing in each of these areas. To mature as a Christian, we must practice spiritual disciplines. Disciplines that increase our piety include:
- Congregational worship and communion
- Morning offering/evening thanks
- Devotions, meditation and prayer
- Examination of conscience
- Altar or chapel visits
- Family prayer
- Blessings before meals
- Spiritual direction
Maybe you’re not even sure what some of these mean. I didn’t before my weekend. (That may be the topic for another post). Maybe you think it sounds a little mechanical, or even legalistic (Those are dangers, for sure. It is possible to become a “routine Rita” simply doing Christian things without really thinking about what they mean). However, like any other support group, banding together with others who want to go in the same direction helps us keep on track. Knowing I have to “weigh in” next week encourages me to complete the task/s I’ve assigned myself. It is also an opportunity to hear what works for others, and it’s helpful to learn all the creative ways my friends have learned to pray, to get recommendations for devotionals and just be held up in prayer.
At the end of the piety section there is a question to answer: “What was the moment you felt closest to Christ?” Maybe it was during a worship service; maybe it was listening to a favorite hymn or song; maybe it was an insight that seemed God-sent during prayer; maybe it was a simple feeling of gratitude for time with family. Sometimes I wonder if I would even notice these moments of grace if I didn’t have my reunion group meeting to make me think about them each month.
You don’t have to go on a Via de Cristo weekend to practice piety. You do need others, though. It’s too hard to go it alone. Find a friend or friends. Pray together; study together; talk about our Christian walk; laugh and cry and vent when you need to; do ministry together. You won’t regret it, and you’ll look back years later to see where all that practice has led. It will be higher ground.
God loves you and so do I!
The following are excerpts from a talk on Piety given by Jim Edgel – They have been reprinted with his permission:
Piety is a word we rarely use and may think of it in a negative way such as the “pious” ways of the Pharisees. But authentic Christian piety is a very good thing. In fact, if we explain the life Jesus led, it was a life of true piety. Brothers, as we become filled with the Holy Spirit, God calls each one of us to a new life, and this involves a radical change from within. This change alters our relationship with: Our self, with God, with other people, and with the world, we live in together. We see ourselves differently, knowing that no matter how broken we may be, we are forgiven and very valuable to God. We have a new direction for our lives as children of God, full of marvelous capabilities. We begin to see other people through God’s eyes, loving them as brothers and sisters who were created with the same potential that God has given to us. And as we continue to transform; we see our world, as messed up as it may be, as God’s gift to us, given for our enjoyment and care. When we speak of piety, we are speaking of a full response in all areas of our life to God’s amazing love and grace. We must seek a personal relationship with God, not just knowing about God … But knowing who God is. Being Christian, not just doing Christian things. How can we discover our God-given potential and be the complete person that God calls us to be as we live a life of grace? This consists of balancing three key dimensions of our lives. All three are equally important and it takes all three, working together, giving equal stability and balance in order to support us as we live in a close relationship with God. To better understand the importance of Piety in our daily walks as Christians; which includes taking the Good News of Jesus Christ and Him crucified for you and me to the world, we must understand the difference between authentic piety and false piety. Authentic piety is an intimate, revitalizing deepening relationship with God. Jesus explains this to us. You may remember reading in the Gospel of Matthew when the Pharisees gathered to question Jesus and one of the group asked Him which was the greatest commandment in the law. And Jesus using His words with great precision, as always, not only answers their question, He explains authentic piety and sums up all the commandments in three sentences. 22nd chapter of Matthew verses 37, 38, 39 – And Jesus said to him “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”False piety is a superficial, inaccurate or deceptive practice that appears to be Christian. False piety is destructive. It distracts and diverts people from seeking and knowing God. It prevents them from finding and living the fulfilled life God has planned for them. Friends … any of us can respond to God’s call in either of two ways. We can follow a path of faith and commitment as Paul described in his letter to the Colossians “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Or we can devote ourselves to religious, regulations and practices that mark us as “A good Christian” who does “Christian” things. Those who take this path do not understand the role of God’s grace in the lives of those who are in a relationship with Him.
More to follow
“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” 2 Timothy:1:5
Not every child is as lucky as Timothy. We don’t all have pious mothers, and many who don’t still grow up to find Christ. We can’t inherit our faith. However, it is true that parents influence us, and I thought Mother’s Day is a good time to remember and celebrate that.
Did you know that when people are asked who had the greatest influence on their faith life the most common answer given is “my mother”? (I’m sure grandmothers are in the mix as well.) Children don’t “catch” their mothers’ faith through book learning or Bible reading, even if that goes on. They catch it from seeing a person who lives her life for Christ; a woman who practices what the Bible teaches. I remember reading years ago that children learn in three ways: by example, by example, and by example.
So to all of us who are mothers and grandmothers, let’s pray every day to be good examples of piety to our children and grandchildren — not the fake, whitewashed piety of the Pharisees, but the real deal; the kind they will respect and want to imitate. And if you’re not a parent, don’t worry! You’re still called to be a role model to younger Christians. You may be the Sunday School teacher, the Youth leader, the mentor who will always be remembered and cherished for pointing the way to Jesus.
Maybe some of our other authors and readers have stories they would like to share. Who were the women who modeled true piety in your life? Was it a mother, grandmother, Sunday School teacher or friend? I’d like to hear about them.
In his book, Varieties of Christian Experience, Lutheran psychologist Sv Norborg describes a saint (in other words, a pious person) as “an average man or woman in whose presence we realize that God is a reality.” He goes on to say:
“Such a personality has, as have all humans, its limitations. Still one finds here a natural supernaturalism and a grateful sense of life’s values. A clearness of thought, with visionary hope against hope. A consideration of factual realities in the world and in our fellow men, in a spirit of sound judgement and friendliness. A sober control of emotions, placing deeds of love above romantic or pious words. A stability of will that springs from a surrendered life under God’s benediction. A free and balanced expression of thoughts and feelings, not absolute in its statements, still clear in its convictions. An openminded interest in life and lives, depending upon a self-forgetting, unseen love, taken as a matter of fact, not demonstrated to be seen by men, but hidden in God. A humility that is neither sick nor sour, a joy that is neither ecstatic nor fading, a confidence in God that is not shaken by the tempests of sorrow or affliction. An unknown among millions, known to God, which makes this anonymous life different.”
Do you know someone like this?
On a Via de Cristo weekend, one of the talks is entitled “Piety.” We learn that piety is part of a balanced Christian life, which also includes study and apostolic action. True piety means directing your entire life toward God; doing His will, understanding His purposes. The song, “Seek Ye First” is a good reminder to do this every day.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you outwardly appear righteous to all, but within you are full of lawlessness.” Matthew 23:27-28
In these verses Jesus is talking about the worst kind of false piety: those who know they are unrighteous, and simply want to present a false impression of godliness. They don’t really care about God’s law or God’s people. They look for loopholes and ways to justify themselves. They behave one way at church, and another way in their private personal or business dealings. These are people who attend church and are known as “pillars of the community” yet may beat their children, cheat their employees, and quarrel with their neighbors. Why do they do these things? Simply because they can. To them Christianity is only a label used to make them look good or worse yet, give them power over others.
Do you know the worst consequence of this kind of piety? It turns others away from the faith. How many people have you met who refuse to hear the gospel message because, “I’ve known some of those folks and they are just hypocrites. They say all the right things, but they sure don’t act that way!”
The sad thing is, we’re all capable of falling into this kind of false piety, at least at times. It’s easy to compartmentalize our Christianity and keep it locked up to be brought out only on Sunday; it’s harder to walk the walk every day in every situation. Most of us aren’t intentional phonies. We just get angry, or frustrated, or we have certain bad habits we can’t (or don’t want ) to break. However, faith isn’t meant to be a part of life, it’s meant to be our way of life.
The best remedy to this kind of “phony” piety? Recognize it, confess it and work to correct it. Be beautiful inside and out. That’s true piety.