Piety is usually associated with godliness or reverence for God. "Pious" refers to someone who demonstrates great devotion to God through religious observance.
Today, piety has a vaguely negative connotation, as evidenced by one dictionary's secondary definition: "a belief held with unquestioning conventional reverence—the accepted pieties of our time." True piety suffers because of the "unthinking" part of this definition. Piety still refers to the quality of being holy, religiously devout, or reverent, both historically and technically.
Piety has been translated in a variety of ways:
- In Job 4:6, 15:4, and 22:4, the NIV renders a Hebrew idiom that might otherwise be translated "the fear [or reverence] of the Lord" as "piety."
- In Matthew 6:1, the NRSV substitutes "piety" for a Greek word that is usually translated "righteousness." In Acts 3:12, it is also the translation for eusebeia, a Greek term for "reverence."
- In Acts 3:12, the NASB also renders eusebeia as "piety." In Hebrews 5:7, it does the same thing. Piety is used in 1 Timothy 5:4 to refer to one's responsibility to care for elderly family members.
Piety encompasses aspects of reverence, external action, and religiosity, all of which can be well-intentioned or misapplied. In Matthew 6:1–18, Jesus warns against ostentatious displays of piety. God is glorified as a result of proper piety, which is characterised by godly behaviour: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).