The words impiety and impious appear in the Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible in many of the New Testament Epistles. Other translations render the word for “impiety” as “ungodliness” or “wickedness.” To be pious is to have reverence for God and be devoted to spiritual things, so the opposite of that—to be impious—is to be irreverent or faithless concerning the things of God. When the Bible speaks of ungodliness or wickedness, it is referring to impiety.
Left to himself, man is naturally impious due to his sin nature. From the moment of the fall in the Garden of Eden, mankind has continued to descend into wickedness. Soon after Eden, Cain showed impiety by bringing an unacceptable offering to the Lord and demanding that it be accepted (Genesis 4:5). A few generations later, Lamech showed impiety by killing a man and boasting about it (Genesis 4:23). By Noah’s day, impiety was so extensive that “every intention of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). This is the nature of impiety. Unchecked, it continues to increase until it permeates a society.
Every time that God told the Israelites to keep the Sabbath holy (e.g., Exodus 20:8), He was warning them against impiety. God required piety concerning His name, too: “Do not profane my holy name, for I must be acknowledged as holy by the Israelites” (Leviticus 22:32). Psalm 45:7 says that God hates impiety because He loves righteousness. God’s nature is one of perfect holiness; therefore, He cannot abide sin or impious behavior. David describes God’s hatred of sin this way: “You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; no evil dwells with You” (Psalm 5:4).
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). The Greek word translated “ungodliness” in this verse literally means “impiety,” and it includes all crimes men commit against God and against one another. Impiety is bound up in the violation of all the commands of God, summarized in the greatest commandments, to love God and others (Matthew 22:37–40). As we are all sinners, we are all guilty before God of impiety and deserve His wrath.
Fortunately for impious mankind, God is not just the God of justice and wrath; He is also the God of love and grace. God so loved the world that He provided the means to escape His wrath. Jesus Christ, the Holy One of God, died on the cross to pay the penalty for our impiety. Jesus suffered the wrath of the Father, even though He was perfect and had committed no sin. Christ the pious died for the impious (Romans 5:6), demonstrating God’s love and inviting us to enjoy God’s presence throughout eternity, with no fear of wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:9). Those who accept this sacrifice by faith are declared righteous because God exchanges our sin for the righteousness (piety) of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Saved by grace, we are enabled to deny impiety and to “live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11–12). The lives of those who have escaped God’s wrath through faith in Christ are to be characterized by true piety—reverence and devotion to God. Believers should reject all impiety and anything that is against God’s nature. Christians have the Spirit of God living within them, and His power enables us to live in a godly manner (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).