Propriety is Greatly to be Desired

January 30, 2013


Propriety is Greatly to be Desired

            Propriety means socially acceptable behavior.  It is built on the word “proper.”  It is doing that which is right and proper.

            It must have been that the young man Joseph, in the Bible, manifested the quality of propriety.  After arriving in Egypt, he wasn’t there very long before he gained respect and favor.  He arrived as a slave, but it wasn’t long before his master made him overseer over his house.  He was put in charge of managing his master’s money.  Genesis 39:4 says, “And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.” Because of the wickedness of his master’s wife, he suddenly found himself in prison.  We are inclined to think that being in prison leaves a person in shame and disgrace.  That wasn’t true of Joseph.  It wasn’t long before Joseph’s propriety distinguished him as something more than a common criminal.  The keeper of the prison saw that he was a man to be trusted.  Genesis 39:31-32 says, “But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.   And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it.” 

            The pharaoh was made aware Joseph’s superior administrative ability and he was made what today would be called the “prime minister” of the country.  We read about that in Genesis 41:41-44.  And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.   And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck;    And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.”

            There is a special quality about some people that is called “dignity.” It’s not that they are attractive physically. It’s in the way they conduct themselves.  Another word that is sometimes used is “charisma.” In this article we are going to point out some of the qualities of propriety.  They are qualities that will enable you to win the favor of God and those around you.

             Integrity is one of the ingredients of propriety.  Integrity is an Old Testament word found in Proverbs 20:7.  The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.” The word means to be whole or complete; not lacking in any part.  There are moral qualities that are found in those who are worthy of favor and respect.  A list of those qualities is found in Colossians 3:8-10.  “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.   Lye not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;    and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.”  It is saying that there are things that we need to “put off,” or stop doing.  These are things that give us a negative image in the eyes of others.  Even though others may be guilty of doing these things, they still respect more highly those who don’t do them.

            The passage goes on, in verses 12-15, to tell us that there are things we should “put on” or start doing.  “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.    And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.    And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” These are things that enhance our image in the sight of others.  In keeping with our definition of propriety; we can say that the first list contains things that are improper behavior.  The second list contains things that are right and proper.  We, like Joseph of old, will prosper if we have integrity.

I Peter 2:9 says that God wants his people to be peculiar.  “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” That doesn’t mean that they should deliberately try to make themselves look weird.  I believe it means that we should be an ideal specimen of what a human being should be.  It says “that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”


                 God’s people are children of the king.  For that reason, we should be careful about our appearance.  Colossians 1:10 says, “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing.”  When you go out in public you should  have a respectful appearance.  We know from   I Corinthians 11:14 that a man shouldn’t have long hair. “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?” Among rock music singers it may be in style to have long hair and an unkempt appearance, but in the general public you need to have a traditional haircut.  Girls also need to keep in mind what God’s Word says in I Timothy 2:9.  “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.”  Just because a dress is in style, according to the fashion setters, doesn’t mean it’s alright for you. The opposite of “modest” is “immodest.” An immodest dress is one that tempts men to the lust of the flesh.  Girls wearing a dress or skirt of the proper length are more attractive, in a good sense, than those wearing pants.

                 Another quality of propriety is discernment.  Hebrews 5:14 says, “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Discernment is the ability to make wise decisions.  It’s obvious that Joseph had discernment.  After he interpreted the pharaoh’s dream, saying that there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, he immediately told him to search out a man who was discrete and wise.  Genesis 41:33 says, “Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt.” Then he went on to tell him what that man should do, i.e. gather a surplus in the years of plenty.  The pharaoh immediately said “And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.”


            Making foolish mistakes is degrading to our image.  God has promised to give us wisdom if we will ask for it.  “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).  Wisdom gives us discernment.  It’s impossible to have propriety without wisdom.


            A superior measure of propriety is attained by being an obedient child of God.  It begins by humbling yourself before God and recognizing that you are a sinner who doesn’t merit any of God’s favors.  To change your relationship with God you need to ask him to forgive you and make you one of his children.  John 1:12 says, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” II Corinthians 5:17 tells us what results from being in Christ. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”


                 Courtesy is another characteristic of propriety.  You are fortunate if you were taught to be courteous as a child.  Courtesy includes such things as men opening doors for women, saying please and thank you, not interrupting others when they are talking, etc.  It also includes the use of proper vocabulary.  Slang and vulgar words are never proper.


                 One last quality of propriety is that you keep your word.  Don’t make promises unless you intend to keep them.  Many young people are carried along by the crowd.  That which is proper behavior doesn’t change when we move from one crowd to another.  Right and wrong, truth and error don’t change over time or according to circumstances.  Consistency is a jewel.  Be adorned by it.

                 You should guard against doing things just to make a good impression on others.  If you do, others will be quick to see that you are a hypocrite.  You need to be genuine.  What you do should flow out of a love for others.  Jesus said we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves.


                 There may be times when you will be criticized, even ridiculed for doing right.  Even so, there is much more to be gained by doing right than by doing wrong.  What God asks of you will never leave you in the lunatic fringe of society.  To the contrary, it will enable you to win the favor and respect of God and the majority in society.  Propriety demands that we do our best.  If we do, we will be the recipients of the best that life has to offer.


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