Just a few days ago, I finished reading Shadows of Lancaster County by Mindy Starns Clark. I guess I never had really thought about the fact that the Amish are forbidden to study the Bible. Maybe I knew it and it never clicked, or maybe I actually hadn’t known. Either way, it was a fact that really bothered me as I read it.

Why is Bible study forbidden among the Amish? Because their bishops say that studying the Bible “… could make a person prideful, because it might give them special knowledge” (page 140).

The Amish have a set of unwritten rules called the Ordnung that they must follow in order to remain part of their Amish community. Not studying the Bible is one of those unwritten rules.

I came to this passage in Mindy’s book (page 141):

“Maybe it was the rebel inside of me, Anna, but when I was told not to study my Bible, that only made me want to do it more. When I was seventeen, I began reading one in secret. Instead of letting the bishops tell me everything I was supposed to believe, I studied the Bible so I could decide what to believe for myself. Of course, much of what I read confused me because it contradicted what I had been taught in the church.”

“Like what?”

“Like, the Ordnung says that it is prideful to be certain of one’s salvation, so they are required always to wonder if they will get into heaven, never to know for sure until after death, never to feel good enough in the eyes of God. But then I came to verses like in First John where he says that he has written ‘these things so that you may know that you have eternal life.’ I decided on this issue the Amish were wrong… I went to the bishops and quoted that verse and asked them why I was not allowed to have this assurance if God had promised it to me right in His Holy Word. They refused to answer my question but instead wanted to deal only with my ‘disobedience’ for having studied my Bible in secret. Right then, I knew that if I was going to be the person the Bible told me to be, then I would have to leave the Amish faith and find a church that was more willing to let me think for myself…”

To deprive someone of studying for themselves and letting God speak to them.. that doesn’t make sense to me. God gave us the Bible so we could come to know Him better through it. He loves it when we spend time reading His words to us. I don’t understand how some people see themselves as being able to make up rules like who gets to read the Bible and who doesn’t. That just doesn’t compute in my brain. At all.

And my point is not to bash the Amish or anybody else who believes that way. My point is complete incomprehension of how that sort of rule for life even comes about.

I make my relationship with God my priority in life… it comes before all else. It has to, or my life would just be nothing. But that in no way causes me to think that I am any way higher up than others, even if they don’t make having a relationship with God a priority in their lives. It doesn’t make me prideful, but instead grows my humility.

God tells us we are to be humble. (James 4:10, Micah 6:8, etc.) How is it humble to place yourself in a position where you tell people what is right and wrong, completely apart from the Bible? It seems awfully prideful, in my mind. Is that just me?

The Bible says we can know that we have eternal life. It says to walk humbly with God. To put my own rules and standards over God’s is so opposite of how He wants us to live. It’s so opposite of how I hope my life looks and is. I want to obey God and through my relationship with Him grow in humility each day.

So.. I suppose this post is sort of just a rambling on how nonsensical man-made legalism is. Silly rules that are made up because of somebody’s whim. I think a lot of times this kind of rule is made with the best of intentions, with hopes that people will go about following the rules with the right mindset and that the purpose of the rules will be accomplished. But what ultimately ends up happening every time is that eventually people follow rules just to follow rules. Just because that’s what they think they’re supposed to do. Depending on the rule, sometimes they even end up thinking it’s in the Bible, when in fact it is completely a human-made idea that somebody somewhere though would bring people closer to God.. or that somebody just wanted to see others do.

This is one major reason why Bible study is important. So we can know the difference between what God said and what man said. Because even with the best intentions, even people who are super close with God make mistakes, and even they can say things or make rules that really have no basis in anything God ever said. And those things can be misinterpreted.

I guess what I want to say is that we need to really make sure of what we say and do, and why we say and do it… our motives and where we got the idea in the first place. And I don’t mean that it’s wrong to listen to others… but we have to be so careful. It’s all too easy to be led astray.

And at the same time, we need to be careful that others don’t build us up and follow anything we say, as legalistic rules. That would be so dangerous to both them and us.

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Thank you so much for your every prayer for Jon and his family. Please keep on praising, praying, and believing as his next scans are coming up soon in May. Praise for all the healing that has been taking place and pray that it will continue. If you’re not familiar with this family, please take a few minutes to catch up on his story.