Lessons from the Amish

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler

The Amish are famous for developing practical proverbs like the following that express the simple wisdom that shapes their lives:

  • He who has no money is poor; he who has nothing but money is even poorer.
  • We live simply so that others may simply live.
  • Use it up, wear it out, make it to, or do without.1

The Amish cultivate simplicity by keeping their priorities firmly in mind. For instance, while two-thirds of America's farmland is occupied by farms of a thousand acres or more, Amish farmers generally limit themselves to 80 tillable acres because that's the size that can be worked by a family using horses instead of heavy machinery. Their priority is to preserve and build family life, and they do that by setting limitations.

Contrast this approach to the one adopted by many Americans whose prosperity creates a desire for bigger houses and an appetite that results in an ever-expanding American waistline. If we are to know the peace that comes from simplicity, we have to begin to set limits on what we allow into our lives.

The Amish rely on the earth and the natural rhythms of nature to preserve them from the franticness that characterizes so much of modern life. David Kline, an Old Order Amish bishop from Ohio, says:

"On a Monday morning, if you ask a farmer what he plans to do for the week, he'll look at you as if you're crazy. He knows that it all depends on the weather. I like that about farming. God makes us aware of our limitations through weather.2

Ever wonder about those quaint-looking carriages the Amish ride in? Suzanne Woods Fisher points out that the "Amish are never to lose touch with the earth, which is why buggies' wheel rims and other farm equipment must not be separated from the ground by a rubber cushion.3 Furthermore, traveling in a horse-drawn carriage necessitates a more leisurely pace. Instead of talking on your cell phone as nature whizzes by, you can focus on the beauty of a summer day or the spell of lightning bugs as they flicker in a nearby field. By staying close to nature, by respecting the weather and the rhythms of the season, the Amish believe they can more easily stay in touch with the God of creation.

  1. Suzanne Woods Fisher, Amish Peace (Grand Rapids: Revell, 2009), 21, 25, 51.
  2. Suzanne Woods Fisher, Amish Peace (Grand Rapids: Revell, 2009), 72.
  3. Suzanne Woods Fisher, Amish Peace (Grand Rapids: Revell, 2009), 40.

Originally published November 17, 2020.