You can tell that they are simply another legalistic culture without the real power of the Holy Spirit because of the way they treat each other. If God was truly at work in that community, you would see more evidence of His work in loving attitudes. They are downright cruel to those that step outside of their rules; this is completely contrary to how God treats us when we sin. Also, they are certainly humble, but then they turn it into an end in itself, another legalistic accomplishment as they try to “out-humble” each other, which leads to pride rather than being a condition of the heart in which God can operate. It’s like the old joke about the man who won the award for most humble person but then had the award taken away the first time he wore it in public. (In case you didn’t get the irony of the joke, the wearing of the award was an act of pride, which would be ironically contrary to the purpose of the award). Any time that pride is at work, God is NOT at work (James 4:6).
Pride stands in the way of God by being a god in itself or by making us and our egos into gods, and when this happens, we quit listening to God, thinking that we already have all the answers. Any system of legalism will inevitably lead to pride as we will arbitrarily choose a set of rules that we can achieve without too much effort, making us feel unnecessarily good about our morality, and we will avoid seeking God. Also, legalism tends toward a judgmental attitude of others and a comparative morality in which we cherry-pick examples of bad behavior in others to make ourselves feel good about our own behavior, keeping us from changing ourselves for the better. Real morality will have standards that seem out of reach, so we will focus on our own morality before we worry about what others are doing, and we will feel humbled about our true nature, realizing that we simply cannot live up to the very high standards that God expects. Being thus humbled, we will truly seek Him and lean on His power to help us to grow into what we need to be.
Another major problem with the Amish is the fact that they are a closed society. Anything that is closed and private tends toward sin. Satan operates quite nicely behind closed doors because we flatter ourselves into thinking that “nobody will ever know.” Of course, there are times when we rightfully have closed doors for the purposes of modesty. But when we get in the habit of having closed hearts, trying to keep God and others from knowing the truth about us, then we tend to also harbor sin, clutching tightly to it. Moreover, with a closed heart, we begin to focus on the surface with our morality, because the surface morality only makes demands of us where others will see what we do. Whenever we focus on the surface morality, the places where people see what we do, and not on the inner morality that only we and God see, then we tend toward deeper sin and toward pride. Surface morality is too easy to attain. It is simply too easy to fool people and ourselves into thinking that we are better than we really are.
And this surface morality tends toward legalism, arbitrarily easy standards of morality that do not make hard demands on us. But remember what Jesus said about real morality. In Matthew 5:27-28, Jesus said that if you even think of a sin in your heart (such as looking on a woman with lust), then you have committed that sin. God does not just look on the surface. He wants purity within our hearts as well. And if we have purity within our hearts, we will have true moral action on the surface as well. But we can only have purity in our hearts with the work of the Holy Spirit and with careful tending of our hearts by constantly putting good things such as Scripture into our hearts and avoiding the placing of wicked images into our heart by constant viewing of the things of Satan – things of lust and violence and selfishness. Additionally, the pure heart will be completely open to God and to others; we will realize that there is no point in hiding anything since hiding things keeps us in bondage to our sin.
I pray today that you will seek true morality by, first having Jesus come into your heart, and second by daily praying, by daily reading and meditating on His Word, and by only feeding worthy and uplifting images, words, and music into our hearts. These images, words, and music do not have to be strictly spiritual, but they should be wholesome and should encourage us toward right action, motivating us to think well, to do well, to work hard, to constantly learn, and to love everyone around us in humble service.