Rules of a Godly Life: Speaking Evil

Rules of a Godly Life is a devotional found among Amish. It’s a small booklet consisting of three parts. You can access it in its entirety here, where it was included to accompany the PBS Amish film. You can also get it at places like Gordonville Book Store or Raber’s in Ohio for a dollar or two.  The PBS site describes it as such:

Rules Godly Life“Rules of a Godly Life” is a popular Pietist devotional source for the Amish. Comprised of 47 proverbs, this text was originally written in the early 18th century by a non-Amish author. The proverbs are intended to guide the Amish on how to center their daily life on God through their everyday thoughts, words, and deeds. This includes what one’s mind should focus on when waking up and going to sleep, and how to conduct yourself when interacting with others during the day, all in order to maintain God’s focus in all that you do and live in accordance to the Bible.

I thought I might share one here. Here is rule #6 from Part II-“Words”:

Do not speak evil of friends; rather, speak well of them wherein they deserve praise. What is not praiseworthy keep to yourself. Slanderings and scornful gossip are poison to any friendship. If you are present when others speak disrespectfully of one who is absent, search first your own heart before joining in; without doubt you will find there the same (or greater) shortcomings. This should move you to better yourself, and yet keep you from speaking evil of others and belittling them.

The obvious message here, speaking well of others or not speaking at all, is one I’m sure I could use help on from time to time.

I also appreciate the less-obvious point: speak well of friends “wherein they deserve praise”. Is overpraise or false praise as bad as slander and gossip?

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    1. The Rules

      I first discovered this while reading The Amish Way: Patient Faith in a Perilous World, by Donald Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, and David L. Weaver-Zercher. It appeared in the appendix and I almost ignored it, but the first rule grabbed my attention. In the version in their book it starts off by saying, “In the morning, awake with God and consider that this might be your final day.” That line hit me over the head like a hammer because it’s such a huge consideration! If I might not live to see the rest of this day, how will I live out my day?

      I ended up transcribing it from the book and keep a copy to read over and over again. It is a solid reminder of how to walk in the Christian path, written in blunt, no-nonsense terms, kind of like the book of James.

    2. Margaret

      Thanks for this post, Erik. Just “Rule #6,” if followed, would make this world a much, much better place! I had not heard of this devotional before, so I will be checking it out. Thanks, again!

    3. Timeless wisdom is always good for the soul yet usually difficult to execute. I think a lot of us are working on that. Have a great day!

    4. Gossip and False Praise

      I don’t know whether over praise or false praise is as bad as slander but I do know that in addition to violating Biblical teaching, speaking evil can get back to the person who is the subject of the gossip and can destroy a friendship.
      This post reminds me of a saying, “One who gossips to you will gossip about you.” That should help us to avoid joining in when someone else is gossiping, shouldn’t it?
      On the other hand, aren’t there times when we must share information about someone? Say you have a friend who is doing business with someone that you know for certain is dishonest. I would warn my friend to be wary of the dishonest one, wouldn’t you? Isn’t there a difference between sharing vital, factual information and gossip, which is often not even factual? Would you warn a neighbor to keep her children away from a convicted pedophile? Is “evil speaking” only evil if it is not a proven fact?

      1. There’s a difference between warning to protect someone and gossip – intent to harm someone’s reputation without cause is gossip. To protect a potential victim is not gossip. Facts are facts. Jesus, Himself called a spade, a spade on occasion.

      2. Good point Margie–I think there definitely is a difference. Like a lot of things it has much to do with one’s intentions.

    5. Carolyn B

      Thanks for this post. I copied the link’s address to check out the whole 47 rules later on. Doctor says I’m only allowed up x numbers of hours this week and I’ve already exceeded my count for the day.

      Good one, Erik.

    6. Valerie

      Great little book

      Well, guess what I’m getting next time I go to Holmes County?
      Nice, concise summary of alot of the Proverbs-
      I always said, a Proverbs a day keeps the devil away-there are 31 books in the book of Proverbs, one for every day of the month (yes I know February only has 28 days & some months 30-so read 2 or three at the end of the month, then, 🙂

      Anyway, nice little devotional type book! Thanks Erik
      The Bible encourages us to speak the truth in love, sometimes I appreciate a word spoken of correction to me, an admonishment, but may not always receive it well at first (its a test, isn’t it?)
      -I think it’s wise to warn people Margie, and wouldn’t say possibly protecting someone by warning, as same thing as speaking evil of someone, we always need to check our motives, and examine our hearts.

    7. Alice Mary

      Golden rules!

      “Rule #6” needs repeating.

      In my area, my library’s Friends Group and the local high school will be showing an “anti-bullying” film called “Finding Kind” this Fall. This film mainly focuses on girls being mean to other girls (gossip included), and we’re hoping the community turns out to see it (free) and realizes how this “meanness” can affect young women adversely, throughout their lives.

      “Rule #6” fits right in. I’ll pass it on to others, for sure & for certain!

      While I don’t think over praise or false praise is as bad as slander, it’s not always a good thing, either. As with any “good” thing, too much can be detrimental. False or “too much” praise, I would think, could cause the person being praised to become “stuck up” or too prideful, or (on the other hand) cause them to doubt their own talents & abilities if they hear excess praise so often that it then becomes meaningless.

      Moderation in all things…at least on THIS planet…still seems a reasonable goal for most of us.

      Interesting thoughts, and a little gem of wisdom in this posting, Erik.

      Alice Mary

    8. Tom Geist

      True/False Praise...

      I have a friend that doesn’t understand that what he says needs to be weighed and measured before it’s delivered. He has sincerely tried to compliment someone but it sounds mean, as in, “For a fat person, you sure don’t sweat very much.” (not said as a joke, he meant it as a compliment) Others purposefully use passive aggressive words to hurt people.
      I probably need to use more restrictions in what I say, being careful to filter what needs to be said in a kind, honest way. I need to read those Proverbs.

    9. Paul A.B.

      To answer the question about “over praise/false praise”:

      All things in moderation is my belief. Personally I don’t think much of the view that saying anything good to excess is bad because it might go to someone’s head. As the person doing the praising, think about where you’re coming from with the comment, and where the other person is. Sometimes you need to “build someone up” a bit – especially when they lack self confidence. At such times, a good word of encouragement – one that emphasizes true positive things about that person – can help greatly.

      I have known people who never heard a good word from their parents, and a few grew up completely lacking self-confidence, and unable to face life. I think that is far worse.

      1. Paul good point on building someone up, and I would tend to agree. I think there is less harm in speaking well of someone–people become what they and others envision them to be–but there needs to be at least a smidgen of justification or it rings false. I do think you can usually find positives especially in cases where people might really need to hear some.

    10. Lin

      The three-way test for speech: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?

    11. You can also pick this up from Scroll Publishing, which retails most if not all of Pathway’s books online. (They have some other great books as well!)
      A Devoted Christian’s Prayer Book contains the rules as well as other prayers, confession of faith, etc. Pathway books are reasonably priced.

      Trying out html code here, hope the link comes through …

    12. Looks like the link was rejected. Here it is

    13. Paul Long

      In Meiner Jugend

      This is also found in the devotional reader “In My Youth” from Scroll for $1.50. I ordered it along with the Amish Burn Ointment and was pleased to find my copy is a hard cover, not soft as stated. German on left page, English on right. Pathway Publishers. Thick paper, heavy duty book. Lots of info, 230 pages. From Confession of Faith and selected prayers to hymns, baptism and marriage formalities for Amish and Mennonite.

      1. Lance

        I would also recommend that you buy the “In Meiner Jugend” book, rather then just the Rules for a Godly Life pamphlet. The Rules are in the book, plus the confession the Amish instruct those joining church, the Apostles Creed, songs, prayers, baptism and marriage vows. If you order direct from Pathway in LaGrange, IN, this book costs $1, same as the ‘Rules’ pamphlet. Shipping is $2.

        While you are buying the In Meiner Jugend book, also buy the book “1001 Question and Answers on the Christian Life”. This book is like a Amish catechism, answering your questions on what Amish believe and where they get it from. Highly recommended for anyone interested in what the Amish believe and required reading for the Amish wannabee. This book is also $1.

        For $4, you get two book that open the door to Amish beliefs. Pathway’s address is:

        Pathway Publishers
        2580 N 250 W
        LaGrange, IN 46761

        The young man staffing the store at Pathway LaGrange had no problem with me posting this info on the internet.

        1. 1001 Questions and Answers on the Christian Life

          Thanks for sharing this Lance. Staying with the topic at hand, 14 of the 1001 Questions (despite the name there are apparently closer to 1100 in this little book) are in fact on the topic of “Our Speech”.

          Others include The Beard, Covetousness, Courtship, Feet Washing, Adoption, Alms, Salvation, Labor Unions, Conversion, The Holy Kiss, Nonresistance, Voting…and the list goes on. Important book to understand Amish belief.

          1. Lance

            Thanks Erik,

            I specifically went to Pathway to ask which books would they recommend for the Amish wannabee/seeker. The man staffing the store said to start with two I mentioned. He said that the Amish churches subsidize those 2 books to lower the price and increase readership. The books are sold at below printing costs but the prices are what they are for all people, not just the Amish.

            He did have several other books that he recommended for the person who wanted more info beyond those 2. They costs anywhere from a few dollars to $40, so they are for the serious student and seeker.

            So, In Meiner Jugend and 1001 Q & A are the important books for a foundation in Amish faith and practice, and of course one cannot leave out the Bible itself!

        2. Micheal McEvoy

          Phone Number available?

          Is there a phone number for Pathway Publishers in LaGrange?
          I would like to know in advance what shippping would be so I could pay in advance.

    14. Naomi

      Grateful for Amish influence

      This illustrates why I am so grateful to have found such a positive influence in my life. Amish values are almost in complete opposition to the values I was raised with (be the smartest, prettiest, etc., no housework ever as that is beneath what liberated women should do). I grew up hearing lots of criticism of others, and lots of unfiltered talk. Realizing the source of this and ways that it had affected my growing up experiences was a major part of my coming into adulthood and motherhood. Learning about the Amish and being around them has been such a wonderful education for me, and I have such a long way to go. I am particularly grateful at how it has shaped my values for raising children.

      1. I was glad to read that, Naomi.

    15. Paul A. B.

      Naomi, that is a wonderful sentiment. I feel similarly. So many things aren’t working in society – not least of which the way that people often relate to one another. The values in the guide truly offer a way to live respectfully, keeping in mind the inherent dignity and worth of the other person.

    16. Lattice


      Maybe you can enlighten me. This question has always loomed in my mind/heart, and the Amish that attempted to explain it either weren’t too interested in thinking about it, or else just couldn’t fathom what I was asking.

      In Meiner Jugend explains that the Amish will continue to honor the Sabbath, but they do so on the first day of the week.

      This is the only area where I couldn’t overcome doubt regarding practice. The Amish are otherwise so scripturally precise. And In Meiner Jugend doesn’t offer an explanation that scripturally approves that change (I am aware that New Test. Christians met on the first day of the week, but it never became the Sabbath…that remained the 7th day).

      Is there anything you can tell me?

      1. Naomi

        Sunday is First Day

        Lattice, I don’t know a whole lot about this, but historically, Quakers refused to use the names of the days of the week because they are named after gods. They refer to the days of the week by number and Sunday is First Day, Monday Second Day, etc. They did this for months of the year as well, so a Sunday in July would be referred to as First Day, Seventh Month. I would imagine this is connected in some way to the Amish passage you are referring to.

        1. Naomi


          Sorry Lattice. I see now that you explained this in your last sentence, but I can’t delete my comment. Actually, I have always wondered why Christians meet on Sundays instead of Saturdays, like the Jewish faith, as well. It seems like the Bible is quite clear on this.

    17. Lance

      I cannot explain why from Amish doctrine. I have to use other sources for the Saturday/Sunday switch.

      First, the Amish view, as I understand it. All of the Amish I know treat Sunday as the day of rest appointed by God in the Ten Commandments. To the Amish, God says work 6 days and rest 1, Amish tradition uses Sunday as the rest day. They do not see it as the Christian Sabbath. Maybe Col 2:16 is the reason for that. The more progressive Amish will still not operate their businesses on Sunday, but they do hire and pay vehicle drivers to take them visiting and to distant family member church services. This one practice kept me from moving to another Amish community in 2003, and severely limits my choice of Amish communities to return to. All but a very few Amish from the Ohio and Indiana traditions now use drivers on Sunday. Some wait to pay, others pay on Sunday. I have confirmed that this is standard practice with Amish people in Northern Indiana.

      Now from non-Amish sources: Go to and read Matthew 28:1 from the Young’s Literal Translation(translation is very important). Read the words carefully. Christ had risen very, very early Sunday morning, the end of the Jewish Sabbath. Mt 28:1 says end of the Sabbaths, plural and first of the Sabbaths, plural. The resurrection of Christ began the Christian Era and the 7th day Sabbath ended with it, and and 1st day Sabbath began. The apostles and disciples must have had this understanding as they all worshiped on Sunday, leaving Saturday as just another day. This is only a brief summary, there is a lot more to this subject.

      1. Lattice

        Thank you for your thorough reply. Yes, I will study this some more. We were actually taught that the reason the term “Sabbaths” was used in that instance was because a High Holy day fell on that Friday (High Holy Days were also days or rest, or “sabbaths,” but not THE Sabbath. A High Holy day would never fall on the Holy Sabbath [Saturday]), but this may be completely wrong, so I look forward to investigating other thoughts on it. Thanks!

        1. Yoder

          Lance, I heard that in Stanwood, Michigan, and Humansville, Missouri, they would not hire a driver on Sunday except in emergency. If they would want to attend a distant church service, they would arrive on Saturday and stay Saturday night. Still, an individual could take that stand anywhere, in any church, even if the other members don’t (to not spend money on Sunday).

          1. Lance


            Thanks for the heads up on these communities. Should my return not work out this time, in my chosen community, I will keep these 2 in mind.

            Again, thanks!

        2. Daryl

          Hi Lattice
          Jewish high holy days often fall on a Saturday, as Saturdays follow the solar calendar with 365 days (52 weeks) and Jewish holy days follow the lunar calendar with 360 days.

          Because of the five day difference between the two calendars, the lunar calendar does not have a leap day to catch up but a leap month called Adar Shani every four years.

          As to Sabbath observance,
          The NT does not place such a requirement upon Christians, but rather not to withhold oneself from the gathering of the saints. The early believers gathered weekly on a Sunday which they called The Lord’s Day to differentiate it from the Jewish Sabbath with all its rules and regulations.

          As we are not commanded in the NT on how frequently to gather, the elders are free to decide. The Amish elders have decided to hold corporate worship every two weeks and not weekly.

          The Sabbath observance regulations implemented on the Lord’s Day are not from the NT. Certain observances are borrowed from the OT and implemented by the elders, as is their right, to distinguish the Lord’s Day from other days.

          However, to claim that only Saturday is the day that Christians should gather as the SDA’s do, would be an error of the circumcisers group that Paul spoke so harshly against. To claim that Christians need to implement Jewish Sabbath observance rituals in order for the Lord’s Day to be valid would be unsupported by NT doctrine and a legalism error.

          As per Romans 14, Christians can gather any day of the week for corporate worship and make that day their assembly’s day of worship if it so suits them, but for them to claim that other assemblies must follow suit in frequency and on the same day in order to have fellowship with them, is a grave error indeed.
          They have exchanged the doctrines of God for the doctrines of man.

          1. Lattice

            Thanks so much for going to the trouble to answer. I looked into the Jewish High Holidays and learned that, just like you said, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah can fall on Saturday. It is, in fact, Friday on which they cannot fall, because if they do, then preparations for Shabbat (Holy Sabbath) cannot be made.

            I agree with the notion that the Sabbath was “nailed to the cross” (Col. 2:14).

            What remains perplexing to me is that my Amish friends call Sunday “the Sabbath.” One might suggest that they only mean to honor the Lord’s Day (Sun) with a day of rest, however, the Rules Of A Godly Life state this:

            “In this manner you will rightly observe the Sabbath and keep it holy as commanded so often in God’s Word. If you however do not have a conscience against profaning the Sabbath, you will hardly hesitate to violate all the other commandments of God as well.”

            Doesn’t that sound a whole lot like the Old Testament Sabbath?

    18. Eugenia

      Could we purchase A Devoted Christian’s Prayer Book from Pathway Publishers, as well?

      1. Lance

        Yes, they publish that book, but I don’t know the price. The contents of that book are the English translation of the High German book that the more conservative Amish use for devotionals. Some of those english translations of the prayers are posted on a web site, just search for that name.

        1. Eugenia
    19. Normally one dollar when on sale at Scroll Publishers. Available through them online. They are a Pathway distributer. They used to be paperback, they are now hard cover.