A little over a week ago our family was in Washington DC with some missionary friends of ours, the Robinson family. We were delighted to meet with Congressman Marlin Stutzman from Indiana and have our own private tour of the Capitol Building.
Before moving to Southeast Asia I had actually worked on an agricultural cash-crop operation (that’s right…a “farm”!) alongside Congressman Stutzman before he entered politics. We developed a friendship while planting and harvesting crops and since leaving the farm have touched base a few times over the years.
What struck me with such force that day in Washington was Congressman Stutzman’s humility and modesty. He embodied it. I was especially impressed with how he related to one lady in particular—the woman who operated the small open train that took us underground from his office building to the Capitol. He took time to stop and talk with her, showing an interest in her life.
Both of us come from an Amish/Mennonite background. We’ve both been exposed to the Amish perspective on humility and how it fleshes out in daily life. The Amish dress simply, are generally quiet and reserved, and value submission and obedience to the rules of their community. Their attitude of humility is so specific they have a special term for it: “Gelassenheit.” This characteristic permeates their culture. Based on the Biblical concept put forth by Jesus—”not my will but thine be done”—the Amish abhor all individuality, selfishness and pride.
Unfortunately there is also a downside to this remarkable trait. Maximizing their God-given gifts and abilities or embracing a specific calling from God is often seen as prideful. Hence, many in this tradition have “buried” their talents instead of multiplying them (see Jesus’ parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 or Luke 19:12-27).
Congressman Stutzman has clearly opted to maximize his abilities and opportunities. He believes that his call revolves around influencing government policy toward positive ends. He’s making a difference at one of the highest levels in our country. And he does it with humility. Congressman Stutzman realizes that the “Most High is over the kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.” (see Daniel 4:17, 25, 32 & 5:21) He realizes that his position provides an opportunity to serve others and bring glory to God.
We all have a responsibility to respond to God’s call on our lives. We all will give an account of how we utilized our God-given gifts, skills, and opportunities. Whatever world you’re in—education, homemaking, medicine, agriculture, business, science, politics, etc.—you are called to maximize your talents and bring honor and glory to God in that sphere.
Yes, there is always a danger of becoming prideful of our talents or arrogant in our calling; something the Amish have endeavored to avoid. Someone recently reminded me that arrogance is only perceived in others; we can’t see it in ourselves. If our motive is to bring glory to God by serving others we will fulfill our calling in the proper spirit of humility.
So serve in the true spirit of gelassenheit. Yield yourself to the will of God. Discover your gifts and abilities and use them to impact your world every time an opportunity presents itself. Don’t buy into a false humility or take gelassenheit to such an extreme that you bury your talents on the backside of Lancaster County.