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Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 28, 2014

Parson to Person: A year of living Biblically

By JOY LAPP, assistant professor of religion, Iowa Wesleyan College | Mar 08, 2013

What would it be like to live the “ultimate Biblical life”? That was A.J. Jacobs’ quest for one year – to follow every rule, guideline, and bit of good advice that he could find in the Bible as literally as possible.

Where to begin? He read the Bible – all of it – for five hours a day for four weeks and took notes. Result: 72 pages with more than 700 rules! The rules covered everything from clothing to hairstyles to food to how to treat others.

“You shall not put on a garment made of two different materials” (Leviticus 19:19). So, Jacobs rid his wardrobe of mixed-fiber clothing.

“You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard” (Leviticus 19:27). Not quite sure how to interpret that one, he decided that the safest approach would be to avoid any shaving or beard-cutting for the year.

“You may eat: the locust according to its kind, the bald locust according to its kind, the cricket according to its kind, and the grasshopper according to its kind. But all other winged insects that have four feet are detestable to you” (Leviticus 11:23-3). Hum. That rules out flies and mosquitoes. He ordered some chocolate covered crickets online from Fluker’s Farms. Not impressed.

“Be fruitful and multiply . . .” (Genesis 1:28). Coincidently, the year of Jacobs’ experiment was also the year that his twin sons were born. That was one commandment joyfully fulfilled!

But beyond the quirky and the baffling, the Bible is full of challenging and even life-changing commandments. What would happen if we took seriously the prohibitions against gossiping, lying, and coveting? Jacobs says those were the three most difficult commandments to follow.

Avoid gossip. If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all. How easy is that? As for lying, Jacobs admits, “Man, do I lie a lot. I knew I lied, but when I started to keep track, the quantity was alarming.” Ditto coveting. What if we really focused on eliminating gossiping, lying and coveting?

What did Jacobs gain from his Biblical experiment? One unexpected result came from “remembering the Sabbath” (Exodus 20:8). One of his spiritual advisors suggested that he should view the commandments not as pesky tasks that he had to do, but as something that he loved to do.

In a workaholic world, what would it mean to truly stop our working and striving for one day each week and dedicate that day to the renewal of our bodies and spirits? Jacobs said that at the end of one Sabbath, surprisingly, he began to look forward to the next.

“Give thanks in all circumstances” (Thessalonians 5:18). Also unexpected for Jacobs was the result of thanksgiving, of focusing on the myriad of things that go right each day, rather than that one thing that goes wrong. There is so much for which to be thankful. Do we take time to notice?

On Thursday, March 14, Jacobs will speak at the Iowa Wesleyan Chapel at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. All are welcome to attend.

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