A couple of years ago A. J. Jacobs set a commendable goal: he was going to dedicate an entire year to live biblically.
A. J. is Jewish and was raised as a secular Jew. So, he didn’t know many of the stories, the deep principles or the ethics of the Bible. He was going to study them and live them as best he could for a year.
Trying to following biblical custom A. J. wore white clothes and didn’t cut his beard. His appearance garnered quite a bit of attention.
His experiment required some significant behavioral changes for him. A. J. said he was particularly susceptible to gossip, lying and coveting, so addressing these issues in his life was a challenge.
Forgiveness was a big issue, too. In an interview with Leadership (Winter, 2008, p.17) magazine A. J. said, "Paul says that love does not keep score. I disobeyed this literally because, before my year, I had been keeping score of my wife’s arguments with me. Any time I would win an argument or she would make a mistake, I’d always jot those down ... in a little file so that I could remember them. The Bible taught me to get rid of that. I showed my wife the list, and she just laughed at me. Her response was amusement mixed with pity that I would even need to keep such a list."
A. J. was a workaholic, so the biblical teaching on Sabbath rest was a challenge for him, too. "The Sabbath is a great thing," he said, "because the Bible is saying you can’t work. You can’t check e-mail. You have to spend the day with your family. It’s a real smell-the-roses type of day. I found it to be a day for joy, for just really reconnecting with my life and realizing that work is not everything. I loved it, but it was a huge struggle."
A big lesson A. J. learned with his experiment is how much he sinned. He said, "That was a little disturbing, but once you start to pay attention to the amount that you lie and gossip and covet and even steal - I was taken aback and that was a real eye-opener. I don’t steal cars, but even something like taking three straws at Starbucks when you only need one, that could be considered stealing. I became very aware of taking other people’s things without asking."
This man’s story impressed me. He was not religious before undertaking this experiment. In fact, he says he started out as an agnostic, and still isn’t totally convinced of the existence of God. But, he had periods when he believed, and still holds value in the idea of the sacred. Here is what he said, "I believe there is something very important about the idea of sacredness: prayer can be sacred, the Sabbath can be sacred, family is sacred, rituals are sacred. That was a huge change in perspective for me." Sounds like A. J. is moving toward belief.
He hasn’t converted to Christianity yet, but A. J. did say, "I never did make the leap of faith to accept Jesus as my Savior. As I read the New Testament, I more tried to live by his ethical teachings, which did change my life."
I am impressed that this man who grew up in a secular environment and was an agnostic dedicated a year to living consciously, purposely and intensely as a man of God. He disciplined his thoughts, he managed his mouth, and he scrutinized his intentions in accord with the Bible. If it pricked his conscience to take more than one straw because it didn’t seem totally honest, he would only take one. And he said the experience changed his life.
For those of us who do profess Christ, would it change our lives to live consciously, purposely and intensely as the people of God in every aspect of our lives?