When the CBS sitcom Living Biblically first aired, we reviewed the February 26 pilot. After a total of eight aired episodes, the series has been cancelled, although there always remains the possibility of the series returning during the “ratings slow season” in the summer.
For those wanting to know more about the series and how the next seven episodes portrayed the lead character’s (Chip’s) desire to live biblically, we will do a brief wrap of the series. This review will contain a few spoilers, so if you are still planning to watch it, you may want to do that first.
Episode 2, titled “False Idols,” was about Leslie’s (Chip’s wife) obsession with Beyoncé and her desire to get concert tickets to her local concert. It was also about Chip learning that he was obsessed with his smart phone. Leslie makes several blasphemous statements about worshipping Beyoncé and compares Beyoncé’s songs to miracles of Jesus.
Later that evening in a meeting at the local bar with the priest and rabbi (Gene and Gil), Chip is confronted with his cell phone “idolatry.” In a misunderstanding of Gil’s statements, Chip smashes his phone. Now being phoneless, Chip decides to compensate with some older technology. Due to this technological lag, Chip wakes up late for work. Just as he is about to leave home, he gets a gift basket delivery. It’s a basket from Leslie containing all his favorite foods in honor of their “love-a-versary” (the anniversary of the first time they said “I love you” to each other).
Feeling guilty that he forgot to get Leslie a gift, Chip decides to see if he can get tickets to the sold-out Beyoncé concert. Apparently forgetting to or being unable to call into work, his absence at work leads to people in his office wondering if he’s dead. While Miss Meadows, Vince, and Cheryl leave the office to go check on Chip, he is busy wandering around town. Apparently he can’t read a map and hasn’t memorized his way around downtown. To make a long (and comedically boring) story short, Chip gets to the box office just as it is closing. His sob story about missing his “love-a-versary” gift resonates with the ticket agent who agrees to sell him two tickets. He gets home just after his coworkers get there and just before Leslie gets home. He apologizes for missing work and invites everyone in for food and drink. Later we find out that Chip selflessly gave his ticket to Gil, and Gil and Leslie go to the concert to worship their idol. In light of the first episode where Chip “stoned” an adulterer, it seems uncanny that he would encourage his wife to go out on a “concert date” with another man, even if that man is a rabbi.
Episode 3 was titled “Love Thy Neighbor.” Chip has issues with neighbors in his apartment who play loud music (among other things). He and Leslie are both suffering sleep deprivation because of it. Chip’s “God Squad” both agree that the Bible teaches you to love your neighbor and that everyone is your neighbor. Unfortunately Chip believes that loving someone requires hugging them, and when he gets mad at Cheryl at work, he calms down, says he loves her, and hugs her. She immediately complains to Miss Meadows that Chip harassed her, so Chip has to explain himself.
During the episode, Chip learns that he hasn’t been a good neighbor to his coworkers, his apartment neighbors, and even his wife. This realization is actually one of the only refreshing parts of this episode. A now introspective Chip finally confronts his noisy upstairs neighbors, and because he learned to be a good neighbor himself, he is able to calmly resolve the situation, making friends with them.
Episode 4 was titled “Thou Shalt Not Steal.” Chip notices that everyone in the office commonly steals office supplies, like he used to. Chip also feels guilty about stealing cable TV and moving down to better seats at Mets games. But the big problem is a mug that Chip stole from the bar where he met Leslie, which she views as a precious memory. Chip decides to return it. Later he gets a text from Gene quoting Ezekiel 33:15–16. In Chip’s mind this passage means that, if you return what you have stolen, your past sins will be forgiven. Therefore Chip comes in to work early to return the office supplies he stole. But he is accused of coming in early to steal, not return supplies. This causes Miss Meadows to give the office staff a lecture about not stealing. But later she perceives that this affects office morale negatively and decides to bring in office supplies for them to steal with her implied consent. Chip ends up buying back the “precious memories mug” from the bar and legitimately paying for cable, giving up his daily lattes in order to afford it. This proves to be at least one real living-biblically moment, realizing that true love is sacrificial and that petty theft is still sin, even if, in this show, it is a minor sacrifice.
Episode 5 is “Honor Thy Father.” Chip’s dad shows up unexpectedly. He is rude and obnoxious and later reveals that he is divorcing his wife (Chip’s mom). Gene asked Chip to speak at a Big Brother’s boy’s group, and Chip struggles with how to address the group, in light of his disgust with his dad’s crude, lewd, and selfish behaviors. But Chip uses the speech as a platform to forgive his dad and teach the boys that forgiveness opens up a person to be able to honor their own fathers.
Forgiveness opens up a person to be able to honor their own fathers.
Episode 6 is “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness.” Gil asks Chip if he is coming to his barbershop quartet performance. Chip feigns ignorance of the invite, then claims he never got it, then claims he was hacked, then tries to come up with a dental alibi. Gil and Gene berate Chip for lying, which prompts Chip to decide to always tell the truth. Vince invites Chip and Leslie to dinner with his new girlfriend, Emily. In order to go, Leslie has to cancel a friend date with a woman she calls “weird Linda,” and she does so by lying that Chip has food poisoning. At dinner Chip tells Vince that he does not like his new girlfriend and has never liked any of Vince’s girlfriends. Then “weird Linda” shows up at the same restaurant and confronts Leslie, who tries to get Chip to back up her alibi. Chip won’t lie though, and Leslie gets in trouble.
Now Vince and Leslie are both mad at Chip, who bemoans to Gil and Gene that being honest is making his relationships with other people harder. For being touted as spiritual advisers, Gil and Gene shockingly tell Chip you can’t always tell the truth and that sometimes you need to lie. But Chip rightly states that the Bible “doesn’t say tell the truth when it’s convenient” and that he is going to continue to be honest. Later Chip makes up with Vince by explaining that he was only interested in what was best for Vince and that he wants him to be happy with his relationships. When Chip and Leslie attend the barbershop quartet performance later that evening, he legitimately enjoys it. So in addition to learning that honesty is the best policy, Chip also learns not to dislike something without giving it a fair chance.
Episode 7 was “Let Us Pray.” Chip tells Leslie that the Bible never “shuts up” about the importance of prayer. Chip struggles with how to pray, and Gene tells him that when he prays from the heart, it will start to feel more natural. Later most of the office staff gets stuck in an elevator, which lurches around and scares everyone. Vince declares that if he gets out of the elevator alive he will get back together with his possessive ex-girlfriend Debbie. But later Vince regrets his decision to get back with Debbie and breaks up with her again. Chip decides to pray for the situation and immediately afterward the elevator repairman shows up to rescue them. Gene actually makes a pertinent point about prayer: it is not magic, but rather it is a way to talk to God and be cognizant of his grace working in your life.
Chip’s mother-in-law then comes to visit, and she is decidedly an atheist. She freaks out about Chip having 10 Bibles around the house. She asks Chip if he is living by the Bible if he turns water into wine and cures leprosy. He replies that he is not Jesus, and that leprosy has been cured. His mother-in-law states, “Yes, by scientists,” implying that science itself is equal to or better than the miracles of Jesus and in opposition to Christianity. She also states that she can’t believe in things without direct observation. She then asks him about the age of the earth (Chip states he is on board with 4.6 billion years) and if he really believe God created everything in six days. Chip avoids the question and states that living biblically has made him a better person, husband, and future dad. She replies that “faith is what people turn to who have given up on science.” Chip replies that he still has faith in science. Later she has an apparent heart attack. At the hospital Leslie asks Chip to pray for her mom, which Chip does. Immediately afterward the doctors wheel her in and declare she did not have a heart attack but just a peptic ulcer. She says she is fine with Chip’s religion, but they need to leave before he builds an ark. Chip replies that he is not Noah.
The eighth and last episode was “Show Hospitality.” Gil comes in and states that his wife, Sheila, was seen getting a backrub from (and may be committing adultery with) the new rabbi, Trent. The next day Gil confirms that Sheila is having an affair, and he now can’t stay at his home. Chip invites Gil to stay with them since the Bible commands hospitality. Leslie is not thrilled about his invitation. Gil is not an ideal guest: he snores, makes popcorn at 4 a.m., and gives them no privacy. Later Gil goes to work with Chip and then to soul cycle class with Leslie. Gil embarrasses Leslie and gets her kicked out of the class. Eventually Chip and Leslie have to confront Gil and encourage him to move on with his life and move out of their apartment.
So how did Chip’s biblical living influence his life, thoughts, and actions? That is a decidedly mixed bag. The show highlighted that true biblical love is sacrificial and looks out for the best interests of others (and is not just hugging people); that loving your neighbor involves being a good neighbor and investing time in them; that lying is wrong and honesty is a true virtue; and that prayer is really a way to communicate with God.
But there are several things that Chip either did not learn, learned incorrectly, or did not incorporate into his life. Several times in the episodes, Chip is unloving, judgmental, and quick to anger. He even tells a group of teens who mock him that they are “going to hell.” He seems to still have an unrealistic belief that prayer is a magical chant with instant results. He also continues to view many aspects of the Christian life as nothing but rules to follow, portraying it as based on works, rather than on faith. This is evident in his bizarre belief that (in greater context) Ezekiel 33:14–16 is only about returning stolen items and receiving absolution. That passage addresses a total repentance and lifestyle change, obviously caused by returning to the Lord.
How this show portrays Christianity is a far cry from how the Apostle Paul viewed faith, love, and prayer in the life of the believer.
Additionally, the show portrays (through the actions of others around Chip) theft as “good” for stress and anger management; lying as essential for getting along with others; relationships as throwaway commodities; and answered prayer and faith as delusional, mere coincidences, or crutches for the weak. But the Christian faith is a reasoned faith, not mere wishful thinking. It is also not delusional, but powerful. How this show portrays Christianity is a far cry from how the Apostle Paul viewed faith, love, and prayer in the life of the believer. Perhaps that would be the best ending for this wrap up, letting Scripture speak on those topics.
Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. (Ephesians 1:15–21)