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The Five Laws of Stupidity

A while back I watched a YouTube video called “The Five Laws of Stupidity.” * It was based on a magazine article written back in the 1970’s by an Italian economist named Carlo Cipolla. Cipolla said (and I’m paraphrasing) that we underestimate the number of stupid people around us. And another zinger: stupidity is independent of a good education, wealth, or high IQ. In other words, stupidity is not a function of skills, intelligence, or academic attainment.

And that’s because the author defines stupidity in a utilitarian way. Stupidity means acting in such a way that harms both you and others. Smart people (wise might be a better word) act to benefit themselves and others.

The video was thought-provoking and amusing. But I realized that Cippola was defining “smart” and “stupid” in an unbiblical way. The Bible gauges everything by God’s revealed will and for God’s glory. Our Creator and Redeemer deserves and demands to be at the center of our lives. So, you might say that even if you benefit yourself and others, you’re stupid if you leave God out of the picture.

But maybe I’m using the wrong word. The word “stupid” is not used very often in the Bible – about 12 times in the ESV. The word fool is used nearly 80 times.

So let’s think about a fool, from a Biblical point of view. The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good. (Psalm 14:1) You might be a brilliant scientist who gives to charity, or a business owner who employs a lot of people. But if you don’t bow to the Lordship of Almighty God, you are a fool. (Jesus made this very point in a parable called “The Rich Fool,” in Luke 12:13-21.)

What if you become a missionary and spend your life in semi-poverty while you try to share the gospel with an unreached people group? To invest your life with (seemingly) little return would brand you a fool according to the world’s standards, and as stupid according to Cippola’s. But Paul said, We are fools for Christ's sake...1 Corinthians 4:10a. Our values, and our sacrifices because of those values, make us fools to the fools of this world.

And about the Christian message, Paul said, TFor the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." (1 Corinthians 1:18-19).

What kind of fool are you?


*In case you’re wondering, here are Cippolla’s 5 laws of stupidity:

1. Always and inevitably, each of us underestimates the number of stupid individuals in the world.

2. The probability that a certain person is stupid is independent of any other characteristic of the same person.

3. A stupid person is one who causes harm to another person or group without at the same time obtaining a benefit for himself or even damaging himself.

4. Non-stupid people always underestimate the harmful potential of stupid people.

5. The stupid person is the most dangerous person that exists


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