Monday, September 09, 2019


Proverbs 30.2-3; 29.19 NKJV

“Surely I am more stupid than any man, And do not have the understanding of a man. I neither learned wisdom Nor have knowledge of the Holy One.”

“A servant will not be corrected by mere words; For though he understands, he will not respond.”

How can a man smart enough to author a chapter in the book of Proverbs call himself-“stupid”? This word is banned in our house. If I slip with my tongue and say the “S” word, my kids instantly pipe up, “You said stupid!” I’m busted! None of the people living in our home may call anyone (including themselves) “stupid.” The word is bad for self-esteem and besides, it doesn’t sound very nice. But there it is in Biblical black-and-white:

“Surely I am more stupid than any man.”

The word in the original Hebrew is ba-ar and it literally means “stupid,” like a dumb cow without reasoning ability, unable to think coherently.

Stupid animals and people miss the connection between cause and effect. The fire is pretty so I touch it, and my hand is badly burned. The next time I see fire and notice how pretty it, I do not touch it. If I do, well then, I’m stupid. A truly intelligent person never touched the fire the first time because someone warned him, “Its hot! Don’t do that!” He listened and saved himself a lot of pain.

Most of us, however, must experience a little pain before we learn. That’s not being stupid. It’s just part of the learning process. Like the servant who cannot “be corrected by mere words,” we must say and do a few stupid things before we get smart. Everyone pays the 'dumb tax.' 

There’s a difference between being stupid and acting stupid. My dad used to say, “Kids do stupid things.” He was right. He never called me “stupid” but reserved the term for some of my stunts. My “stupid” years began around adolescence and didn’t even start to improve until my early to late twenty’s. Most kids aren’t stupid, but they all do stupid things. That’s why it’s best not to yell at your kids or talk “until you’re blue in the face.” It will do no good. Children must learn from their own hard experiences. They quickly understand the distinction between stupid and smart for themselves.

I never gave a house key to any of my seven children. I somehow knew they would lose it. Instead, I installed a garage door key pad and gave them the code. They never lost a key to the house because they never had one. Before the days of garage door openers and coded key pads, when I was about fourteen, I lost my key to our family home. To gain access one night when my parents were out, I tried to bend a window frame just enough to slip my hand through to the latch. I knew my dad would not approve if he had been there. I thought, “What would Dad do?and his words swirled in my brain, “Dave! Don’t do that. The window will break!” Of course, the window broke. I got into the house and into lots of trouble. However, I never tried to bend glass again.

The best way I can think of to stay off of God’s “stupid” human tricks list is to try to listen to Jesus before I take action and when I don’t, try to learn from my mistakes.

The cartoon at the top of this post was illustrated by James Donnelly and used in an article entitled "The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity" by Carlo M. Cipolla (1922-2000) who was a Professor of Economics at UC Berkeley. You can read the article at

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