I seem to recall getting into trouble on more than one occasion when I was growing up for calling someone stupid. My parents did not look on that epithet with benignity. How surprised my little eyes would have been to discover that the Bible uses that pejorative term a dozen times. (The KJV, which I would have been reading back then, uses the term brutish, hardly any gentler, although both more exotic and sophisticated sounding to my young ears.) Yes, God doesn’t pull any punches. He calls a stupid person stupid. Have you ever noticed what God deems to be stupid? Well, as you might suspect, it has nothing to do with mental acuity. And when God uses the term, it is not merely to deride someone but to provide him with a clear picture of just who he is. So who is stupid from God’s (accurate) perspective?
1. Those who trust in wealth. Psalm 49, written by the sons of Korah, references “those who trust in their wealth and boast in the abundance of their riches” (v. 6), and observes that “the stupid and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others” (v. 10b). Trusting in wealth must be particularly egregious behavior because the writer or writers add the derogatory term senseless. What abject blindness, we are being told, has overcome the person who finds security in his natural wealth. Nothing of eternal value can be purchased with currency, much less eternal life itself. And yet, many people, even real believers, place confidence in and take consolation from their financial investments. So, is our confidence and security in our wealth?
2. Those who miss the fact that the flourishing of the wicked is only temporary, and preparatory for their destruction. “A stupid man [does not] understand this: that when the wicked sprouted up like grass, and all who did iniquity flourished, it was only that they might be destroyed forevermore” (Psa. 92:6). The wicked and iniquitous seem to be prospering everywhere we turn. The worse their schemes, the more destructive their actions, and the more wicked their intentions, seemingly, the more successful they are. No one and nothing thwarts them. Envious? Indignant? Outraged? Dejected? Remember that God is simply allowing their cup of iniquity to be filled up before He executes judgment upon them.
3. Those who hate reproof. “He who hates reproof is stupid,” Solomon cautions us (Pro. 12:1b). The flesh is never inclined to accept reproof, but the person who rejects it is opening a Pandora’s box of chastening. One who needs reproof is already out of the way and caught in sin; to refuse wise and godly counsel, then, compounds the error and assures the application of more serious means of correction. Solomon offers an encouraging contrast to the way of a stupid person: “Whoever loves discipline [or, “instruction”] loves knowledge” (v. 1a). No one escapes this life without discipline, but the person who recognizes and appreciates the value of reproof, willingly endures it, and then learns from it will reap great benefits from holy submission.
4. Those who are willfully ignorant of God, clever when sinning, and devoid of good. The Lord spoke directly about these stupid people: “For My people are foolish, they know Me not; they are stupid children and have no understanding. They are shrewd to do evil, but to do good they do not know” (Jer. 4:22). Nothing is worse than a willing departure from the truth. God’s people, during the time of Jeremiah, had refused to recognize their Lord; they had devised all sorts of crafty ways to sin, and they had steadfastly refused to obey the commandments that God had given them. God characterized this willful pattern of behavior as “foolish,” “stupid,” and as showing that His people had “no understanding.” No matter how clever the flesh is in devising ways to escape from recognizing God, in scheming new ways to sin, or in discovering ways to escape obedience, such behavior inevitably results in the “fierce anger” of the Lord (v. 26b). Because He delights to make wise those who trust and obey Him, may we so live as to never require God to put a dunce cap on our heads and label us Stupid.
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