Rev. David Holwick R
First Baptist Church
Ledgewood, New Jersey
May 23, 2010
I. Stupid people are everywhere.
A. Actual crimes committed by actual criminals:
Two Kentucky men tried to pull off the front of a cash machine
by running a chain from the machine to the bumper of their
The front panel of the ATM was so secure that instead they
pulled off the bumper of their truck.
Scared, they fled the scene and drove home, leaving the chain
attached to the ATM
... with their bumper still attached to the chain
... with their vehicle's license plate still attached to the
A man walked into a convenience store, put a $20 bill on the
counter, and asked for change.
When the clerk opened the cash drawer, the man pulled a gun
and demanded all the cash in the register, which the clerk
The man grabbed the cash from the clerk and fled - leaving the
$20 bill on the counter.
The total amount of cash he got from the drawer?
In San Francisco a man walked into a downtown Bank of America
and wrote, "This is a stickup. Put all your many in this bag."
While standing in line waiting to give his note to the teller,
he began to worry that someone had seen him write the note and
might call the police before he reached the teller window.
So he left the Bank of America and crossed the street to Wells
After waiting a few minutes in line, he handed his note to the
Wells Fargo teller.
She read it and guessed from his spelling errors that he was
not the brightest bank robber in the world.
So she told him that she could not accept his stickup note
because it was written on a Bank of America deposit slip.
He would either have to fill out a Wells Fargo deposit slip or
go back to Bank of America.
Looking somewhat defeated, the man said okay and left the Wells
The Wells Fargo teller then called the police, who arrested him
a few minutes later as he was waiting in line back at the
Bank of America.
B. Stupidity isn't limited to criminals.
1) A foolish world rejected Jesus.
The preacher Harry Emerson Fosdick once said that Jesus was
"Crucified by Stupidity."
He said the leaders of the people had small, closed minds.
The people themselves made stupid choices.
And the whole Passion story of the gospels breathes with the
stupidity of taking the short view of life.
2) Christians can be pretty stupid, too.
a) We sometimes believe stupid things about our faith.
b) We sometimes do stupid things.
c) That's why we need to follow Paul's advice and be wise
about how we live, and not foolish.
II. Don't believe stupid things.
A. Religious people are prone to this.
1) In world's way of thinking, everything we believe is stupid.
a) Resurrection, angels, heaven, miracles.
b) Hard-to-believe stories in the Bible.
2) Even in Bible times they understood that the smartest people
would not fill the church. 1 Cor 1:26-27
a) Not that Christians were all stupid, but most were
b) The reality is that the gospel is very smart and
explains human nature better than anything else.
c) But sometimes Christians take this smartness and use
it in a dumb way.
d) Some examples...
B. Uncritical acceptance of "proof."
1) Recent prime examples are Noah's Ark and Shroud of Turin.
a) Many Christians think both exist as physical objects
and are genuine.
1> Noah's Ark would prove the Bible is true.
2> The Shroud of Turin would prove Jesus was really
A> It is scheduled to be shown in Italy soon, and
1.5 million people have made reservations.
b) There are problems with both of them.
1> The problem with the Ark is that it gets discovered -
every two years or so.
A> The latest episode has Korean Christians taking
videos of the inside of the ark on Mt. Arafat.
B> Most likely it has all been faked.
1: The leader was seen climbing UP the
mountain with a big chunk of wood.
C> The Ark was real - but no one has found it yet.
2> The Shroud of Turin has been shown to be no older
than the Middle Ages, according to carbon dating.
A> Evidence of paint has been found in the fibers.
B> The image is unrealistic - the hands conveniently
cover his private parts, which wouldn't happen
in real life.
C> And the Bible itself describes a separate cloth
for his head, rather than a single long sheet.
c) Evidence to support our faith is fine, but don't grasp
at every claim that pops up.
1> Our confidence is in the Bible as the Word of God,
not in gopher wood or a piece of cloth.
III. Misguided approaches to faith.
A. Seeing too much good.
1) Christians want to be positive, and nice, so we often
make overly optimistic assessments.
a) But truth sometimes is not positive and nice.
b) The prophet Jeremiah preached truth, while the
false prophets (wrongly) preached peace. Jer 6:4
c) Sometimes God fulfills promises, and other times he
2) You don't always get what you want.
a) Genuine faith is more than positive thinking.
b) It is realistic thinking.
B. Seeing too many coincidences.
1) I was visited by a mentally ill guy this week.
He was pleasant, but definitely a little "off."
He knew there was a God, because he was paid $7.00
to do a job, and the serial number on one of
the bills contained the numbers 7-0-0.
Pretty amazing, huh?
2) Christians can also read more into circumstances than
a) Any and every event is given meaning by God, but
that doesn't mean it will be obvious to you.
b) Judas got 30 pieces of silver for betraying Jesus.
He probably told himself, "This money is great!
God must approve of what I have done."
c) Don't guide your life by positive or negative
coincidences, but by the clear teaching of the Bible.
C. Seeing too many enemies.
1) Many Christians are suckers for conspiracy theories.
a) Taking Christ off the airwaves, etc.
2) Just because something negative seems to be in line with
what we believe, doesn't mean it is true.
D. Magical thinking.
1) The temptation to convert religion into superstition.
a) If I pray a certain way, or cross myself, or
never miss communion, I will get what I want
2) God does not give us a magic wand.
a) There will always be mystery in how he operates.
IV. Don't believe the right things in a stupid way.
A. Be careful of speaking above your level of knowledge.
1) The world as we know it is filled with misinformation.
There are a lot of ideas that are floating around out there
that just aren't true.
But because they have been spoken and repeated so many
times we just assume that they are true.
2) Christians have a tendency to want to sound spiritual.
So, they will launch into some subject that they don't
really know what they are talking about.
a) One of my favorite illustrations is the guy who has
never read the book of Revelation but he has read
all of the "Left Behind" novels.
So, he now believes he is an expert on the Apocalypse.
He will give everybody his opinions and tell everyone
what is what.
b) Sure, he has read Lahaye and Jenkins but he hasn't read
3) You are not an expert on everything.
a) Christians tend to spout off on any topic.
4) Recognize your area of expertise.
a) As Proverbs says, the wisest approach is often a
B. Don't say stupid things.
1) Pat Robertson has gotten into trouble repeatedly in this
a) He objects that his words are taken out of context.
b) Perhaps so, but Christians should be aware that people
will always focus on our missteps.
1> Don't give them that opportunity.
2) Speak, and live, as if people are watching closely.
1 Peter 3:15 - we must say the truth, in a wise and gentle
Ephesians 5:15 - we must live wisely, giving careful
thought to what God's will really is.
a) Our own reputation is secondary, but the reputation of
Jesus matters a lot.
V. We are all stupid sometimes. Eccl 7:20
A. We should admit it when we are wrong.
1) The Millerites.
In the 1840s, a New York farmer by the name of William
Miller began predicting that the world was coming to an
end on April 3, 1843.
He wasn't a professional preacher, but he was a Baptist,
and his careful study of the Scriptures convinced him he
had figured out when Jesus would return.
He gave sermons filled with hellfire and the coming
destruction, to overflowing crowds.
On April 3rd, thousands of Miller's followers prepared for
Some committed suicide, or murdered family members, in the
belief that the dead would not have to pass through any
suffering in the last days.
But God didn't return that day.
So Miller changed the date.
But each time, nothing happened.
Eventually he himself died, and his tombstone simply reads,
"At the time appointed, the end shall be."
I have no problem with this statement.
But some Christians wouldn't settle for that.
So they argued that Miller was correct and Jesus had come
when Miller said, but he came spiritually instead of
physically, and set up a special judgment for believers.
(The Seventh Day Adventists grew out of this.)
Instead of admitting they were wrong, they reinterpreted
2) In our own day, Harold Camping is doing the same thing.
a) Previously he predicted Jesus would return in 1994.
1> He fudged somewhat by putting a question in the
2> This time he is much more specific.
b) What will be the response of believers if he is wrong
B. Learn to be wise instead of stupid.
1) Use your mind, as the Bible tells us to.
a) Ignorance is not spiritual.
2) Use the Bible correctly.
a) Proof-texting - believing something is true because
of a single verse - is dangerous.
b) Study how the whole Bible works together.
3) Humble yourself before the one who is wiser than Solomon
SOURCES FOR ILLUSTRATIONS USED IN THIS SERMON:
This sermon generated a lot of discussion. Many found it very
#17068 "Jesus Was Crucified By Stupidity," by Wayne Brouwer, (original
source unknown); April 7, 2002.
#18672 "Sin Is Stupid," Nick Lica Illustration Collection, quoting from
Wayne Rice, STILL MORE HOT ILLUSTRATION FOR YOUTH TALKS
(Zondervan), pages 51-52.
#36212 "Real Enough? — Relics, Gopher Wood, and the Sufficiency of
Scripture," by Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., President of Southern
Baptist Theological Seminary, <http://www.albertmohler.com>,
May 13, 2010.
#36236 "Reinterpreting Reality," by David Holwick. Some of the details
of this illustration are derived from the article "Great
Disappointment" in Wikipedia.org.
These and 35,000 others are part of the Kerux database that can be
downloaded, absolutely free, at http://www.holwick.com/database.html
Copyright © 2017 by Rev. David Holwick
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