As Stupid Does

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As Stupid Does

Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. 1 Corinthians 3:18-19a

There is a verbal exchange that recurs several times in the movie, Forrest Gump. A character asks Forrest, “Are you stupid or something?” Forrest’s immediate and rote response is, “Stupid is as stupid does.” Forrest’s character is one with a very low IQ and, at least by common standards, would be considered marginally functional, at least intellectually. His mother taught him the saying as a defense against those who would imply that he was different or less worthy of love and kindness than anyone else was. Like many of Forrest Gump’s sayings, one wonders if he grasps the depth of the statement. I consider myself relatively intelligent, but I have spent much time pondering some of his one-liners. Indeed, that is part of the charm of the movie. There is no doubt that Forrest Gump, while a fictional character, is of low intelligence; but he is also of high understanding.

The saying, “Stupid is as stupid does,” is a variation of similar sayings in other works of fiction like, “Handsome is as handsome does,” or “Beauty is as beauty does.” The underlying theme is that we find real truth or beauty beneath the surface, and often times what is underneath is the opposite of the outside appearance. Stupid is not the one who appears stupid, but the one who chooses to act stupidly. In the movie, many of his classmates, soldiers, and other townsfolk act very stupidly.

Forrest Gump has an uncanny ability to cut to the heart of an issue. He has no intellectual capacity to waste on superfluous window-dressing. Forrest has a handle on what is important in life and keeps his focus on those things: family, friends, home. That limited and laser-like focus is what makes a person like Forrest, who appears stupid, to actually be deceivingly perceptive and wise. It also makes him a heck of a Ping-Pong player.

In his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul labels earthly wisdom as foolishness to God. When we participate in wrongdoing – either as an active participant or as a passive bystander – we act foolishly. When we refuse to act contrary to others out of fear of what those others might do to or think about us, we are fools in God’s eyes. God’s instruction to us is unambiguous, at least in terms of how we are to treat others. Love, respect, and caring for needs – especially for the sick, unfortunate, and social outcasts – is our standard. Even Forrest Gump – low IQ and all – understood those directives perfectly.

Come home to church this Sunday. Faithful is as faithful does.

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