Malcolm Gladwell – More Lies

Gosh … where to start? I guess I’ll start with the very first – Lie? Incompetent rendering? Negligent error? Ignorant misconstruction? — to wit: “FOR UNTO EVERYONE THAT HATH SHALL BE GIVEN, AND HE SHALL HAVE ABUNDENCE. BUT FROM HIM THAT HATH NOT SHALL BE TAKEN AWAY EVEN THAT WHICH HE HATH.”

Gladwell lays the Biblical reference (Matthew 25:29) out there alone in the quote (first words, first page, chapter 1) so that we may have it in our minds as he goes on to tell us of the “unfair” advantage (to athletes in organized sports and students in the public school system) of birth date. Then, at the call-back of the verse (pg 30), he uses it to bolster his conclusion by defining the meaning of the quote, as follows: “It is those who are successful, in other words, who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success.”

Yet, the actual meaning of Matthew’s recording of Jesus’ parable of loaned money, has absolutely nothing to do with “special” opportunity; it is all about our responsibility to respond appropriately to our duty to glorify God … nowhere even near Gladwell’s application of the words! The parable is Jesus’ warning against making excuses for not doing what God requires us to do, and to not squander what he has given us. And if we do so rebel against God’s demands on us — wasting our time, our abilities and our money (all of which He gives us), by allowing them to lay fallow, instead of using them for His greater glory — we deserve to be punished, i.e.: Having that which He has given us taken away and given, in turn, to those who will use it properly. It is very clearly about having faith in God and being accountable to Him, not the presentation of “special opportunity” as Gladwell so blithely and matter-of-factly claims.

Not only is the verse grossly misapplied, it — upon cogent reading of the Bible chapter from which it is excerpted — actually refutes his point! It was the ones “that hath” that recognized and pursued their duty, of their own volition, and the one “that hath not” that shirked his duty. The object of these “haths” is not primary success or selective favor granted (as Gladwell wishes the reader to believe), but the men’s ambition and the desire to meet their responsibility to obey the commands of God. They were all three presented with the same original opportunity to honor their “master,” it’s just that two did as asked of them and the other did not, and so was punished for that failure by having his gifts confiscated, while the ones who did respond faithfully were given even greater opportunity to continue their service to God and meet his demand to exalt Him. It is a parable about duty presented by Jesus, not a sociological precept of secular success.

Yet an even more potent rejection of Gladwell’s use of the verse (and the entire point of his book, thus far) ironically lies in the actual details of the parable: The servant given the most money ($5,000), got the same percentage of return (100%), as the one given only $2,000, who also doubled it. The one given $1,000, who refused to invest it at all, received 0% return, graphically illustrating that it’s not what you start with (quantitatively or qualitatively) that determines your rate of return, it’s what you do with what you start with that makes the difference and enhances any future opportunities. It’s not the “size” or “nature” of the opportunity, as Gladwell uses the verse to proclaim, that is determinate of success, it’s rather the personal response to any opportunity — based upon the principles he’s attempting to down-play (initiative, hard work and personal responsibility) — that actually governs outcome.

These are details, numbers and concepts that should interest him (particularly if he’s going to be using the parable as example!), were he being sincere in his search for the true “Story of Success.” But he does not at all appear sincere about discovering the truth, he simply looks like he’s desperately trying to enhance and support his questionable (putting it politely) conclusion.

That he puts forward the verse at mere face value, completely out of context — replete in its charmingly aesthetic and richly resounding language — without revealing it’s true message and radically convoluting its intended meaning, to try and beguile the reader into thinking that even the Holy Bible (and so, by logical extension, God Himself, right?) affirms his point, boarders on the criminal, whether it is intentional, negligent, or a product of ignorance or incompetence.

Gladwell’s “hijacking” of the Bible verse is far, far worse than just typical partisan lying … it is flat-out argumentative fraud, for the sole purpose of strengthening an (otherwise wholly unconfirmed) ideological point. Gladwell’s very first words in the body of his book are either a purposefully crafted lie, or are in error (or are a misconstruction, or whatever you choose to call it). So how then does one believe anything he may conclude (or even postulate, for that matter) subsequent to such blatant, self-serving, deceitful prostitution of Christ’s teachings?

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