Jump directly to the Content
Jump directly to the Content

Sermon Illustrations

Home > Sermon Illustrations

The Know-It-All Invisible Bank Robber

One day in 1995, a middle-aged man robbed two Pittsburgh banks in broad daylight. He didn’t wear a mask or any sort of disguise. And he smiled at surveillance cameras before walking out of each bank. Later that night, police arrested a surprised McArthur Wheeler. When they showed him the surveillance tapes, Wheeler stared in disbelief. “But I wore the juice,” he mumbled. Apparently, Wheeler thought that rubbing lemon juice on his skin would render him invisible to video cameras. After all, lemon juice is used as invisible ink so, as long as he didn’t come near a heat source, he should have been completely invisible.

Police concluded that Wheeler was not crazy or on drugs – just incredibly mistaken.

The saga caught the eye of the psychologist David Dunning at Cornell University, who enlisted his graduate student, Justin Kruger, to see what was going on. They reasoned that, while almost everyone holds favorable views of their abilities … some people mistakenly assess their abilities as being much higher than they actually are. One study found that 80 percent of drivers rate themselves as above average – a statistical impossibility. This “illusion of confidence” is now called the “Dunning-Kruger effect,” and describes the cognitive bias to inflate self-assessment.

Possible Preaching Angles:

1) Hiddenness; Omniscience of God – The belief that sins can be concealed is as old as the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve mistakenly thought that they could hide from God. To their shame, they learned that no one can escape the all-seeing eyes of God. 2) Ego; False beliefs; Self-deception; Sowing and Reaping – An over-inflated opinion of oneself generally leads to a sudden reality check (1 Cor. 10:12; Gal. 6:7).


Republished by Pam Weintraub in Pocket (4/14/23); Kate Fehlhaber, “What Know-It-Alls Don’t Know, or the Illusion of Competence,” Aeon (5/17/17)

Related Sermon Illustrations

Gang Leader Caught Impersonating Daughter in Escape Attempt

In a recent attempt to escape prison, a Brazilian drug trafficker’s plan was likely inspired by the Mission Impossible series and other similar films. Alas, in his case, there ...

[Read More]

You Can Run but You Can’t Hide

An Italian mafia boss, Gioacchino Gammino, has been on the run for decades. Gammino escaped a Rome prison in 2002 and was sentenced to life in jail the following year for murder. He ...

[Read More]