September 8

Biblical Humor with Friends

“Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda… Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I am only joking!’” (Proverbs 25:20; 26:18-19)

The online version of Scientific American posted an article entitled, “The Surprising Benefits of Sarcasm.” The article identifies the problems and dangers of sarcasm but also states that sarcasm can increase creativity. “Sarcasm can be interpreted negatively, and thus cause relationship costs. So, how do we harness its creative benefits without creating the type of conflict that can damage a relationship? It comes down to trust. Our studies show that, given the same content and tone, sarcasm expressed toward or received from someone we trust is less conflict provoking than sarcasm expressed toward or received from someone we distrust.” * I hope you find this as disturbing as I do; all sarcasm is problematic—so why would anyone promote its use? Sarcastic remarks are those that are critically ironic and mocking; it is unbecoming and unlovely for Christians to use sarcasm with anyone, for any reason.

Inappropriate joking is much like sarcasm and is usually misunderstood by people of different cultural backgrounds. Proverbs warns us that any insensitive joking is damaging and dangerous, with anyone. When you are grieving, disappointed, or generally sad, it is not kind for a friend to try to “lift your spirits” with superficial amusement, disregarding your heavy heart, unless you have agreed to the distraction. It would be discomforting, like stripping your coat off in the middle of winter and as unbeneficial as combining vinegar and baking soda—which ruins them both. In other words, joking inappropriately with your friend will spoil your friendship. Christian men and women should not encourage each other to bond with each other by mocking others and or being sarcastic. Scripture will not support this practice.

Using jokes to try to hide resentment or anger is also unbiblical. Proverbs 26:18-19 compares joking about someone to destroying property and people. The person who jokes about his true feelings is like a juvenile delinquent who shoots arrows and flames into someone’s property for fun or sport. He acts like he means no harm and cares nothing for his neighbor or friend. Someone who is united to you in the Spirit cannot treat your, his friend casually and with insensitivity. Christian friends love and respect each other’s feelings.

So what is the proper source of laughter? Sarah, Abraham’s wife, knew how to laugh for the right reason. At first, her laughter was an attempt to hide her cynicism about bearing a child in her old age. But after the birth of Isaac (whose name means “laughter”), “Sarah said, ‘God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.’ And she said, ‘Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.’” (Genesis 21:6-7) Sarah was laughing with God and at herself.

Do you think it’s funny to mock others or use sarcasm? Forethought is the wise path; excuses for hurtful mocking will not be enough when your gospel witness is spoiled by one joke or thoughtless remark. Can you laugh at yourself instead?


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