When Humor Isn't Funny


Erin Davis looks at the power of words, specifically sarcasm.

What is sarcasm exactly? Let's ask Old Man Webster. 

Definition of SARCASM

  1. a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain
  2. a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual.

In other words, sarcasm either makes fun of others or is designed to make the listener feel silly. To give us a better idea of what sarcasm sounds like, I scoured the Internet for lists of sarcastic comments. Here's a sampling: 

  • You are not as bad as people say; you are much, much worse.
  • Please, keep talking. I always yawn when I am interested.
  • Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.
  • Always remember that you're unique. Just like everyone else.

Funny, yes. But a wise use of words, maybe not. 

If we keep reading that passage from James we tackled yesterday, we read:

With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so (James 3:9–10). 

That's not the only passage that speaks on this subject. 

Proverbs 26:18–19 says, "Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I am only joking!'"

Whoa! How's that for a heavy hitter? This verse equates lying to a neighbor and then pawning it off with sarcastic humor to throwing arrows of death! Sounds like serious business. 

Sarcasm is our country's favorite brand of humor. Everywhere we look we see and hear people dogging on others, cutting them to the quick, and making friends feel bad in order to get a laugh. But God's Word says not to use the same mouth to bless and curse and not to say things we shouldn't and then say, "Aw, I was just kidding."

Ephesians 4:29 really puts the nail in the coffin of sharp humor at others' expense: 

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

It may be funny, but if words tear others down instead of building them up, they are better left unsaid. Adopting this policy may not earn you a standing gig at your local comedy club, but it does help you to honor God with the way that you use your words. 

What about you? Have you ever been burned by someone else's sarcastic humor? What are some ways you know of to be funny without insulting others?

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