I have been thinking a lot about sarcasm. How many people use it while trying to be funny…and in it’s place, it may be, but all too often it goes a bit too far and causes damage. I looked up the definition and was a bit taken back:

Sarcasm:
1. the use of irony to mock or convey contempt:
2. the use of words that mean the opposite of what you really want to say especially in order to insult someone, to show irritation, or to be funny:
3.a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain:
4. a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual

The whole intent of sarcasm is to hurt or mock. Only 1 short statement about sarcasm is to be funny, while the rest is to put down another person.

A couple years ago I was reading The Screwtape Letter’s by C.S. Lewis and I remember this passage about laughter. It is probably the section that I remember the most about that book. The book is a collection of letters from a “Lead’ Demon as he instructs a subordinate to discourage, distract and bring defeat to the soul of a human man. The following is a passage on laughter.

 MY DEAR WORMWOOD…I divide the causes of human laughter into Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper, and Flippancy.

You will see the [Joy] among friends and lovers reunited on the eve of a holiday…

Fun is closely related to Joy—a sort of emotional froth arising from the play instinct. It is very little use to us….it has wholly undesirable tendencies; it promotes charity, courage, contentment, and many other evils.

The Joke Proper, which turns on sudden perception of incongruity, is a much more promising field…The real use of Jokes or Humour is in quite a different direction…it is invaluable as a means of destroying shame…

But flippancy is the best of all. In the first place it is very economical. Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else; any of them can be trained to talk as if virtue were funny.

Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it.

If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour-plating against the Enemy that I know, and it is quite free from the dangers inherent in the other sources of laughter.

It is a thousand miles away from joy it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practice it.

Your affectionate uncle, SCREWTAPE

I had never thought of how the enemy of our souls could use laughter against us but how true it is. While reading this passage I remember instantly thinking of sarcasm. That flippant witty joke that pokes just a little fun at someone else and how damaging that can be even if that isn’t the intent.

I grew up with sarcasm. It was the way that we had fun, laughed, it was in our general conversation. I trust that the conscious motive behind it wasn’t to hurt one another, but in all honestly, the jokes were often at someone’s expense. When I was reading this book, I made an active choice, to start to stop using sarcasm. It has been a process to learn to think and speak with out it, towards others and towards myself. I haven’t made it completely and sometimes when I am around my family I fall back into that pattern of speaking, but I work on it.

The Bible has a lot to say about our speech. In 1 Corinthians 14:3 it reads, “But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation and, comfort.” We are to “be holy in all manner of conversation:” 1 Peter 1:15. To be an “example of the believes, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” 1 Timothy 4:12. In Philippians 1:27 it says to “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ:…that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel”. And in Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” To be careful with what words we say, Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 “Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider no that they do evil. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine hear be hasty to utter anything before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.” And lastly but certainly not the last mention of it, James 1:19-20 “Wherefore, my beloved bretheren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”

From these few scriptures we find that we are to be careful with what we say, to take a few seconds to think about and consider the words before we speak them. That every word is to build and edify one another and to not harm or hinder. What we say is an example to those around us of a true Christ-like life.

Sarcasm works among friends, spouses, family, saints, acquaintances and enemies. But it is most dangerous among those that are in fellowship. It can hurt and divide saints, spouses, and families. If it doesn’t lift up or edify, think twice before saying it, even if it is just a joke and you think they can take it.

Not only can we be sarcastic and flippant with others, but also with ourselves. We can make jokes, comments, at our own expense that demean or lower our worth. This isn’t an act of being humble, in fact it’s unfair and often untrue regarding our actual worth. It works like this, when someone complements us and our comment is one that would put ourselves down or minimize who/what we are or have done. The enemy can use this to discourage us and make us think we are not doing our best or are that we aren’t saved.

Don’t get me wrong, humor is good. Jokes can be funny. Irony and “sarcasm” in a pure sense (if it can be so) is ok. Can be useful and even a help. But it is when it crosses the line to causing hurt that it has gone to far. I don’t want to say that we can never laugh or joke around. But we do need to be considerate of others and what we are saying.

I am challenging myself once again to be careful in my thoughts and words about others and myself. That the statements are true and not mocking or harmful. Honesty is ok, consideration is a must, and laughter is needed, but harmful, digging, and insulting words are not.

“Only let your conversation be as it [exemplifies] the gospel of Christ:”…”[speaking] unto men [for] edification, and exhortation and, comfort”

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