The only problem with this statement was that my parents had no intention of serving us ice cream on that night.
When the truth was discovered, and I quickly explaining that I was only joking, my dad marched me into my parents’ room, placed me on the bed, and told me not to come out until I had memorized Proverbs 26:18-19 which states:
Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says “I was only joking.” (NKJ)
Now at that age, I didn’t know what firebrands were, and to be honest, I’m not sure I still do, but the list sounded bad. I hadn’t equated my deception with death and destruction, but Scripture did. And although my father could have punished me in a variety of ways, this way proved the most effective because years later I still remember those verses when I am tempted to deceive someone and then pass it off as a joke.
The interesting part of all this, is that it wasn’t like my dad was a serious stick in the mud. After all, this was the man who kept a realistic-looking rubber egg in the refrigerator and then, as an initiation to our home, would throw it at guests with a shout of “Catch!” As the unsuspecting visitor would quickly scurry to save what they thought was an egg, my dad would smile and then laugh. My dad loved and appreciated humor.
However, what my dad knew was that beside the momentary panic, there was no lasting effects of the rubber egg prank. After all, the worse thing that could happen is that, had it been a real egg, it would have been splattered in his own home. But so many times, we purposefully cause lasting harm to people with our words or actions, and then indifferently pass it off as a joke. We ridicule with sarcasm and then expect the other person to laugh. We marginalize people who take things too seriously, and neglect to realize that if we taking nothing seriously, then nothing is sacred. And if we act as if nothing is sacred, then what as Christians, do we truly believe?
After all, when a little girl thinks she’s getting ice cream, and then finds out it was nothing but a misguided joke, that’s no laughing matter.
Neither is it when we compromise our representation of Christ for the sake of a few laughs.