In high school, a friend of mine and I used to have an ongoing contest to see how badly we could “burn” (i.e insult) each other. I’m not sure how it got started, but we thought it was a great display of our intellectual prowess to take seemingly innocuous statements and turn them into jokes at the other’s expense. We professed not to mind, because we knew that the sarcasm was rooted in love (as well as an ill-defined competition.) However, someone wisely pointed out that even if we didn’t mind, it wasn’t the best witness to those who heard our jests. We might know that they were rooted in love, but the audience probably didn’t.
Yet, this type of sardonic banter as become commonplace in our culture, and in our churches. We insult each other for fun and then laugh it off because the other person knows that we are kidding. However, Proverbs 22:10 says that instead of laughing we should “drive out a scoffer.” It goes on to tell us that when we do so “strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease.”
This is a powerful statement. We have have become accustomed to “excusing” scoffing as if it is just part of how we interact. As long as it’s funny, and as long as it isn’t offensive, it seems “acceptable.” However, this verse reminds us that even when we think we are being funny, when we are mocking someone else we are proponents of strife. Even if it doesn’t erupt in that moment, mocking begets discord. Since we are supposed to be united with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and showing love to those who don’t know Him, scoffing should have no place in our pattern of speech. Instead, our words should be rich with love.
It’s tempting to fool ourselves into thinking that our actions don’t have consequences when we don’t witness those consequences immediately. The same is true with our words. Perhaps the reason “we can’t all just get along” is because our words convey that we don’t. Even the simple words. Even the jokes.
We might think that our everyday sarcasm doesn’t have an effect, but Scripture says that it does. Scripture says that our pattern of speech towards other people and about other people is important. Let’s make sure that it is a pattern that gives glory to our God.
What are effective ways to “watch our words” to ensure that they are glorifying to God?