Sarcasm is not a spiritual gift. When more zingers and burns than Scripture are being presented online, we've got a problem. There is no holiness in hatefulness. The Bible teaches us that the power of life and death are in the tongue. Our words can be life-giving and encouraging as we share the good news of Christ, or they can be destructive and hurtful and drive people away from God. Are we building up or tearing down with what we write and say? To start with, let's look at a few Scriptures that directly address the way we communicate.
Are sarcasm, satire and scathing prose alright?
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. -Ephesians 5:4
The original Greek word for filthiness refers to language that is dirty OR dishonoring. It refers to mocking in a way that is contemptful, looking down on others. Foolish talk directly refers to calling someone out or offering advice in a way that is foolish, like trash talking. This includes dealing with serious issues in a flippant or devil-may-care way. Using insider jargon or jokes or speaking in a way that is unclear or could mislead an unbeliever or someone who isn't "in the know" is forbidden. In other words, SATIRE, is not appropriate for Christians. The word crude joking, or jesting, refers to using the well-turned phrase or clever language to tease or joke and it specifically refers to being facetious or SARCASTIC as wrong.
Proverbs 26:18-26 give us more insight into this issue:
18-Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death so is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, "Was I not joking?"
Those who deceive and present blatantly false information disguised as jokes are called "madmen." Picture their words like a flaming arrow with a chain attached to it that binds up the reader and you will have a good understanding of what the Bible is saying here. The rest of the proverb uses words that describe rolling over another person with bullying gossip, and whisperers, who stir up trouble and will not allow peace to come. Then the passage continues:
A hateful person disguises himself with his speech and harbors deceit within. When he speaks graciously, do not believe him, For there are seven abominations in his heart..
I was asked if there was something demonic behind this type of speech. I believe it does hide something dark. The term 7 abominations, refers to 7 unclean spirits, so Yes, there is spiritual darkness behind this type of communication.
Jeremiah 9:3-5 could be used to describe the world we live in today, as much as it does the ancient world:
They bend their tongues like their bows. Lies and not faithfulness prevail in the land for they proceed from one evil to another and they do not take me into account. This is the Lord’s declaration. Everyone has to be on guard against his friend. Don’t trust any brother for every brother will certainly deceive and every friend spread slander. Each one betray’s his friend, no one tells the truth. They have taught their tongues to speak lies, they wear themselves out doing wrong. You live in a world of deception. In their deception they refuse to know me. This is the Lord’s declaration.
John 8:44 says that there is no truth in Satan and that When he lies he speaks his native language for he is a liar and the father of all lies. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, not of error. Any communication, spoken or written, that is not clear Truth is not of God, but is of the devil.
How Then, Should Christians Communicate?
Ephesians 4:29 instructs us:
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.
Other translations say to let no unwholesome talk be spoken and emphasize saying the right thing in the right way in the moment. To edify, means to build up, not tear down. Verse 31 tells us to put evil speaking or blasphemia away from us. This includes language that is railing or that is impious or disrespectful toward God's majesty. 1 Peter 4:11 tells us that anyone who has a gift for speaking or communication should act as if they are speaking the very words of God, meaning that we do so reverently and in a way that serves others. That is what minister means, to serve others.
Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 1 Peter 3:15
Speaking with gentleness and respect shows humility and reverence for God and human beings created in His image. Ranting, raving, railing and irreverent communication is rotten to the core. It does not minister grace, but instead causes people to bristle, provokes them to fight back, makes them dig in, harden their hearts and become even more set in their ways. It is unworthy of the Message of the Good News about Jesus Christ to speak that way. We are SHARING the Hope within us. There is a complete void of hope present in many of the satirical websites, snarky YouTube videos, angry rantblogs and comedy shows which are only Christian in the sense that their topics are restricted to making fun of things Christians do.
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:5-6
We need to remember those we are called to serve. Salt purifies. All of our communication, whether online or in person should be purified. It should be full of truth with the errors carefully filtered out. Our writings, sermons and other contributions should be well thought out, well-prepared and designed to minister.
Here are some guidelines for filtering our communication:
Be Careful What You Consume
A good friend of mine used to say "Garbage In, Garbage Out." Luke 6:45 teaches: A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. With our online activities are we filling up to build our faith, or are we eating a steady diet of pork rinds and poison? We need to be careful what we fill our hearts with.
Sharing Isn't Always Caring
Stop. Is that post you are about to share going to build up or tear down the Body of Christ, the Church?
Think Before You Laugh
I have learned to discipline myself not to laugh when jokes are inappropriate. Obviously we shouldn't laugh at dirty jokes. But what about jokes at the expense of someone's spouse or children? Or Memes mocking Millenials? I LOVE to laugh. It is good for us and joyful. But if our laughter comes at someone else's expense, or is irreverent toward God, it is sin.
How Do We Judge? What SHOULD We Post?
Philippians 4:8 provides us with the standard:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable (of good report or good reputation), if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Think about THESE things. Dwell on them. Blog, Post, Comment on, ReTweet and Share THESE things. I am constantly encouraged by the original, personal or heartfelt things my own friends post. Whether it is a timely Bible verse, a much needed correction or concern, a prayer request, blog post, meaningful song, or lengthy personal thought, I really appreciate them. Keep it up. Teach. Flood the world with Truth. Wipe out the lies with the Floodlight of Truth and Hope we've found in Jesus.