Why is lying wrong? Because it hurts people or because God said not to do it?
Here are seven reasons why I think sarcasm is unhealthy and wrong. I would love to hear what you think by leaving a comment .
1. Sarcasm is a lie and not the language of the Kingdom.
When I make a sarcastic comment I lie, assuming my listener knows my words to be untrue. What a trick of the devil to put lies in the mouths of Christians! It is only when we are honest with ourselves and with others that we can speak the language of the Kingdom. If we cannot speak the language of the Kingdom, how can we expect to live at peace with its residents?
Who speaks lies as his native language? Hint: not Jesus.
Lies are the language of Satan. “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44
2. Sarcasm fosters insecurity.
Sarcasm often comes either out of a place of insecurity or into a place of insecurity. Think of it like a bank, people deposit their insecurities into sarcasm and then get them back with interest.
3. Sarcasm interferes with authentic community.
The things we say sarcastically are often things we are unable to say seriously but still feel. True intimacy and community are hard to find because of this. It can often be a challenge to sort out the truth from lies when a sarcastic person speaks. The people making sarcastic comments sometimes are unsure of the truth themselves.
Buried within many sarcastic comments hides a small nugget of truth. Sometimes people say what they feel sarcastically so they can’t be held responsible for their true feelings. Their sarcasm allows them to maintain their mask of hypocrisy. This hinders both communication and authentic community.
4. Sarcasm discourages inquisitiveness.
In my experience sarcasm is often used to deride people for asking simple questions. It causes some people to be cautious to talk at all, particularly to strangers. I ask simple questions. When I reveal my ignorance on a topic I often must brace for the sarcastic blow that may or may not fall. My confidence is in Christ and not myself so these comments do not destroy me but are nevertheless unappreciated. I think we would all learn a lot more if we were a lot less sarcastic.
5. Sarcasm interferes with good leadership.
Secure people make good leaders. If sarcasm is a symptom of insecurity then the better a leader you are the less sarcastic you will be. Can you Imagen Moses, Jesus or William Wilberforce being sarcastic? Sarcasm is like a false save that temporarily numbs our pain of our insecurities but ultimately makes the root problem worse. One of the things I admire about John Moore, our college pastor, is how authentic he is. John is a speaker of the truth and I appreciate that.
The false save of sarcasm keeps dells our pain and keeps us from taking our insecurities to Christ. Sarcasm hinders communication and undermines trust. Vital elements of good leadership.
6. Sarcasm undermines true humor.
Some people are naturally funny. They put those around them at ease by finding the lighter side of life. Others, myself included, try to compensate for their lack of humor through sarcasm. Yet sarcastic “jokes” are rarely funny and they rarely put people at ease.
Sarcastic remarks are easy to make and keep us from cracking jokes that are actually funny. How many times have you ever belly laughed to a sarcastic comment? The best you can hope for from sarcasm is snicker.
7. Sarcasm is the language of bullies.
Sarcasm can be used as a way to attack other people without given them a chance to respond. It is like a kid with a bat in one hand and a trash can lid in the other. When he says a biting sarcastic comment (bat) he defends himself (lid) by saying he was only joking. He can then take a second swing with the bat by accusing the listener of having no sense of humor.
The only way the other children could play with such a bully is if they too get bats and lids. This is how sarcasm like a virus infects a community.
Do you ever remember coming home from school crying because a bully said something mean. What did he tell the teacher? “I was only joking.” I contend that sarcasm is still a subtle form of bullying, regardless of age.
There is a difference between sarcasm and hyperbole. Hyperbole is the contrasting of extremes to make a point. So when God tells Job to tell him how the world was formed since “Job was there” God is using hyperbole to emphasize the fact that Job was not there and does not know. While like sarcasm hyperbole is different in the fact that it makes the truth clear instead of cloudy.
Do I make sarcastic remarks? Yes. In my insecurity I still speak lies instead of truth. But it bothers me. My conscience bugs me about it though and I try to apologize. I am a poor standard. But I ask that you keep me accountable to only speak the truth from now on.
Do you agree/disagree? Leave a comment and let me know what you think .
Hmmm…Very interesting. I never thought about sarcasm in that light before. And thanks for explaining the difference between sarcasm and hyperbole. Just one thing…Is there any biblical support for this other than the obvious passages about lying? I’ll look too, but I was just wondering if you knew of anything right off the bat.
Here’s an After Eden cartoon about sarcasm: http://www.answersingenesis.org/aftereden/view.aspx?id=114.
That first verse actually occured to me (in back-of-the-mind-paraphrase) late last night. 🙂 I think those first two verses apply more specifcally to the subject at hand.
I found some more verses.
"O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?"
After reading this verse I thought that a lot of sarcasm, especially the sarcasm Christians use, might not fall under "lying" so much as under "vain words". Of course, that ties right in with your theory about personal insecurity.
"When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent."
I wonder, if we kept silent instead of raining sarcasm down on people, would we minimize our transgressions as well as our numerous words? Probably.
Thanks Thomas!! This was a very encouraging article.
I did some quick searching and found these verses:
“Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.”
“For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.”
“And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.
People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.”
Sarcasm is very destructive in the church.
What a good word… thank you for posting… and making me think!
Thomas, you left out Ephesians 4:29 – “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up.”
When does sarcasm build anybody up? Never.
Sarcasm is meanness masked as humor, in my opinion. Great post.
Being a debater, two objections jump to my mind;
Yep, as a debater, I want a definition of sarcasm. Let me provide an example. At the book fair, my parents and I discussing my curriculum and all the things I’m going to take and what I’m not going to take because I just don’t have time. Then my Dad says, “maybe if we just game him two vitamins…” Both my Mom couldn’t help but laugh. Is this sarcasm? Because it certainly wasn’t unwholesome.
2) The “tag line”
Have you been power-tagging Thomas? 🙂 Sure; the alliteration is cool, but I don’t see you discuss whether sarcasm is a sin. Just whether it is healthy or not.
Seems to me like sarcasm is a lot like civil disobedience. It’s not necessarily a sin, but it isn’t the best.
It is disobeying God’s second greatest commandment. To love your neighbor as yourself. Therefore it is a sin.
whoa… first off, posting a comment anonymously doesn’t take very much courage. second, it’s not as black and white as you’d like to make it. this is definitely a good subject to debate, and I would argue that you can say things sarcastically in love. sarcasm isn’t doesn’t have to be an abuse of anyone. Brian gave a great example of that…
"Sarcasm is stating the opposite of an intended meaning especially in order to sneeringly, slyly, jest or mock a person, situation or thing." -<a>Wikipedia
By Wikipedia's definition, sarcasm isn't always a bad thing, and my Dad's comment does fall under sarcasm. Sarcasm can be a bad thing, but maybe not all the time.
Mocking is not a bad thing?
S’ARCASM, n. [l. sarcasmus; Gr. from to deride or sneer at, primarily to fly or pluck off the skin.]
A keen reproachful expression; a satirical remark or expression, uttered with some degree of scorn or contempt; a taunt; a gibe. Of this we have an example in the remark of the Jews respecting Christ, on the cross, “He saved others, himself he cannot save.”
… so yes, it’s a sin… “let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word that is good for edification” Eph 4 – somewhere about verse 32…
and really i don’t think your dad’s comment was sarcasm… more like playing with you 🙂
I have been quite sarcastic in my time… and it usually is a cutting comment & not helpful… everyone laughs, sometimes even the one the comment is directed at… but some people, it really hurts… since we never know which way they will react… better to just not 🙂
and i really like the verse used Eph 5:4…
just my 2cents… and i am not even a debater 🙂
Wow, lots of responses to this one. In the interest of interestingness, Ill compose a comment.
First, some of my personal observations on sarcasm: I’ve noticed sarcasm doesnt translate well in writing. Its pretty much restricted to the spoken word. It is often a disingenuous way to illustrate a point. A tactic that allows the speaker to make a statement that he is unwilling to take responsibility for. It can hinder relationships and true fellowship.
I agree with most of what you wrote, however, I don’t agree with your premise that it is the language of bullies. When was the last time you heard a bully make a sarcastic comment? Usually, a bully is in control of the situation and can express his whole mind without any thought of hiding his harsh comments in a veil of innocence. In your example of sarcasm, you said that the bully told the teacher that he was “only joking”. But I’ll bet when the boy got back to school, the bully probably assured him that he was not joking at all. He said that to get out of trouble with others more powerful than himself – bullies are truly cowards after all.
I submit that sarcasm is actually the weapon of the weak. At least in my experience, I have seen sarcasm used as an outlet for those who felt unable to express their true feelings. They are able to make a harsh or foolish statement and hide from retribution behind their sarcasm. The reasons for them feeling the way they do vary. You touched on several of them in your article. Some are insecure, some don’t want others to ask questions, some are uncomfortable with their surroundings, others simply lack the ability to be genuinely funny. I try not to be overbearing towards those I sense are being excessively sarcastic. They may not feel free to be honest.
Not that those who are sarcastic are free from blame. Sarcasm is foolishness. Those who practice foolishness are fools. I admit that I have succumbed to the temptation to be foolish. I see the dangers it poses to effective communication and have purposed to focus on saying what I mean in an up-front manner – even if it is more boring. We should all focus on becoming more effective with the words of our mouth and be understanding towards those who are not as wise as we are. Good article, Thomas.
Proverbs 15:2 The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.
I don't mind sarcasm, when it isn't biting sarcasm. That's the stuff that purposely gets down to the nitty gritty ugly stuff that you don't want anyone talking about and makes a joke out of it simply to cause you pain. I think that's terrible.
Also, I am learning a boat-load about this blogging and RSS stuff! Thanks Thomas!
I figured I would write down what we were talking about tonight so its there if you ever need it! 🙂
Sarcasm, or rather “burning people” is very destructive because it makes you think of the worst part of that person, or what they were saying. If you tend to do this repeatedly, it becomes an automatic response to comments and you tend to automatically think negatively of a person. Also no matter where you are, (school, work, etc) people are watching you, and if you profess to be a Christian, you are an ambassador for Christ. If the people around you are not Christian and they see you speaking negatively of someone, they see that and usually don’t want to be associated with that, therefore you are turning people away from the Cross instead of to it.
It was great to see you again Thomas! 🙂
Interesting article! “Sarcasm is a wepon of the weak” it is said, and might I add, “someone trying to flaunt superiority in view of other insiders at your expense.” It’s done a lot in gamer communities, a form of encryption called “leet” .
“Anything more than yea and nay is from the pit.”
Excellent points to consider. I agree with you, for the most part. My only hitch is in Job, when God finally speaks up and questions Job, He says "Stand up and answer me like a man, since you clearly have all the answers". I don't know any other way to read into this but sarcastic. He is making a point, and doing so in sovereign love and authority, but obviously, Job does not have all the answers, which was exactly the point the Lord was making, through the use of sarcasm. What are your thoughts on that?
Please read Job 38:5 in all the versions available to you. The AMP, KJV, ASV, and YLT versions all state it as a question, “If you know?” or “If thou knowest?” instead of “since you clearly have all the answers.”
It’s still the same idea/thing no matter how it’s said. And that approach is used many times throughout the Bible…
God convicted me concerning sarcasm many years ago, using the Scripture, "Let your yes be yes, and your no, no." Sarcasm does the opposite, as per the definition from Wikipedia above.
What about when Elijah mocks the prophets of Baal? Clearly God would not have us mock anyone, would he?
"Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened" (1 Kings 18:27).
Is sarcasm itself a sin, I don't think so. Not by this definition: "a sharply ironical taunt; sneering or cutting remark."
Read the orators of history, many use sarcasm quite effectively.
That being said, sarcasm used today in personal conversation and beyond is mostly done in an unhealthy way and I agree with much of this article in that context.
Really?! Taunting, sneering, and cutting remarks aren’t sinful?
Just curious, does anyone know of any examples of God or Jesus using sarcasm in the Bible? I've found plenty of examples of different men in the Bible using it, but not God or Jesus.
Proverbs 28:18-19 Like a madman shooting firebrands or deadly arrows is a man who deceives his neighbor
and says, "I was only joking!"
Is sarcasm a sin? Excellent question. I like what you said. Thanks for being so open and honest. I would think that the fact that sarcasm tears people down and does no build them up pushes it into the arena of sin. Thanks again for making me think and ponder. Well done.
Check out this book for examples of Jesus using satire – this is a defense of satire, not sarcasm, which is a bit different. But wholesale rejection of any form of sarcasm is naive. There is more to consider than what is above.
The Serrated Edge – Douglas Wilson
Search for it at books.google.com
I was at church, fellowshipping after Bible study where I was telling someone how much I hate the act of sarcasm…….when loud and clear the pastor’s wife chimed in and told me that if I don’t like sarcasm, I am in the wrong church……! Right when I was telling what hurt me the most, I was targeted with …..sarcasm…..it is almost funny if it did not hurt so much…….and that is what sarcasm means to me…..something that is done with a smile at the expense of another…..
Thanks for posting this site ……
I hate when people are thin skinned and unable to take a joke.
Read Amos 4 as GOD speaks sarcasm through the prophet. Unless you think this does not fit the definition of sarcasm. Then I would be curious what you define this speech as.
You sound like someone who has trouble picking up on sarcasm, and thus have been the butt of it many times and now you’re bitter. Your definition of sarcasm is very myopic and, frankly, poorly informed. Sometimes people are sarcastic, and all parties involved recognize it as sarcasm, and everyone enjoys it because it’s more clever and amusing than saying the sentiment outright. Sarcasm can make a small moment enjoyable for everyone.