Together, we serve
to know Christ
and to make Christ known
for the glory of God

3 January 2022

Proverb 26:18-19

Like a maniac shooting
    flaming arrows of death
19 is one who deceives their neighbor
    and says, “I was only joking!”

“It was just a joke.” And so we excuse all manner of mean-spirited behavior and speech. We ridicule a person, and then when it is found out and he takes offense, we reply, “I was only joking.” We play a prank that humiliates its victim, and when his feelings are hurt, we reply, “It was just a joke. Through the “joke” we say all manner of denigrating words and play demeaning tricks, but because it was a joke, then we are excused.

There may be a place for practical jokes and facetious humor, but we should be careful of using denigrating humor. And what we need to be careful of is not so much that the person receiving it can handle it, but our real motive in using it. Many a “joking” remark is made from deep-seated resentment or from arrogance. Many a practical joke has the very real intent of humiliating the victim, or at least shows a lack of regard for him.

We use the joke to hide behind real intent, oftentimes hiding from ourselves our intent. And so we need to ask before we quickly play the joke, what is our purpose. Is it to produce merriment for everyone, including the recipient, or is it to merely get a laugh for ourselves at someone’s expense? We too easily claim the former, not admitting even to ourselves the latter. But the result typically reveals the motive. When the result is that of a firebrand being hurled, our motive needs to be examined. For either we did want to hurt or shame, or we are guilty of lacking regard for the victim.

 

Psalm 141

I call to you, Lord, come quickly to me;
    hear me when I call to you.
May my prayer be set before you like incense;
    may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.

Set a guard over my mouth, Lord;
    keep watch over the door of my lips.
Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil
    so that I take part in wicked deeds
along with those who are evildoers;
    do not let me eat their delicacies.

Let a righteous man strike me—that is a kindness;
    let him rebuke me—that is oil on my head.
My head will not refuse it,
    for my prayer will still be against the deeds of evildoers.

Their rulers will be thrown down from the cliffs,
    and the wicked will learn that my words were well spoken.
They will say, “As one plows and breaks up the earth,
    so our bones have been scattered at the mouth of the grave.”

But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign Lord;
    in you I take refuge—do not give me over to death.
Keep me safe from the traps set by evildoers,
    from the snares they have laid for me.
10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
    while I pass by in safety.