I Was Only Joking

Proverbs 26:18-19 Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!”

I love a quick wit, a bit of sarcasm, a smart turn of phrase. I studied English Literature in college. I used to read Shakespeare for fun. So I like to think I am pretty good with words. But that is not always a good thing. We have to be careful what we say. What we say tells others how we view the world, and it also reinforces that in our own minds.

I overheard a conversation the other day where a parent said “I send my kids to school to get some peace”. I think all parents have felt that way at some point, and I know that parent was joking – mostly. But I was suddenly aware of how that phrase might land with the children who hear it – especially when that parent has been impatient, or angry, or distracted. They might believe there is more truth than humor. The more it is said, the more they might believe it. That phrase did not, at all, reflect how God wants parents to relate to their children.

Why do we say things like this? We think we’re being cute or clever. We’re often just repeating something we’ve heard other people say, that seems appropriate to the occasion – something relatable. It isn’t really 100% how we feel, but we’ve heard it said enough times. It isn’t how we know we should feel. But we’ve heard it over and over, and we’ve said it over and over, and it’s just become – part of how we think.

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

I want to challenge you – to challenge myself too – to become aware of those phrases that we repeat, those worldly phrases that we repeat, that do not reflect God’s love out onto the world. Then, begin to change how we speak. I’m not saying I want to give up on sarcasm, wit, and banter! But I need to consider some of those words a little more carefully.

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

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