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Lately, it has been on my heart about how sarcasm affects family relationships because it is something that my family sadly uses to often.
It is something that I want to change, so I decided to spend some time studying the Bible about using sarcasm versus kind words.
What is the Difference between Sarcasm and Joking?
It’s normal and good to try to laugh while having a conversation with somebody you love, but is there really a difference between joking or banter and using sarcasm to make somebody laugh?
To joke means that something is said or done to cause laughter. And banter is defined as playful and a friendly exchange of teasing remarks.
What is Sarcasm?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines sarcasm as “a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain.”
The word originates from the Greek word sarkasmos which was taken from sarkazein which meant “to tear flesh, bite the lip in rage, sheer”.
Just by looking at the definitions, we see that the difference between joking and sarcasm is that one is considered friendly and the other is used to inflict pain.
What does the Bible say?
Examples of Sarcasm in the Bible
There are actually quite a few examples of sarcasm in the Bible.
To Reprimand Israelites for Putting Their Faith in a Destructive Ruler
One example happens in Judges 9:7-19. It takes place after Abimelech has 70 of his brother’s executed in order that he could become king of Shechem. His youngest brother Jotham escapes. After their slaughter, Jotham tells a parable to the people of Judah where he compares Abimelech to a bramble. He uses sarcasm and the parable to describe to the people that Abimelech ruling over the people would not provide protection, but destruction.
Used to Remind of a Duty Neglected:
Another example of sarcasm happens in 1 Samuel Chapter 26. In this verse David, had just spared Saul’s life while the King had been pursuing him to kill him. David had snuck into Saul’s camp and taken his jug of water and spear from next to Saul while he slept. Sleeping right next to Saul was Abner, who was Saul’s commander of the army. When David was a large distance away, but close enough to yell, he calls out and taunts Abner of neglecting his duty of protecting Saul, by saying, “Are you not a man?” (verse 15).
Used to Mock Idolaters:
In 1 Kings the Israelites were attempting to combine their worship of Yahweh with worshiping Baal, a Canaanite fertility god. In 1 Kings 18:27 Elijah mocks prophets of Baal, by saying “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.”
Used to Deflate Pride:
In 1 King Chapter 20, the Ben-Hadad the King of Aram (near present day Aleppo in Syria) had attacked Samaria and was preparing to attack Israel. In the verses 1 Kings 20:10,11 the king of Israel responds to Ben-Hadad , with sarcasm saying “Tell him, ‘Let not him who girds on his armor boast like him who takes it off.'”. This essentially meant not to boast about a victory prematurely.
Other examples of sarcasm in the Bible include:
So-called friends (Job 11:2-12)
Enemies (Nehemiah 4:2-3)
Roman soldiers persecuting Jesus (Matthew 27:28,29)
Apostles (Acts 23:1-5)
Does the difference between joking and sarcasm really matter?
If you read through some of the examples you might notice that a lot of them take place during stories of betrayal by friends and family, battles, and persecution. Hopefully our relationships with our friends and family members aren’t full of betrayals, battles and persecutions.
How does the Bible say we should speak?
There are a quite a few verses in the Bible that tell us how we should actually speak. Let’s look at a few of them.
In Ephesians, Paul writes –
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that may give grace to those who hear.
Ephesians 4:29 ESV
Numerous Proverbs talk about how the way we speak can stir up anger or be used for healing.
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Proverbs 12:18 ESV
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15:1 ESV
How do we stop using sarcasm if that is what we are used to?
The problem is that it is a lot easier to use sarcasm when you are upset with somebody than to respond with a “soft answer”.
So then how do we change the way we speak to people when we are upset?
1. Make a decision daily to speak to people with kindness rather than sarcasm.
This can be hard to decide to do, because at least for me sarcasm can come so naturally.
And then decide this again the next day. A good friend once told me that when you make a decision to change in a area of life and then are almost immediately tested – to consider that a reality check. Are you really serious about the change you want to make?
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Changing our hearts really is a God thing. We can’t do something like this all on our own.
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
That according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love.
Here are just a few scriptures about prayer –
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us.
1 John 5:14
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
3. Read the Bible regularly.
This can help reduce stress, which in turn helps reduce tension, which reduces anger and sarcasm.
Spend some time just reading the Bible everyday.
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
4. Study scriptures that teach about speaking with kindness.
Finally, spend some time focusing on scriptures that talk specifically about how the way we talk effects our relationships.
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