All of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (1 Peter 3:8)
She passed me in Walmart, but not before I had time to read the logo on her t-shirt: “Member of the National Sarcasm Club.” Directly under that title were these words: “And what makes you think I need your support?”
As pithy as it was, I couldn’t help but think…Not something I would care to flaunt.
Not that I don’t sometimes find humor in sarcasm.
Especially when God uses it. Remember Job? The one who started out wealthy and healthy and surrounded by a huge family? When all of that was taken from him AND his friends and wife suggested God didn’t have his best interests in mind, Job began questioning. Now it’s God’s turn to respond. In Job 38: 20-21, He asks Job if he knows where light and darkness reside and then adds, “Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years!” The chapter is loaded with God’s crafty comments to Job, basically meaning, “I’m sorry. I seem to have forgotten which one of us created the world.”
Most sarcasm, however, isn’t God-clever, like the time Henry Ward Beecher, in the middle of an impassioned sermon, was interrupted by a drunk man in the balcony who began crowing like a rooster. Instantly Beecher stopped, took out his watch, and remarked: “What? Morning already? I wouldn’t have believed it, but the instincts of the lower animal are infallible.”
See the difference? God loved Job and was reminding him that He had everything under control, so Job need not worry. Beecher was using mockery to degrade his parishioner. James Denney, a Scottish theologian, once said that it is very hard to show that Christ is magnificent and that I am clever at the same time, a test, in my opinion, Beecher failed.
Sometimes sarcasm lightens a tense moment, but we must always use discretion and ask how it might feel to be the recipient of such cynicism. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves” (Phil. 2:3). As we all know, there are cruel people waiting for a chance to verbally pounce. Their goal is not love but one-upmanship. . One person wrote, “I love sarcasm. It’s like punching people in the face but with words.” Do you find humor in that? I don’t, even though I am the first one to laugh at skillful sarcasm (always intended to make the other person smile, not wince). For example, if you watched the pre-show for the Super Bowl, you heard Larry Fitzgerald comment about ex-quarterback Kurt Warner’s role as radio commentator for the game. “Everyone always said he has a face for radio.” Warner, sitting beside his old teammate and best friend, loved it. The aim was humor, not hurt. The take away from this is that the line between “real” and “joking” isn’t all that thick, and making someone feel less than God desired, as we all know, is never, ever funny.