Verbal Toxins

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  January 11, 2014

            It is the stuff of which popular humor is made. Often celebrated and expressed with joyful pride, people use it like a jovial quip and wield it as if it meant nothing. Yet, for many, it possesses a destructive violence and deadly venom that defies Christian truth.
            Honestly, I have used it and you probably have too. We hear it on almost every popular TV program from those boasting entertainment to those transmitting news. There are even examples of it is the Bible. It is like many things. The rare and relatively innocent wielding of this venomous beast may not cause much harm. Yet frequently people do not realize how volatile it can become or how easily it can destroy that which God loves and calls good. So subtle is this vile poison, far too many families and unsuspecting Christians remain unaware of the slow destruction we breed within ourselves as we allow it to flourish. Worse yet, many people joyously celebrate its dominance in their lives and defend its use as simply being innocent humor.
            Proverbs 26:18-19 describes the one who uses it as a maniac or a madman and describes the volatile nature of such speech as dangerously subversive and armed with deadly arrows.  In Genesis 4, Cain was scorned for using it. In Exodus 14:11 its use exemplified the Hebrew People’s lack of faith in God. In Nehemiah 4 the enemies of Israel wielded it to discourage God’s people. The book of James in chapters 3 and 4 attest to the destructive power it holds and the 4th and 5th chapters of Ephesians reminds believers that it is never to be used at all.  
            This vile weapon of dehumanizing verbal violence is sarcasm. Simply defined as a form of cutting or biting humor that uses irony or cruel exaggeration to degrade, demean, or insult, it is a form of verbal assault that cuts down another human being with contempt, distain, and disregard for the image of God created within each of us.
            Some sarcasm may seem relatively harmless. For example, in this past week of colder-than-normal temperatures, one may sarcastically say how much they “love this cold weather” when in reality the tone of the voice indicates they have anything but love for the freezing weather. Yet, even in this seemingly innocuous ridicule of the weather, an underlying reality exists. The sarcastic remark is speaking an intentional falsehood. It is a subtle corruption of truthful speaking.
            Sarcasm’s real danger lies in the damage it can do to relationships. Many vital relationships are undermined, even destroyed, because sarcasm becomes the means of communicating ideas. Ephesians 4:29 states it most succinctly. “Let no evil talk come from your mouths, but only what is useful for building up.” It explicitly refers to speech that is foul, impure, distorted, perverse, and vicious.
            To celebrate the use of sarcasm is the same as rejoicing over the failures and mistakes of others. It is to essentially pass a condensing judgment over them which cuts to the heart of their humanity, degrades the image of God within them, and communicates that they are not deserving of love, respect, or dignity. Worse yet, as many think of their sarcasm is “only joking,” as Proverbs puts it, they may easily write off their offensive speech as being intended as funny and somebody else’s problem if they happen to be offended.
            Let thanksgiving, praise, adoration, and useful speech that builds up be the core of our communications. On occasions when correction, rebuke, or disciplinary speech is necessary, let it be forthright and honest, spoken in love, and carried in compassion. Sarcasm is not Christian.