Maybe it’s just me being oversensitive, but I’ve noticed a negative trend among how the “gospel” is spoken. The most common method of message delivery I’m hearing lately is sarcasm. Here are some examples I’ve publicly heard in recent years:
* Poking fun at how other congregations collect offering.
* Making jokes about how other congregations worship.
* Criticizing public Christian “programs” that do not seem to get desired results.
* Calling people in the bible “idiots” for not getting it.
* Mocking lyrics of a Christian radio song or a worship song.
* Blaming other denominations for why people leave the church.
* Giving people a “taste of their own medicine.”
* Comparing how others do it wrong and they do it right.
Whenever I’ve heard people speak like this, my reactions vary from “HEY, you’re speaking about ME” to “that’s my mom you’re putting down” to “that’s my church they are talking about.” Is it supposed to be a tool to get me to “reflect” better? Would I be a “modern day Pharisee” if I pointed out this flaw to them? Do I have the freedom to rebuke people who do this?
Some people have told me they use sarcasm because Jesus used sarcasm with the Pharisees, and Paul used sarcasm with the false prophets/teachers. Is that a valid reason to use sarcasm in our worship gatherings? To me, sarcasm is one of those sharp tools used to simultaneously cut someone down and get a laugh. If one’s speech makes me think negatively about another person (or people group) whether through sarcasm or whatever other means, is that the same thing as slander? According to Jesus, is slander also murder? If our speech should be “seasoned with salt,” why am I hearing more and more pastors and worship leaders use sarcasm to make a point? Is it really necessary when delivering the gospel? Or is using sarcasm a false gospel in itself? In all honesty, I’m getting tired of hearing it.
Has anyone else noticed this? If so, what can be done to encourage our spiritual leaders to stop using this method when teaching the bible? What are your thoughts?
Melanie Siewert, Christ's Servant
To claim that Jesus used sarcasm with the Pharisees is a stretch. The situation He was in is completely different than 'dissing' another part of Christ's body
We as Christians should not be doing that to each other.
We live in a world where the long-held traditions and freedoms to express the Gospel are being knocked away at a phenomenal rate. Sin and fleshly living are proclaimed as righteous, while morals and true righteousness are mocked, disdained, and flat-out attacked. Our generation is going to face the biggest fight in American history to maintain our religious freedoms. If we as a Christian community continue down the path of addressing our fellow believers with satire and sarcasm, we will self destruct and look like fools. It's an area where some churches needs to grow up.
Mike, I agree. Maybe we (as the WHOLE church) find it easier to count sins against each other than to count each others blessings. My pastor recently posted a "one another" list for our congregation, and I say it is an eye-opener to what we (the church) are NOT doing well. So, I pray this list (from IntoThyWord.org) over every church across denominations that gather in the name of Jesus:
* Love one another: John 13:34-35; 15:12, 17; Romans 12:10; 13:8; 14:13; 1 Thessalonians
3:12; 4:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11, 3:22; 4:8; 23; 4:7, 11-12; 2 John 1: 5
* Serve one another: Galatians 5:13; 21; Philippians 2:3; 1 Peter 4:9; 5:5
* Accept one another: Romans 15:7, 14
* Strengthen one another: Romans 14:19
* Help one another: Hebrews 3:13; 10:24
* Encourage one another: Romans 14:19; 15:14; Colossians 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:11;
Hebrews 3:13; 10:24-25
* Care for one another: Galatians 6:2
* Forgive one another: Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13
* Submit to one another: Ephesians 5:21; 1 Peter 5:5
* Commit to one another: 1 John 3:16
* Build trust with one another: 1 John 1:7
* Be devoted to one another: Romans 12:10
* Be patient with one another: Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:13
* Be interested in one another: Philippians 2:4
* Be accountable to one another: Ephesians 5:21
* Confess to one another: James 5:16
* Live in harmony with one another: Romans 12:16
* Do not be conceited to one another: Romans 13:8
* Do not pass judgment to one another: Romans 14:13; 15:7
* Do not slander one another: James 4:11
* Instruct one another: Romans 16:16
* Greet one another: Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 1:10; 2 Corinthians 13:12
* Admonish one another: Romans 5:14; Colossians 3:16
* Spur one another on toward love and good deeds: Hebrews 10:24
* Meet with one another: Hebrews 10:25
* Agree with one another: 1 Corinthians 16:20
* Be concerned for one another: Hebrews 10:24
* Be humble to one another in love: Ephesians 4:2
* Be compassionate to one another: Ephesians 4:32
* Do not be consumed by one another Galatians 5:14-15
* Do not anger one another: Galatians 5:26
* Do not lie to one another: Colossians 3:9
* Do not grumble to one another: James 5:9
* Give preference to one another: Romans 12:10
* Be at peace with one another: Romans 12:18
* Sing to one another: Ephesians 5:19
* Be of the same mind to one another: Romans 12:16; 15:5
* Comfort one another: 1 Thessalonians 4:18; 5:11
* Be kind to one another: Ephesians 4:32
* Live in peace with one another: 1 Thessalonians 5:13
* Carry one another's burdens: Galatians 6:2
Melanie Siewert, Christ's Servant
We can walk in the flesh or in the Spirit. Walking in the flesh is the easy path. Walking in the Spirit takes more effort.
Colossians 4:6 "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man."
Sarcasm, insults, and general disrespect don't seem to meet that standard.
Despite us, and through us, God moves.
Melanie - thanks for posting this. I've been thinking about sarcasm a lot lately. A little differently, because I see it on my team and it's something I'm starting to address more actively. Unfortunately, it's a pretty deeply ingrained way to just "lighten the mood" on the team. As a "recovering sarcastic person," I struggle getting sucked back into.
I'm convinced sarcasm is verbal nicotine. Easy to start, tough to quit.
By the way, here's a "therapy" post I wrote about a month ago as I was thinking about my own struggle with sarcasm:
One Biblical example of sarcasm (as in mocking sarcasm) that comes to mind is 1 Kings 18:27, when Elijah sarcastically mocked the prophets of Ba'al:
"It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside (literally, gone aside to relieve himself of bodily waste), or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened."
Another is God sarcastically mocking Job when He appeared in the whirlwind (Job 38:4-5):
"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know!"
However, it should be noted that in both cases it was either God or God's prophetic mouthpiece (Elijah) mocking people who were flagrantly sinning against Him, which tells me that sarcasm should be used sparingly (if at all) and only in situations involving gross sin against God.
...a man of few words, all carefully chosen (hopefully)
Good point, Alex! Also in both cases, God brought redemption to the people. To Job, God gave twice back what was taken. The people in Elijah's case "fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!” Plus, that was the moment God ended the severe famine - since Elijah told Ahab "Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain."
I guess the point we can make is - if you're going to be sarcastic, back it up with God's miracle. LOL!
Melanie Siewert, Christ's Servant
Jon, I had some trouble with your link earlier, and just read your blog post. That's funny stuff there. I'd never (hopefully) say them, but its still funny. :-)
On how to curb sarcasm from a team, I'm stumped. I often found myself being the most sarcastic when I got really frustrated with a process or a person. The only way I could curb my frustration is simply to love people. Would I cut down anyone I truly love??? When I realized how much I love the people around me, the sarcasm melted away.
With that said, I don't think sarcasm is a cause to something, but rather than a result of something. The cause to sarcasm is a lack of love and humility IMO. I've found that when I humble myself to others, I'm MUCH less sarcastic because I've learned to honor them rather than intentionally or unintentionally humiliate them.
Hope that made sense. Blessings!!
The key difference is the referenced sarcasm (which is more satire than sarcasm) is applied to those external to the kingdom.
I think the main source of sarcasm is what Melanie experienced- people's frustration with each other. It's like any other team or relationship. We can get frustrated with each other and get snippy. We have to actively work at curbing it.
I got a kick out of the link, too. I liked the keyboardist "bass player would like to thank you for playing his part"- line. I have had to talk to more than one piano/keyboard player and bring that subject to light.
What worked for me was understanding the person's experience. In the issues I ran into, the keys players were not used to playing with bass players and/or were using piano lead sheets with the bass parts written out.
I had to explain to them that playing with a bass player makes their job easier because they can lay off the left hand heaviness. I explained how we would be playing over the top of each other and too bass-heavy. It took some patience and reminders, but they eventually got it.
I think Melanie hit on a few good points. Like the saying goes, we can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Now some people we have to be more direct with than others, but it can be done without sarcasm.
- We need to respect and love each other- the old 'golden rule'. If someone being a smug wiseguy/gal would not get respect from us, we wouldn't get respect from others.
- We need to talk to people in a way they can receive it. What good does it do to make someone look/feel like an idiot? People will usually 'respond' to truth in love and 'react' to sarcasm. Sarcasm may get your point across, but you put up a wall between you and the other person.
I've dealt with sarcastic people before (some on here, even), and have learned how to respond instead of react. What I have done-
- Consider the source. Some people are naturally prone to use a sarcastic tone. Sometimes we just need to let it roll off our back (part of having thick skin). We need to have a tolerance to a certain degree. They generally don't mean harm, it's just their personality. That doesn't necessarily make it "right", but it helps me realize how to handle it- meaning, I don't take it personal. Others may be going through something or having issues going on we don't know about. If they usually don't act in this manner and throw out a satirical remark, it may be a one-off or an overflow from other areas of life. I've learned to address this with grace- either by letting it go, asking them if something is wrong, or lovingly informing them how it came across. I've had people repent and apologize when I respond with grace.
- Consider the context. Was it an emotionally charged situation? Was it part of an exchange that someone could have misinterpreted? Was the remark taken out of context? Was it second-hand information? We don't want to get caught up in a rabbit hole over a misunderstanding of an off-handed comment.
There always comes the point in time where enough is enough. We sometimes have to address it head on. What I have done;
- Remember we are all "under construction". If a person constantly acts like this, there is a time where they need some coaching. Talk to them one on one, and assert that you do not have to tolerate being talked to like that. If that doesn't work, take a couple witnesses, you know the drill...
- If they receive the feedback and improve, move on. Don't hold it against them or hold it over them. We all have our faults and areas where we need improvement. If they refuse to change, then you need to let them know you will not interact with them until they change how they address you.
This is a good discussion. It's made me think more about how I treat people.
One more question: how does one point out another's sarcasm (if necessary)?
Granted, we'll get different responses based on how well we know the person. At the same time, I've been railed by pointing matters out even to those I thought I knew well. So, sometimes simply pointing out a simple flaw in one's attitude can bring some harsh reactions. It's a tough call sometimes.