Joking - Is it a sin? What does the Bible say about jokes?
Joking is rather a loose term. We have clean jokes, crude jokes, belittling jokes, stupid jokes, and just plain old jokes. Some joking, such as that which finds humor in blasphemy, is obviously contrary to the Bible's teaching; but is joking in general a sin?
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The Bible has plenty to say about our speech. Proverbs 18:21 says, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits." James 3 pictures the tongue as a horse's bit and a ship's rudder—small yet very influential. James also says our words can become like flames. Ephesians 4:29 instructs, "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." Clearly, our words carry power. And we are wise to use them well.
Though our words have capacity to cause harm, they can also uplift. And the Bible lauds the power of laughter. Proverbs 17:22 says, "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Psalm 126:1-3 says, "When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, 'The LORD has done great things for them.' The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad." This passage depicts God as the giver of laughter. The people laughed in joy.
Though God is deserving of our reverence and fear, He also has a sense of humor. God is not the God of all seriousness. He is serious, and certain subjects are not to be joked about. However, He is also the God of love. He is the one who gave us the capacity to joke and laugh.
Joking is really a matter a Christian freedom. In our jokes we must never belittle or degrade another. Our speech should always edify (Ephesians 4:29). Christians are called to build one another up and to live at peace (Romans 12:18; 14:19). Our speech should also bear in mind our audience. Even if a joke may be acceptable to God, we do not want to cause others to stumble (Romans 14:13-19). We also do not want to use jokes as a way of avoiding painful or serious subjects. There is a time for laughter and a time for solemnity (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Above all, we need to ensure that our speech—in jest or in seriousness—is a glorifying reflection of God (Colossians 3:17). Our speech should be motivated by love (John 13:34-35).
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