I realize that sarcasm, satire and even righteous anger have their proper place. Satire has been used for centuries to expose hypocrisy and other criticize the evil practices of people of power, (e.g. Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show). Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel in the big showdown over who the true God was (See 1 Kings 18:20-40). Jesus frequently criticized the hard-hearted religious leaders for their self-righteousness and their abuse of the Mosaic law. Jesus even turned over a few tables in the temple. Again, it has some legitimate uses, but far too often we. The apostle Paul used a little sarcasm when he told the Galatians what he thought the legalists should do to themselves (Galatians 5:12, beware, it’s PG-13). These examples seem to be the go-to responses of Christians who are criticized for being too harsh toward other Christians with whom they disagree. It’s not that they don’t have their proper place, but they are used far too often to mask our own cruelty, hypocrisy, and judgmentalism in scripture.
I think humans have a natural proclivity toward sarcasm and satire and anger (or we learn it at a very early age), which is why they can be such effective and powerful tools (or weapons). This is also the very reason we must be so careful with how we use them. We should speak words of comfort and hope and encouragement far more often than words of anger or criticism. When I was a kid we were supposed to say three nice things about a person for every mean thing we said. That might not be such a bad idea for adults either.
The Bible repeatedly emphasizes how truly powerful our words can be. Proverbs 18:21 says that death and life are in the power of the tongue. James 3:9 points out the irony that with the same tongue we use to praise God we also curse people who are made in the image of God. Ephesians 4:29 instructs us to only speak those things that build people up and give grace to those who hear. The words we speak, write, text, or tweet have the power to either build people up or tear them down, we get to decide which that will be. Bible Gateway is an excellent resource for searching and studying the Bible. I’d encourage you to check out their keyword feature and search for words like “tongue” and “lips” and “words;” it’s a very enlightening study.
It’s easy to criticize. It’s much more difficult and uncomfortable to try to see those with whom we disagree as real people who are doing the best they know how to do and to honestly try to see the world from their perspective. That means I have to step outside of my comfort zone and consider that maybe there is more to life (or Christianity) than my limited perspective. It’s cool to be cruel. It’s much less hip to be compassionate and kind and charitable, even in disagreements.
We’ve got enough division; we need more unity. We have too much hate; we need more love. We’ve had enough cynicism; we could use more compassion. We’ve spoken enough death, let’s speak more life.