Here is something to carefully think about. It’s easy to just accept sarcasm as a funny way of communicating that gets easy laughs. But what is it that we are actually doing when we choose to be sarcastic?
Here is part of Wikipedia’s definition of “sarcasm”
Sarcasm is “a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter gibe or taunt.” While many authors assert that sarcasm involves irony, or employs ambivalence, one author in particular has distinguished sarcasm from irony.
Origin of the term
The word comes from the Greek σαρκασμός (sarkasmos) which is taken from the word σαρκάζειν meaning “to tear flesh, bite the lip in rage, sneer“.
Dictionary.com describes the use of irony thus:
In sarcasm, ridicule or mockery is used harshly, often crudely and contemptuously, for destructive purposes. It may be used in an indirect manner, and have the form of irony, as in “What a fine musician you turned out to be!,” “It’s like you’re a whole different person now…,” and “Oh… Well then thanks for all the first aid over the years!” or it may be used in the form of a direct statement, “You couldn’t play one piece correctly if you had two assistants.” The distinctive quality of sarcasm is present in the spoken word and manifested chiefly by vocal intonation …
Distinguishing sarcasm from banter, and referring to the use of irony in sarcasm, Bousfield writes  that sarcasm is:
The use of strategies which, on the surface appear to be appropriate to the situation, but are meant to be taken as meaning the opposite in terms of face management. That is, the utterance which appears, on the surface, to maintain or enhance the face of the recipient actually attacks and damages the face of the recipient. … sarcasm is an insincere form of politeness which is used to offend one’s interlocuter.
Hostile, critical comments may be expressed in an ironic way, such as saying “don’t work too hard” to a lazy worker. The use of irony introduces an element of humour which may make the criticism seem more polite and less aggressive. Sarcasm can frequently be unnoticed in print form, oftentimes requiring the intonation or tone of voice to indicate the quip.
Time to check our deepest motives.
- WHY am I using sarcasm?
- What am I trying to accomplish?
- Does it honor Jesus Christ?
Let me mention – that using sarcasm towards anyone can be pretty disrespectful. We aren’t used to really thinking about it. But I think it is time to examine why we choose to be sarcastic. I believe it is even more important to be careful not to use sarcasm towards any God-given authority over us out of reverence for Christ – our parents (they are in authority over us until we are adults – but then we are to honor them all of their lives), teachers, bosses, police officers, government officials, pastors, Bible teachers and husbands.
Our husbands know that often when we are sarcastic towards them – we are disrespecting them. Just like we know that our children are disrespecting us if they answer back with sarcasm when we ask them to do something as their parents.
** I think it goes, hopefully without saying, that as believers in Christ, we must honor Christ by carefully avoiding more blatant signs of verbal disrespect as well – yelling, cussing, using verbal threats, verbal character assassination, or any kind of destructive, hurtful, unloving, disrespectful speech. And let’s avoid the non-verbal signs of disrespect, as well: rolling our eyes, sighing, huffing, crossing our arms in contempt, storming out of the room, stomping away, slamming doors, throwing things, hitting people etc.**
If it is our primary goal and aim in life to bring glory to Christ – to love God with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength and to love others as Jesus loves them – is sarcasm compatible with our new life in Jesus? If it is our intent to cut, to harm and to destroy someone with our words?
I have to say
I don’t believe that sarcasm has a place in our speech as followers of Christ – not if our goal is to wound others.
That probably seems extreme. After all, sarcasm is NORMAL and practically universally practiced in our culture today. It’s funny, right? But look at the purpose of sarcasm. It is destructive – intended to tear down – it is born of mockery and insult. Jesus calls us to use our words for life, not death any more. He is carefully monitoring every word we speak, and every motivation of our hearts.
Someone pointed out that Jesus and Paul used sarcasm – and that is true – so let us be VERY careful before we use sarcasm to consider our motive.
If the purpose of my heart is to hurt someone with my words – that is a comment that will not honor Christ.
How I pray that Christ might regenerate our hearts and minds completely to be more and more like His own.
May we love what God loves and hate what God hates!
May we even be willing to surrender our speech patterns and habits and the most hidden motives of our heart to our Lord.
Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. James 3:10
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.
For of this you can be sure: no immoral, impure or greedy person – such a man is an idolat0r – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. Ephesians 4:29-5:7