We all know them, those people whose speech is often laced with sarcasm. In many situations we find sarcasm humorous. Who hasn’t laughed at the comedian who effectively uses sarcasm to point out the absurd? Sarcasm is even found in the Bible as a tool used by biblical prophets to point out the absurdity of idol worship (II Kings 18:27; II Chronicles 18:12-15). But most of the time sarcasm used in daily speech is the sign of something lurking underneath, deep inside the person who uses it: bitterness.
Here are six truths about sarcasm that can help us know what lies deep within our own hearts.
- Sarcasm robs us of joy “The heart knows its own bitterness, and a stranger does not share its joy” (Proverbs 14:10).
- Sarcasm is focused on the self and is selfish “For my own welfare I had great bitterness” (Isaiah 38:17). “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing” (James 3:16)
- Sarcasm counters compassion and is opposite to forgiveness “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32)
- Sarcasm causes ill feelings and damages relationships “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:15). “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel” (James 4:1-3).
- Sarcasm usually expresses disapproval in a way that insults or breaks down another person. “Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law…but who are you who judge your neighbor?” (James 4:11-12).
- Sarcasm has no regard for the suffering of others and makes us cold to them. “And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, ‘He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.’ The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, and saying, ‘If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!’ (Luke 23:35-37).
A person who often resorts to sarcasm to make a point or constantly uses it in their normal conversations often struggles with bitterness over something in their lives—usually some kind of disappointment or betrayal. These may be deeply rooted and take time to address.
The sarcastic should take Ephesians 4:29-32 to heart: “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Let Jesus’ brother, James be your teacher: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:17-18). Our speech and attitude should be edifying, gracious, kind, tender-hearted, forgiving.
Never give someone a "taste of their own medicine." Nothing good will be accomplished. “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him” (Proverbs 26:4). Instead, follow the advice of the Apostle Paul who said, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:14-18).