Alphabet Of Manly Virtues: “S” Is For “Sarcasm”

9 Jul

(“The Alphabet of Manly Virtues” is a 26 post series examining various character traits of godly men. Check back every Tuesday and Thursday for new posts! To view other entries in the series, click here.)

sI like sarcasm.

That may come to a surprise, to readers of my blogs, but it’s true. I won’t say that I’m a fan of the bitter, biting kind of sarcasm that most of the internet seems to use, but I love wit and hyperbole and irony.

Know who else loved those? Jesus. No kidding. Take Matthew 19:24 (or Mark 10:25 or Luke 18:25 – don’t much matter), the famous, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God,” verse. I bet when a lot of you read that, you hear it in your Jesus Voice. You know that one I’m talking about – the sort of Morgan Freeman wise tone that makes you feel both comforted and inferior just by being within earshot. But He was being sarcastic. Hyperbolic, if you will. Less Morgan Freeman, more Martin Freeman.

People have written entire doctrinal statements around that verse (I assume – what, am I going to look something like that up?). Is it a bad verse? Well, of course not. But people miss the point. They try to argue that “the eye of a needle” was the name of some small gate in Jerusalem or a particular rock formation. Something possible for a camel to get through, but with some difficulty. Jesus was implying that you could easier patch your robe with a camel (a whole, breathing camel) than get into heaven as a rich person. (Odd that Americans in particular seem to have a problem with this one, no?)

You can make a point more effectively by going overboard with something than by sticking to strictly the facts, ma’am. Could Jesus have said, “It is very difficult for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God”? Sure. But the camel thing just has more punch.

Check out John 10:32 and pretty much the entirety of John 8. Those hardly seem like the Jesus of the Beatitudes. He’s combative and insulting. The Man who suffers little children to come unto Him does not suffer fools or the thick-headed.

Now that we have an example to follow, let’s move on to personal application. Look at who Jesus was sarcastic with in the New Testament: either the disciples or the Pharisees. His companions or competitors. Sarcasm is acceptable when you are dealing with equals. I can be sarcastic with my friends because they know that I tend that direction. When dealing with those things that oppose my God, I feel perfectly justified in using hyperbole and understatement to show the philosophical and practical inadequacies of such things.

Now it’s time for Serious Face. You should never use your abilities to domineer, to manipulate those “lower” or “weaker” than you – children or spouses or employees. Indeed, Christ calls us to have childlike faith, to be his “bride,” to serve. Those we would wield power over have the qualities most desired.

Even when dealing with ungodly principles or worldviews, remember that somewhere, there is a human being on the other end. If you demean their beliefs out of nothing more than a sense of self-righteousness, where does that put you in the bully spectrum? Remember that no one was ever snarked to Christ. We are to love our enemies. Perhaps that love means building a friendship based around disagreement and discussion.

-Forrest Johnson
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Forrest Roy Johnson is a Minnesotan exiled to Iowa. His fiction has been featured in The Whole Mitten, Miracle Ezine, and Fiction365, and HelloHorror. Other fiction is upcoming on Kzine. Visit uncomfortableopinions.blogspot.com to read thoughts on culture, religion, and other things thathe might have on his mind. Visit wild-and-sweet.blogspot.com to see what he’s working on in terms of living a sustainable lifestyle.

8 Responses to “Alphabet Of Manly Virtues: “S” Is For “Sarcasm””

  1. SaintlySages July 9, 2013 at 09:43 #

    Along these lines, Father Faber observed: “No one was ever corrected by a sarcasm, crushed, perhaps, if the sarcasm was clever enough, but drawn nearer to God, never.” (Frederick William Faber, Kindness, London: R. & T. Washbourne, 1901). God bless!

    • More Than A Beard July 9, 2013 at 22:27 #

      Thanks for stopping by, Saintly Sages! We love a good quote here on MTAB… If you have more goodies, send em our way (dmwonders@gmail.com).

  2. shepherdscott July 9, 2013 at 09:45 #

    Thanks for pointing this out. I have tried to convince my wife that sarcasm is a gift, not a Spiritual gift, I can’t prove that by Scripture, but I do point out passages like this all the time. Paul used it also, and how can we not read the book of Job and not applaud the sarcasm of God?
    Blessings from one beard to another!

    • More Than A Beard July 9, 2013 at 22:32 #

      Good insights, Scott! Having just recently spent some time in the book of Job, I would concur. If you are ever interested in share your thoughts on MTAB, we would love to have you!

      • shepherdscott July 10, 2013 at 14:11 #

        Thank you, that would be very cool.
        How do I go about submitting something?

  3. For the Love of God July 9, 2013 at 18:32 #

    As someone who uses sarcasm appropiatley quite often I love this post. Especially the last part. I often have to watch myself in Youth Ministry settings. A joke to a teen can quickly put them down and shut many doors.

    Use it appopiatley and with tact. Great post Forrest (no sarcasm intended)!

    • More Than A Beard July 9, 2013 at 22:34 #

      Context is key. I have friends that I can be sarcastic back and forth with all the time, and folks that I know it would take it wrong and be hurt. We need to be sensitive to our audiences.

  4. tim gallen July 9, 2013 at 23:08 #

    i’ve always accepted that god has a sense of humor, and this post really reinforces that for me completely. honestly, i’d never given the eye of the needle verse much thought much of the time. although, i have long been one to believe the gate into the city idea. but i like the sarcastic jesus take much better. plus, it gels much more with one of the key identifiers of jesus – he was human. humans are sarcastic. duh.

    great post, forrest!

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