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Are there things that Christians shouldn’t joke about?

A question was asked me by an anonymous questioner. The question he (or she) proposed was whether or not there are things about which Christians ought not joke. The following is my answer.

There are things that Christians ought not joke about. Because we have been called into a holy life by the very death and resurrection of Christ, we are to live a holy and sanctified life, by which I mean a life that is different and separated from the world for and to the glory of God in heaven. Now, that life is lived through, in, and by the Spirit, and not our own power, but the purpose of the sanctified life is what is briefly outlined above. (Ephesians 2:8-10; 1 Peter 2:9, 10)

Now, specifically in regard to your question, because we have been called to be separated from darkness and to live in light, we are given a different standard than the world and therefore ought not to walk in the ways of our former lives nor in the ways of the world.

There are a fair number of exhortations throughout the New Testament to guard what comes out of our mouths and to walk as children of light.

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children… . But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. (Ephesians 5:1, 3, 4)

And this is why I included the 1st Peter passage earlier: Paul makes a clear connection between being an imitator of God, avoiding foolish talking and coarse jesting, and giving thanks. In 1st Peter, the apostle Peter tells the disciples that they have been chosen by God to proclaim His praises, and thanksgiving is, in a more specific variety, proclaiming the faithfulness of God in regard to things which he provides for us. And Paul contrasts giving thanks, which we ought to do, with foolish talk and coarse jesting, which we ought to avoid. And the reason that we ought to avoid them is simple: they “are not fitting” for saints. Further in the chapter Paul tells the Church at Ephesus that we are not to be partners with the unfruitful works of darkness, of which coarse jesting is a part, because we are now light in the world.

In James 3, James explains to us the necessity of counting the further cost of being a teacher of the faith, “knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment” (3:1). The teacher must be one who is able to keep his mouth in check. There cannot be a word out of place, a word missed, or a word added. He explains further along the evil nature of the tongue, which “is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell” (3:6). There is no reason for a believer to engage in coarse joking, gossip, or any other sort of speech that can divide the body or lead others away from Christ, whether or not they are held to the even stricter standard of a teacher. Regardless of that standing, our standing as children of God and believers in Christ mean that we are not take part in the patterns of this world but to live a life separated from it.

What constitutes the list of things Christians shouldn’t joke about? I’ll provide you a list, but please do not use the list as a means to seek out what is acceptable. If you have to ask, it’s probably not okay.

Ought Not or Never

  • God, whether in the Father, Son, or Spirit
  • The Nature of God
  • The Scriptures
  • The Body of Christ, that is the Church
  • Individual members of the Body
  • Sin — we never make light of sin; it leads to death, and from it we have been set free by the power and precious blood of Christ

Permissible or Not Expressly Wrong

  • Politics
  • Human institutions
  • Yourself?

Honestly, I have some issues with providing a list of permissible joking options. Hopefully I have provided you with a rough framework through which you can approach your question. As always, seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the direction of the Word of God.

Be blessed.

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