I am literally a pajama blogger. I am, in fact, right now typing in my pajamas. I have no authority. No one needs to listen to me. But some of you do seem to consider my opinion, and I feel a need to articulate, at least for myself, why I believe the sarcastic, smart-ass pastor is offensive to God. I’ve thought a lot about it, and I’ve decided to use that word, smart-ass, in this post, by the way. Sometimes, it’s best to call a spade a spade and to name a sin the sin that it is. Scripture models this with brutally honest language at times (there is a difference in brutal honesty and sarcasm, by the way). Whether smart-ass refers to a donkey or the least clean part of the human anatomy, it is an appropriate term for an ungodly, sinful manner of speaking that is tolerated in Christian media and blogs. Half of the readers here will have no idea why I’m explaining why I am using that word. The other half is searching right now for the unsubscribe button on their email. But it is the most appropriate word for an ugly trend I see among some popular Christians who hold the office of pastor in influential churches, so I’m using it. I can be sarcastic too. I can be a smart-ass. It is tempered in myself by a strong conviction not to use sarcasm at the expense of the person who is listening to me speak. But sometimes I do use it sinfully, and when I do, I try to correct it as soon as I catch myself or come to my senses (because sarcasm can inflate you and feed a prideful attitude that distracts you from the virtue of humility and love for your brother).
The Scriptural argument against exploitive sarcasm is so clear that I feel a bit like I’m arguing against pastors tweeting about lusting after their church secretaries. I don’t know why I even need to make this argument, except that I do. Consider the definition of sarcasm.
1. harsh or bitter derision or irony.
2. a sharply ironical taunt; sneering or cutting remark: a review full of sarcasms. (dictionary.reference.com)
The entire point of sarcasm is to cut down. Yet, the Apostle Paul instructs this.
Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Here’s the thing about sarcasm, especially publicly spoken sarcasm heard by a broad audience that cuts at a particular person or group of people. It is simply disobedient to Scripture. Even secular, potty-mouthed society recognizes its ugliness, which is why it’s attached the title smart-ass to people who employ it as a regular part of their conversation. Oh, smart-asses are smart. When I use sarcasm, I use it often simply to display my perceived wit and superior knowledge. I’m embarrassed with myself just writing that last sentence. But at times, I have thought, “I’m smart, and here’s a little cutting remark at someone else’s expense to prove it.” But the final 3-letter add-on is the truth. Such wit and superior knowledge displayed by way of cutting down someone else actually reveals you to be either a donkey or the filthiest part of the human anatomy. What it does NOT reveal you to be is a man or woman after God’s own heart, speaking fitting words like apples of gold in settings of silver according to the wisdom of Proverbs.
I hear some who regularly employ cutting sarcasm referred to by others as wordsmiths. But really, they are disobedient Christians who despise the limitations Scripture sets up on the language they can use at the expense of the people God has called them to love or serve. I perceive that other leaders don’t call such sarcastic, cutting pastors out on their language because they don’t want to become their fodder. It’s painful to be cut at by the sarcastic Christian leader! I’ve felt the sting of their whip a time or two.
Worse yet, sometimes leaders don’t call out other leaders because they actually enjoy hearing someone else’s sarcasm, especially when it cuts at their own enemy or someone in a demographic they already dislike. It saves them from violating their own conscience with cutting words which maybe they don’t employ as well as the sarcastic pastor. But it’s sin at the expense of another, and we should not tolerate it or secretly enjoy it when others employ it.
When I think how I would respond if a pastor tweeted that they robbed a bank or lusted after their secretary, it’s clearer to me the appropriate response when they make cutting comments at the expense of their audience. They are smart-asses, and while God uses each of us despite our weaknesses and propensity towards sin, He never calls us to sweep such sin under the carpet, especially when it is at the expense of another of His image bearers.
Finally, it’s good for me to post this publicly, because it keeps me accountable from using such sarcasm to inflate myself as I am sometimes tempted to do.