What does an elderly couple have to do with the topic of this article? In Spanish, we have an old saying which translated is “He who hears no advice will not reach an old age”. The wise Solomon wrote something very similar, “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end” (Proverbs 19:20). This author is thankful that, in some occasions, beloved brethren approach him seeking advice on some topics. This author points them directly to the Bible as the answer, or, in the case of not having an answer at that moment, ask them to wait a couple of days to get them a proper Biblical answer. This article is the result of one of those questions, as, a couple of days ago, a beloved brother asked this author about “jokes with the double meaning”.
According to Merriam-Webster, a pun is “the usually humorous use of a word in such a way as to suggest two or more of its meanings or the meaning of another word similar in sound”, and a joke is “something said or done to provoke laughter; especially: a brief oral narrative with a climactic humorous twist”.
There is nothing wrong with having a good time and some laughs with family, friends, and brethren in Christ. The problem is in what is being said. There might be some very innocent puns or jokes made by people we know, but there are others that are totally inappropriate, and that is what we will cover in this short study.
The apostle Paul to the brethren at Ephesus wrote,
“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them [emphasis added, MR]” (Ephesians 5:1-7).
There are things that God loves, and others which He hates. Saints, those who are separated of the world, therefore, the ones that are part of Christ’s body, His Church (Ephesians 1:22-23) cannot participate in fornication, uncleanness, and covetousness. But let us pay attention to verse 4 and do a short study of the four things that are mentioned.
The word used by the apostle Paul that has been translated as filthiness in this passage, is used only in this verse in the entire New Testament. Its meaning has to be with obscenity. It is very interesting to find that in common dictionaries when we look for the word “filthy” we find short definitions such as “very dirty”, “very offensive or disgusting and usually about sex”, “very evil”; “morally wrong”, “very bad”.
Let us try the following questions,
- Must a Christian speak “very dirty”?
- Must a Christian speak “very offensive or disgusting”?
- Must a Christian speak “very evil”?
The answer to them is simple, No. The dictionary defines filth as “foul or putrid matter; moral corruption or defilement; something that tends to corrupt or defile”. If the world defines this word with such a negative impact, why does a Christian must participate in such kind of conversations? This without a doubt does not please God.
Just a few lines before, the apostle Paul wrote,
“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:29-30).
Beloved brethren and readers, let us not grieve God with dirty words coming out of our mouths, they do not serve to edify but only to destroy. Let us love one another and remember that Jesus Christ paid a humongous price to cleanse us from our sins, why then we continue to make ourselves dirty? Let us stop having those kinds of conversations.
There is a phrase that during the years has been attributed to Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, and many others, which says “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt”. Getting back to the man who asked for and got wisdom from God, Solomon wrote,
“He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding” (Proverbs 17:27-28).
The Greek word μωρολογία (mōrologia) is only found once in the New Testament, and that is when it is translated as “foolish talking” in Ephesians 5:4. It involves the concept not only of saying silly words, but on keep using and saying them. One of its roots, μωρός (mōros) is found 13 times in the New Testament.
The senses of “foolish”, denoting “senseless stupidity,” is indicated in relation to Jesus’ indictment of the Pharisees in Matthew 5:22; 23:17ff. Similarly, Paul exhorts his fellow believers to avoid engaging in “foolish” controversies or arguments in 2 Timothy 2:23, Titus 3:9. People lacking spiritual discernment are described as “foolish” in Matthew 7:26; 25:2ff.
The wise James wrote,
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:19-21).
Are we thinking before talking? Are we willing to listen those words coming out of our mouths? Are we pleased to hear those same words coming from the mouth of another person to our ears? Does it make any sense? The apostle Paul, being inspired by God, wrote that foolish talking is not convenient, and that is very simple to comprehend and remember.
According to Holman Bible Dictionary, jest is described as “an act intended to provoke laughter; an utterance intended as mockery or humor”. Some examples are provided with that definition such as the sons-in-law of Lot as they were thinking that he was joking about Sodom’s destruction (Genesis 19:14). David wrote about those who mock about him in Psalm 35:15-16. The prophet Isaiah, when he was condemning idolatry in Israel asked to the ones that were not walking in the uprightness of God, “against whom do ye sport [mock, jest, MR] yourselves?” (Isaiah 57:4).
Some people when mock about someone else and find that that person was offended, come back to them, and say something like this “I did not mean to upset you; I only said it in jest.” What does the wise Solomon write about this situation?
“As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death, so is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?” (Proverbs 26:18-19).
Dear brethren and readers, many times we say things without thinking about it, or probably thinking that they will be funny, but they are not. God does not want us to participate in such practices. If we are going to tell a joke, let us think twice before doing it, and let us make sure that it is clean and that it will bring an innocent laugh from those who hear it. This is not about being strong or weak, or that a brother can tolerate that kind of jokes or not. The problem is that, by participating in such we become stumbling blocks not only of those who hear our “puns”, but also of ourselves. As the apostle Paul wrote, filthiness, foolish talking, and jesting are not convenient to the saints, but thanksgiving words do.
Did you pray today? Did you give thanks to God for being allowed to be alive one more day? Did you give thanks for being allowed to have clothes, food, shelter, and family? Did you give thanks for the opportunity given to have a job, or school to go?
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. … And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:16-17, 23-24).
Let us always remember to thank God for everything He gives us, and He does for us. The Christian life is a wonderful life. Let us remember that we are in this world to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). Let our words and actions be to glorify, exalt, and praise His name.
The title of this article clearly states that we must watch our mouths (what we say), but also our ears (what we hear). We must be careful not only on what we say, but what we hear. If the radio talk show or the music that is playing is filled with filthiness, foolish talking, and jesting, we must turn it off. If a friend, colleague or even a brother is speaking that way, we must rebuke him and let them know that they must stop talking that way, if they do not want to stop, then we must not listen and leave that conversation. Let us remember to “be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
Dear brethren, let us never forget the words of our Savior,
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
The same inspired man that wrote the letter to the Ephesians also wrote similar words to the brethren at Colosse,
“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him [emphasis added, MR]” (Colossians 3:5-10).
Once we obeyed the Gospel, we are a new creature, we are in Christ, we are the light of this world, we must set the example to the lost, in order to help them realize of their situation and come unto repentance and obedience to the will of God. If we participate in obscene talking, in jokes with a sexual meaning, in words that discourage people more than encourage them to do what is right, we are doing wrong, and sadly, as we had read, we will not have any inheritance in the Kingdom of God. Let us remember that we are saints, separated from this world, and if the world wants us to participate in those practices, we cannot and must not do it. If might be the case that we, at some time, are caught on practicing this, the good thing is that God has allowed us time to repent from it, and, as our Lord told to the woman accused of being taken in adultery, we must “go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).
May God bless you richly!
 Renn, Stephen D. Editor. Entry for ‘Fool, Foolish, Foolishness’. Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, p.402.
 Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for ‘Jest’. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/j/jest.html. 1991.