The Sin of Jesting
by Kent Heaton
"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 sweet-smelling savor. 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" (Ephesians 5:1-4).
Paul exhorts the Christian to be a follower of God in accordance with the relationship of the child and the Heavenly Father. There are certain things that are not fitting for the child of God to engage in and are not appropriate or fitting for the character of purity. Noted in the text are such sins as fornication, uncleanness, covetousness and certain areas of speech that are not fitting for Christians: filthy speech, foolish talking and jesting are shown to be ill-fitting for the character of God's children.
Jesting is language that has doubtful morality to its content. The use of words and suggestions that tease the mind with suggestions of sinful activity are condemned by the Lord. Often language is couched in terms of double meaning that can be taken two ways - one innocent and harmless and one deadly and sinful. Jesting is a means of invitation without commitment. Vincent's word studies suggest jesting as "polished and witty speech as the instrument of sin; refinement and versatility without the flavor of Christian grace." Jesting is found in a devious question that suggests an action of sin in a cunning joke. There is room for levity or humor but underneath is a secret desire of sin.
Our speech comes from our hearts. "Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree corrupt, and its fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by its fruit. Ye offspring of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. The good man out of his good treasure bringeth forth good things: and the evil man out of his evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. And I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned" (Matthew 12:33-37). Coarse jesting comes from a heart that is uncouth by its nature and is seeking sinful company.
The words we speak will be with us in judgment. Idle words are those expressions of the heart that seek for sinful pleasure without the obligation of action. Dirty jokes, foolish talking and cursing will be "played back" for us before God - and we may stand condemned because of it. We will be justified by our words and we will be condemned by our words. Paul admonishes you and me to put far away from us that type of speech that is funny to the world but not funny to the Lord.
Our measure of righteousness is how close our speech is to the Lord and not how far we are from the world. The morality of the world is filled with jesting and filthy language. Children of God must stand apart from that kind of speech. "Let it not be once named among you, as it fitting for saints" (Ephesians 5:3). "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer each one" (Colossians 4:6). "The tongue of the wise utters knowledge aright; But the mouth of fools pours out folly" (Proverbs 15:2). Do not be a fool - be wise in speech!