Posted by: thefourwinds | September 1, 2008

Godly pranksters?

Ever since I became a believer more than a dozen years ago, I have enjoyed reading biographies of other men of God and seeing how their faith and ministry grew throughout their lives. 

Early on, I didn’t really know what to look for, so I would read any biography of anyone I had ever heard of.  Some of these were good, some not so good.  But one thing stands out in my mind that I’ll never forget.

Nearly every time I was reading one of these biographies, people who knew the person would comment, in the process of saying what a great and godly person he was, that this man of God was also a tremendous practical joker.  I specifically remember reading something much like this in Billy Graham’s biography, Just As I Am

I don’t remember when I had first read these two verses, but it must have been very early on after my conversion, because whenever I read about someone described this way (Godly man + practical joker), I always thought immediately of Proverbs 26:18-19

“Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death, is the man who deceives his neighbor, and says, ‘I was only joking!'”

Is this a direct command not to play pranks on people (Thou shalt not prank)?  No, but after looking closely at what this Scripture is saying, it’s difficult to say anything good about playing pranks on people. 

What exactly is a madman throwing firebrands, arrows, and death?  Well, picture in your mind someone who has gone literally insane, and is throwing flaming arrows around at anyone and anything.  This madman isn’t necessarily causing you any specific grave danger, but who knows what he’s going to hit, and who knows if he’s going to hit something that will dangerously explode?  What if one of these sharp, flaming arrows hits you right in the chest or the eye?  It’s hard to imagine anything good coming out of this scene; the best outcome would merely be if nothing disastrous or injurious happened.

Now, the verses in question take this image and apply it to someone who “deceives his neighbor, and says, ‘I was only joking!'”  It’s hard to come up with a clearer description of a practical joke.  So what does this say about Christians and practical jokes?

If you apply the image, it says the best outcome a person can hope for after playing a practical joke on someone else is that nothing instantaneously bad will happen.  Most of the time this is the case.  But what about the potential for that one time when the prankee (the person on the receiving end) is already having a really bad day, or is distracted by something serious, and violently flies off the handle, or becomes so depressed at what he thinks is the truth (your prank or deception) and does something drastic?  How hollow will your “I was only joking” be then? 

For believers, it’s hard to imagine anything about practical joking that is edifying, encouraging, or strengthening.  If anything, it seems to me to be a childish act of self-indulgence at another’s expense.  Even worse is when the prankee chastises the prankster, and the prankster accuses the other of needing “to lighten up.” 

The worst thing for me has been when I’ve had friends who regularly play practical jokes on their kids (or employees, for that matter).  I can’t remember one of them who responded well to the verses above I suggested they consider.  I mean, whew, if a child can’t trust his or her father, who on earth (or in heaven) will they ever trust?  In the relationship of a father to his children, it seems playing practical jokes on them would fall directly under a clear instruction like not provoking your children to wrath (Ephesians 6:4).  And some of these men wondered why the relationships between themselves and their children were strained.  Puts a bit of a damper on April Fools’ Day, too, doesn’t it?

Note:  If you’re reading this, and you’re a big fan of Billy Graham, please don’t write to tell me what a great man of God Billy Graham is and how I must be misunderstanding something.  Billy Graham is merely the only one of several that I specifically remember reading about.  My point is about what appears to be a clear teaching of Scripture.  And, frankly, if Billy Graham is that much of a man of God, why is it he never seemed to grasp such a clear teaching of Scripture?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: