This is the word of the Lord

Ephesians 4:17–32 ESV

17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.
18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.
19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!—
21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,
22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,
23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,
24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
27 and give no opportunity to the devil.
28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.
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.
30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Let us pray.

Considering that we are now in the second week, on the subject of sarcasm and satire, in our preparation for Matthew 23, I thought it good to begin with a few qualifications.

• One of the biggest struggles we face in our generation has to do with narrowing down on definitions. A lot of arguments and debates have us speaking past each other simply because we’ve not taken the effort to clarify what we mean by our use of specific words, especially those words that have been misapplied by our culture.

Sarcasm is one such example. The word means – to use irony as a means to mock or convey contempt. Now, we know that mockery and contempt can come from a very bad place or a very good place.

How? We can have a bitter contempt for someone who sins against us and not show them grace. On the other hand, we could have a genuine contempt for the sin, and yet extend grace and mercy to the sinner.

The Bible teaches us that God hates both the sin and the sinner.

Psalm 5:5 ESV

5 The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.

Psalm 11:5 ESV

5 The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.

Yet, we see that Jesus, for the joy that is set before him, dies for the sake of the sinner.

To be Christ-like, is then to imitate the same. This then is my first qualification – that sarcasm that insults without the intention to save and restore, without the purposes of grace, is sin.

Since definitions are a problem in our time, most Christians deny biblical sarcasm because they define all sarcasm as being without grace. I would agree to this kind of a definition of sarcasm if it not were for the Bible’s use of sarcasm. Any hurt that we cause must be the effort of grace and not ignorance.

• The second qualification is that we in our flesh are far more disposed to sin and not glorify God. This means that our primary problem is not our tendency to be soft because of an overflow of grace and righteousness. It is that sin and our flesh rock us one way or another. Therefore, a simple application of satire or sarcasm or stepping that up is not the answer.

Becoming righteous is the central matter, to the stature of the maturity of Christ. This means that though gentle speech and satire are both available to the Christian to use appropriately, he is capable of misusing both, and satire may be far more a slippery slope for many.

And so it might be more appropriate for me to state that all satirical speech quoted in this sermon were performed by trained professionals. Please don’t try it at home.

Training in righteousness and subsequently the wise and proper use of satire or sarcasm must not be rushed. Therefore, as much as you see the dangerous stunts of these satirists both within the Bible and without, you’re job now is not to drive your marriage or your children or your friendship off a cliff because Pastor Mike said its ok.

Good satirists train. And this is what I emphasised last week with the previous verses of Ephesians 4 that charged the apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers with the task of conducting that training.

• The third and final qualification is that none should be without accountability. Whether it be our use of satire or our application of gentleness, your believing neighbours in the church must have a front row seat to Christian walk so that the accountability in their fellowship with you will guard and keep you from your inconsistencies.

Now, just as I did last week, we will dive into the passage I read at the beginning towards the latter end of the sermon, but I want to start by surveying the Scriptures to see some of the use of satire in the Bible.

Satire in the Old Testament

Let us begin with the prophet Amos who took a jab at the Israelites for their complacency in Amos 6:1-6

Amos 6:1–6 ESV

1 “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion, and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria, the notable men of the first of the nations, to whom the house of Israel comes!
2 Pass over to Calneh, and see, and from there go to Hamath the great; then go down to Gath of the Philistines. Are you better than these kingdoms? Or is their territory greater than your territory,
3 O you who put far away the day of disaster and bring near the seat of violence?
4 “Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory and stretch themselves out on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall,
5 who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp and like David invent for themselves instruments of music,
6 who drink wine in bowls and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!

• The security of the Israelites is no security at all for the walls of Jerusalem and the mountains of Samaria were not their fortress. God was. And since the Israelites did not trust God, Amos calls them out.

• Well, gather ’round, you fine gentlemen who grace the luxurious realms of ivory-laden beds, recliners fit for royalty, and couches that cradle you like the kings of leisure. Come, you who indulge in unlimited popcorn, sip your finest wine from oversized bowls (who needs mere glasses?), and, of course, are preparing for the imminent launch of David’s ground-breaking new music album, ‘The Idle Vibe’— so cool.
Do step a little closer; I have a matter of utmost importance to discuss with you. Take your time. It’s not like your house is on fire or anything.

You see what Amos is doing?

• His woe to the Israelites is full of irony with a sting. O you who put far away the day of disaster and bring near the seat of violence? They are complacent and leisurely in their concern regarding the coming of destruction while ignoring the rampant violence against God’s commandments in their city.

The book of Proverbs has it in for the sluggard.

Proverbs 26:14 ESV

14 As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed.

• A snoring sluggard is like a door with a squeaky hinge.

Proverbs 22:13 ESV

13 The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!”

• Doug Wilson points out something that I found interesting in this kind of satire. In logical argumentation, there is a fallacy called the straw man fallacy. Basically, when a debating opponent tries to refute an argument by making a caricature of that argument that is easier to dismantle it is called a straw man argument. Because he is not dealing with the actual argument but a phantom of that argument.

Though this is bad debating, this is useful satire when used to exaggerate the foolishness of the foolish in order to get their attention. Like we see here. No sluggard actually says there’s a lion in the streets. But the exaggeration goes to show how the sluggard make inexcusable excuses with ease.

• Satire was not meant to play fair.

Proverbs 19:24 ESV

24 The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth.

• A sluggard’s efforts are always half-hearted.

Here are some other worthy mentions from the book of Proverbs

Proverbs 26:17 ESV

17 Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.

Proverbs 27:14 ESV

14 Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.

All this is funny as long as you avoid the cultural sensitivities. It is not tolerated in our age if men were to ever remark about women in such a fashion. I suppose if we buy into that, wives will have to censor out certain verses from the Bible before their husbands accidentally read it. And we know that most husbands read their Bibles accidentally.

Proverbs 11:22 ESV

22 Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.

• You have to use your imagination to picture this sight.

Proverbs 19:13 ESV

13 A foolish son is ruin to his father, and a wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain.

Proverbs 27:15–16 ESV

15 A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike;
16 to restrain her is to restrain the wind or to grasp oil in one’s right hand.

Proverbs 21:19 ESV

19 It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.

• Wives, if you’re quarrelsome, and your husband is surveying deserts on Discovery Channel or YouTube, now you know what’s happening.

What about Job’s jab at his friends, Job 12:2

Job 12:2 ESV

2 “No doubt you are the people, and wisdom will die with you.

• God forbid that you should ever die after counselling me today, what would wisdom do without you?

And what about God’s jab at Job at the end of it, Job 38:1-5

Job 38:1–5 ESV

1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
3 Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?

• It seemed appropriate to God to use sarcasm to confront the idea that a man dare ask God to justify his actions. And look at what the outcome of the use of this satire is.

Job 40:1–5 ESV

1 And the Lord said to Job:
2 “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.”
3 Then Job answered the Lord and said:
4 “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth.
5 I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.”

There are more references, a lot more, but if I picked all of them, I would have stayed back home laughing for the glory of God than be here preaching this sermon to you.

The Satire of Christ

Last week, I introduced two categories of satire – the Horatian satire which was more subtle, and the Juvenalian satire which was more in your face. Jesus used both kinds though he used the latter far more.

John 10:32 ESV

32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?”

Luke 13:33 ESV

33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’

• Don’t worry. I won’t leave town. You can find me when you’re ready to kill me.

Matthew 7:1–6 ESV

1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.
2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.
3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?
5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

• Here again is a vivid picture that is not merely symbolic. You need to picture this, use your imagination and chuckle at the irony. The absurdity of the picture is the absurdity of the hypocrisy of many Christians.

Matthew 15:14 ESV

14 Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

• The sarcasm here is in the instruction to let them be. They’ll drive themselves into the wall.

Matthew 7:16 ESV

16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

We will have our hearts full when we reach Matthew 23 and see Christ’s polemic week after week. What a way to begin 2024!


Here are some of the characteristics of a godly satirist as Doug Wilson wrote in a response to a critique of his book.

1. A godly satirist should be a member of a worshipping community of orthodox and faithful Christians, and he should live in such a way as to be accountable to others for his words and actions.

2. A godly satirist should be steeped in the language and categories of Scripture.

3. A godly satirist should have a warm and affectionate relationship with his wife, sons, daughters, mother, and father.

4. A godly satirist should be well-educated, well-read in the kind of literature that he is seeking to contribute to.

5. A godly satirist should study to learn the quantitative boundary between satire and scurrility, knowing from the outset that there is such a boundary.

6. A godly satirist should study the qualitative difference between satire and scurrility. This is a matter of timbre and tone.

7. A godly satirist should not be too young.

8. A godly satirist should target lack of proportion, not exhibit lack of proportion (Matt. 23:24).

9. A godly satirist should look carefully (and regularly) at the effect he is having on younger Christians who know him and desire to imitate him (2 Cor. 11:1).

10. A godly satirist should have long experience in letting love cover a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8).

There are a lot more points in this list, but I will leave the rest for you to come and ask me after the service.