Just as damaging as a mad man shooting a lethal weapon is someone who lies to a friend and then says, “I was only joking.”
I have never appreciated pranks, as a rule, have never cared for the tradition of April Fool’s, and have always considered the phrase “practical joke” to be an oxymoron. That is all a result of my own conservative nature, of course, and I do not begrudge others their enjoyment of such things. What this passage speaks of, however, is something different, and when I stumbled across it in my daily reading I was glad to see that God feels as strongly about this as I do.
How many times have I heard, or heard of, something hurtful being said and then heard, “I was only joking!” follow as if those four words somehow made the lie or hurtful words okay? Too many times, of course, especially as the mother of boys.
It starts on the playground as little children tell other little children that they are going to do something to or for them or, worse yet, say hurtful things about them. Whether the lying child really is joking or merely expects, “I was only joking” to get him out of trouble, he is still lying, and in this translation God likens him to a madman shooting a lethal weapon.
The more I think about it, the more I see how accurate this comparison is. The Word says that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Prov 18:21 KJV) It is interesting that death is mentioned first in this verse. I have read that if a person is told one destructive thing about themselves, they must hear seven constructive things to counteract it – or that one destructive word will bear fruit in their lives. I believe this because I’ve seen it time and time again. I have seen dreams destroyed – both those of children and adults – and I have seen people crushed, all by mere words. Often the hurtful words were intended, but many times they were not and the speaker would return later, appalled by the results they saw, and cry, “But I was only joking!” They may have only been joking, but the damage was done. How much better it would have been if they had not spoken the lie in the first place.
Yes, the man who lies and says, “I was only joking” really is like a madman shooting off a lethal weapon. He fires off destructive words without caution and destroys without knowing what he’s doing.