Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 26:18, 19
"Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows and death, so is the man who deceives his neighbor, and says, 'Was I not joking?'"
Our culture has fallen in love with this perverse form of foolishness. We call them practical jokes and find great fascination with deception, cruelty, insults, and the like all in the name of humor. Solomon declares that when we do this, we act like a crazy person and damage relationships for no reason.
This is the Hebrew word lihleah, which means to amaze, startle, madman. Notice that Solomon compares practical jokes to the actions of an insane person. There is an attitude in our day that practical jokes – in which someone is fooled or tricked or exposed in some false scenario – is a cool or good thing. Solomon declares that this is bogus thinking even if the other person can "take a joke." This kind of behavior usually calls for a retaliation of some kind and an endless cycle has started in which someone's soul will be wounded.
Solomon is saying that we expect this kind of behavior from a crazy person, but we do not expect it from a sane person who is going to say they were only joking at the end of the emotional or physical outburst.
Solomon states that this type of joking is like the person who is crazy and just strikes out for no reason. The connection is that the crazy person destroys for no reason without their target having done anything bad to them. So this person participates in emotional, physical, or psychological destruction for no reason. In fact, they often inflict this on people they love. Then they are shocked when the reaction is less than delight.
When you trick someone into acting or reacting in strongly emotional ways, it is not innocent. Stop doing this. I have consistently pointed out this verse to those who insist that practical jokes are just innocent fun. But there is always someone who gets their feelings hurt and is reprimanded for not being able to take a joke. I have watched marriages, friendships, families, and business relationships be ruined because of these "jokes." As Solomon says, this is not wise.
I realize that for some people this will take away a whole lot of the way they relate to people, but I contend that they will have stronger relationships.
This is the Hebrew word ramah, which means to beguile, deal treacherously, deceive, betray. This perverse form of humor was known in Solomon's day, and he squashes it for the destructive thing it is. If LIFE IS RELATIONSHIPS and this damages relationships, then this kills life. I realize that many well-meaning people find fascination in inventing scenarios and watching people's reactions, but this kind of emotional deception usually leaves one person feeling used and plotting revenge.
This is the Hebrew word sahaq, which means laugh, amuse, joke, celebrate. In many cases this is just an inadequate way to communicate truth. Sometimes people are trying to say: I love you or I hate you or I want to tell you something important or some other significant message. It would be better to sit down with the person and just say it rather than inaccurately express it in the practical joke.
Solomon would tell us to tell your loved ones that you love them – directly. Tell the ones you need to correct what needs correcting – directly. Have the hard conversation with the people who offended you rather than try and send the message in a joke.
This proverb would also suggest that if you are around or with people who have the habit of doing the whole practical joke thing, then move away from them. It is like having a certifiably insane person as a friend. You just never know what they will do next and it may be extremely dangerous. Move away from them.