(James 3:6 KJV) And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.
Even though this is not the most uplifting scripture in the Bible it is certainly one of the most important ones. The thought of one little member of the body (the tongue) being able to defile the entire body is astonishing. That means that at the drop of a hat one’s tongue can nullify an entire day of good works and may even bring suspicion on all of one’s works.
One of the most demeaning of all defiling tongue activities is sarcasm. Growing up in the 40s and 50s I do not remember hearing as much sarcasm as I do today. That is not saying that there were not sarcastic people, but certainly not to the same degree as we have today.
Studies show that a large percent of our population uses sarcasm as a way of communicating. However, in the process many people are slandered daily by sarcastic answers. In other words one may ask a question or make a comment and another comes out with a sarcastic demeaning remark.
Webster’s Student Dictionary tells us that sarcasm comes from the Greek verb sarkazein, which literally means to tear flesh like a dog. The French, the Greek and the Latin are all in agreement with this definition of sarcasm meaning to tear flesh like a dog.
According to the “Psychology of Sarcasm,”[WDH1] they say it is the “lowest form of wit and often relies on putting another person down in order to make them[WDH2] feel bigger, smarter and more powerful”.
The root of sarcasm is insecurity. This is why many comics use sarcasm in putting others down because they are usually insecure or have a dark side or a lack of confidence in themselves.
Even though sarcasm is usually done by using the tongue there are other demeaning ways that are just as sarcastic without saying a word. One has the ability to tear flesh like a dog with a smirk, a look, a laugh or even a roll of the eyes. There are many ways of destroying another, but the tongue is the one that can defile one’s own body.
The problem is that the innocent person (like a child) may have lifelong scars as a result of someone else’s low form of flesh tearing wit.
When I was in the second grade my teacher used to belittle me in a sarcastic way all the time. By the time I was out of the second grade I had no confidence at all and I believed every word she said. It took me years to get over that. I know personally how damaging sarcastic remarks can be.
According to my wife (who is a retired school teacher) one of her great concerns in the classroom today is the number of extremely sarcastic teachers. Since she taught in the elementary grades she understood that the kid’s minds were still tender and still being developed and most take things at face value…even sarcastic demeaning remarks. School is never a place where sarcasm should be used.
One can change their tearing of the flesh like a dog ways by first recognizing it as being wrong and then repenting and asking the Lord to help them. The second thing is thinking before you speak.
Help us all to guard our words and especially those of us who are spiritual leaders and teachers. Lord we want to be secure enough not to have to put others down in order to exalt ourselves. We want our conversations and comments to be righteous and uplifting.