So What’s Wrong with Sarcasm Anyway? Just Kidding!

We came to live in Canada in February 1999. We love Canada and we love the Canadian people, and we would like to stay. Although England and Canada have had a close relationship, there are some cultural differences. I soon discovered that many Canadians are uncomfortable with sarcasm. I’m English, and in England it’s an art form. Mostly, it’s not meant to be cruel or do damage; it’s a way of communicating to make a point with humour.

It struck me very early on. I overheard a conversation in which an attempt at sarcasm was made, and immediately after, the guy said, “Just kidding!” I don’t think he was, but the point of the sarcasm was missed. It is supposed to hang in the air, waiting for the moment of realization when the words hit home: “Doh!” There is no “just kidding.”

I have discovered that it is a cultural thing. A special word to Canadians: Did you know that Jesus used sarcasm? In case you don’t believe me, listen to the words of Jesus:

“You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel” (Mat. 23:24).

There’s plenty more from where that came from. What about Paul’s method of addressing the church at Corinth? When defending his call as an apostle, he said, “For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena…We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ!” (1 Cor. 4:91–0).


Here’s my point. We live in a world that is obsessed with removing all things that might just cause offense. So the Gospel is offensive to those who will not believe. Let’s face it: there are some aspects of the Truth that might just cause offense even to church people. You might say that Paul was offensive in his approach to some of the believers. Perhaps you had better take that up with him when you see him. When we are in error, either in belief or practice, sometimes it takes offense to jolt us into the right response. Its purpose is first to offend but then to cause us to repent in order to walk into the freedom of the Gospel. Paul was an iconoclast (puller down of false gods), but sometimes we have to take a position against in order to be truly for. This was exactly the case with Jesus: He was against all those things that stood in the way of true faith. He knew that in order to receive truth, many of us need to be jolted into the realization of the futile position that we are in, and He proved His higher cause by going to the cross, where He pulled down all the false gods. That’s love in action.