Q: What does the Bible mean by “foolish jesting?” Is it telling bad jokes or watching comedy?
A: God gave us a sense of humor, but foolish jesting has nothing to do with humor. It is wrongly labeled as humor to cover up offensive, embarrassing, coarse language or implications, allowing the perpetrator to get away with making crude statements to avoid rebuke and paying the consequences for it. Foolish jesting is often demeaning in some way to a certain person or group of people and is laced with something that is quite dishonorable such as sexual intonations or prejudicial slants. When confronted for their coarse objective language, these individuals often fall back on the fact that it was normal or humorous to others, implying that the person who is taking offense at it is too prudish, out of touch, or void of any humor.
Let’s just consider the meaning of these two words. The word “foolish,” points to someone being silly, buffoonery, dull, stupid, or absurd. Keep in mind this is in relationship to a person’s conversation or speech. People who are void of respect towards a certain subject will often act silly or disrespectful when talking about it. Those who are indifferent as to how their speech will affect others around them will act like a buffoon, someone who is out of place and has no real credibility. Since these individuals are indifferent about the affect their conversation can have on others, they will appear stupid, and their insistence on sticking with their right to stay the course in their foolish speech will make them look absurd in the end.
Now let us combine the first word “foolish” with the second word, “jesting.” The main word that is associated with jesting in the Strong’s Concordance is vulgar. There are various words associated with the word “vulgar,” such as bad mannered, uncouth, unrefined, rude, ill-mannered, rough, and loutish. Foolish jesting points to someone who is being foolish in his or her speech, shows bad manners in relationship to those present and proves to be uncouth because it is out of order and an embarrassment to others. It is unrefined because it lacks purity and rude because it is not honorable and will cause ill feelings in the end. Such language is rough for others to hear and a source of impoliteness.
The Apostle put it in this way, “That you put off concerning the former conversation of the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts…Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Ephesians 4:22, 29). The Apostle Paul also identified this corrupt speech as being one of the sins that will grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30).
Our speech will identify us to whom and what is influencing us the most. As Christians such speech should never come out of our mouths because it identifies us to the corrupt “old man” and “former life” that should have been crucified. It is speech that will cause us to lose all authority and respect from others. It is also what Matthew 12:36, 37 classify as idle words. We are told that every idle word will be judged and that our words will justify us or condemn us when we give an account on the Day of Judgment.
If people are being honest about matters, they know what will be embarrassing and offensive to others, but sadly people who insist on foolish jesting without consideration of how others may see it or take it couldn’t care less, and have no problem playing a fool when opening their mouths, whether it is to shock others with their crudeness or to get a sick point across. Sadly, some can’t help it because they have given way to it for so long that is who they have become as to their person, corrupt through and through (Titus 1:15-16).