Kevin DeYoung Isn’t “Nice” (Because He Laughs At Vanity)

Satire, sarcasm, irony, hyperbole–these are dangerous weapons, only to be wielded in spiritual warfare with caution and with great aplomb. But they are to be wielded at times. To poke fun at the oh-so-important, the perpetually offended, and the self-righteously sentimental can be good, godly work. When it comes to poking at the pretensions of the proud, laughter is often the best medicine. Vanity cannot be reasoned with, but it can be mocked. In the presence of overwrought solemnity and self-serving pomposity, Christ shows that a little humor goes a long ways. Read more»

Kevin DeYoung | “The Virtue of Laughing at Vanity”


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  1. I’m not sure where the scripture that this piece of wisdom can be based on.. I don’t see this example in Christ and in fact my mind is brought to Psalms 1

    “Blessed is the man…who does not sit in the seat of scoffers”

    I would not follow this advice unless someone was to advise me as how this wisdom is in line with scripture.

    please share your thoughts also

    • Josh,

      Which New Testament are you reading? The one I read reports that Jesus used a wide variety of genres in his teaching including sarcasm and irony.

      You’ve illustrated well my deep concern about the evangelical ethos of “niceness.” It is rationalism, i.e., an a priori that something must be true before the facts have been investigated.

      Jesus wasn’t nice. The prophets weren’t nice. The Apostles weren’t nice.

      Here is a category of posts and talks on this topic. Check it out.

    • Josh,

      When you read Jesus imploring us to take the log out of our own eye before we remove the sliver from our brother’s, do you sense the irony, humor, and sarcasm in his rhetoric? Do you find Elijah’s taunts to Baal’s prophets on Mt. Carmel biting and sarcastic when he wonders if Baal’s lack of response is due to him being busy relieving himself?

      I only ask because I think a close reading of biblical narrative, especially, uncovers humor and irony as common rhetorical device. Additionally, the poetic portions of scripture use humor and parabolic hyperbole iin the (typical) parallel structure of biblical poetry. To me DeYoung captures the literary/rhetorical flare we see in Scripture, where actors in salvation history are always playing for keeps – namely over the supremacy of the God of Scripture and his purposes in history – and sometimes this means not playing nice.

  2. A fruit of the Spirit isn’t niceness. See Christ Himself mock Pharisees. Elijah asked the prophets of Baal whether their god might be taking a dump.

    Of course we risk self-righteousness ourselves if we are not cautious, as Pastor DeYoung suggests.

    Good stuff which gets at the title I use (in certain company) “Evanjellyfish”. There is a time & place for “meanness”.

  3. Definition of nice: pleasant; agreeable; satisfactory.

    This was no part what I said or was referring to – nice is easy to attack because it is false. Love is hard to practice because love is all of God and “Holy”/”other than”.

    The “Good News” is not agreeable, but neither is it “reasonable”… just as Mr DeYoung suggests that one cannot reason with pride… we speak the truth that is the power of God unto salvation.. the truth of the Gospel that shows to the pride of man the reality of our creator God and the power of His Righteousness…

    I am not suggesting “niceness”, but I am questioning the authority by which I should laugh and mock those who are prideful…if you can give an example, I am truly all ears. I think there is a more powerful way to deal with pride that reveals the righteousness and power and the wisdom of God.. to with joy, love and compassion in our hearts to share the Gospel (without shying away from calling the sin of pride for what it is)… this is not reasoning with pride… nor is it “agreeable”.

    • Josh,

      Are you suggesting that Jesus did not use every one of these rhetorical devices in his teaching?

      Did Jesus mock the proud? Did the prophets? Do you really have to ask that question?

      I think I’ve answered your questions previously in the materials linked including blog posts and talks. I won’t re-do them all here when they are only a click away. Here are just some of the passages of which I was thinking.

      When Nicodemus comes to Jesus (John 3:1) he addresses Jesus as a “teacher in Israel.” Jesus, after instructing him, says to him, (v. 10; ESV): “Are you the teacher of Israel yand yet you do not understand these things?” He takes a jab at Nicodemus, using the very same polite language that Nicodemus had used of Jesus (even though he came by night out of fear) and tossing it back at him.”

      What should we say of Jesus’ description of the Pharisees and Sadducees as a “brood of vipers!” (Matt 3:7) or his dig at Herod in “Go tell that fox” (Luke 13:32).

      Jesus was kind and patient with the meek and lowly but he was rather different with the arrogant and the proud.

      The Psalmist says of the ascended Jesus (Ps 2:4) that he holds his enemies in derision, i.e., to say he mocks them. (see also Ps 59:8).

      What do we make of “let the dead bury their dead” (Luke 9)?

  4. You’ve got a point with Elijah and the Baal worshipers. But all the points about Jesus words and actions that I’ve read here are simply truth expressed… I’m sure the hearers didn’t like what he said, but he just stated the absurdity of their opinion measured against the righteous standard of God.

    The truth that we speak must be like Jesus, “they are spirit, they are life”… Which includes clearly decrying sin, speaking of it in all its absurdity… Not being “nice”

    Perhaps part of the meaning of “to mock” is escaping me which Mr. DeYoung and yourselves are advocating… ?

    When my mind tries to comprehend mocking our scoffing at someone for their actions/words/pride, I think of one who is sitting as the self proclaimed correct discerner, decrying the smallness of the subject in comparison to themselves…

    But I’m not looking to pick a fight, nor do I want “nice”.. But I do want to be righteous, loving and helpful. It sounds like you all want the same thing and believe that DeYoung does also.

    So how is what’s being spoken of in this thread and discussion, and what you see Jesus doing…how is it not the definition of scoffing(below), what perhaps is an explanation of the righteousness that you ask are speaking of… Please know this is not being in-sincere, If I’m ignoring God’s word and example, I want to instead obey it.

    Definition of scoff:
    speak to someone or about something in a scornfully derisive or mocking way.
    synonyms: mock, deride, ridicule, sneer at, jeer at, jibe at, taunt, make fun of, poke fun at, laugh at, scorn, laugh to scorn, dismiss, make light of, belittle

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