Like a madman who throws flaming darts and deadly arrows, so is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I was only joking!”
-Proverbs 26:18-19 (HCSB)

Ever played a joke or prank, only have to have it completely backfire on you? You know the situation… You’re picking around with someone and then find out later that they thought there was some truth behind your words. And what is our natural first response? We get defensive and say, “C’mon, man… Can’t you take a joke?”

In Proverbs 26:18-19, Solomon describes that exact predicament — someone who deceives others, and then in turns tries to justify it by simply pointing out that it was intended as a joke.

Interestingly however, he doesn’t just say it’s wrong. Solomon takes it one step further by comparing that type of person to a madman running around wildly throwing darts and shooting arrows into the sky. One can’t deny the obvious danger presented in that situation. Sure, there’s no harm initially, but what goes up must come down. Eventually gravity will take over, the darts/arrows will return to Earth, and they will penetrate deep inside something.

In other words, if you think playing the “joke” card is a legitimate defense for trickery, lies and deception, then you are off your rocker.

Our words hold a lot of power, and Solomon here is reminding us to be careful with them — if used irresponsibly, they can be a weapon that pierce the heart as easily as arrows pierce skin.

In the end, “I was only joking” is nothing more than a lame excuse. It does not undo the damage. The consequences of what comes out of our mouths is ultimately our burden to carry.

So be cautious and attentive with your words. Don’t carelessly throw them around in the name of “fun” or “humor.”

Because what goes up must come down.