“Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.” (Ephesians 5:4)
t seems surprising that “foolish talking” and “jesting” would be condemned as things that should “not be once named among you” (v. 3). Yet here it is, and commentators usually assume that the foolish talking and jesting so condemned really only apply to filthy talking and filthy jesting. After all, the popularity of many Christian speakers today seems to be measured by the amount of jokes and witticisms they inject into their messages.
This is a sensitive subject, and each Christian should conscientiously decide for himself what God is saying here, through Paul. In any case, it seems significant that the only reference in the Bible to “jesting” is a warning against it. It is also significant that one can never find this element in the sermons of Christ or the letters of Paul or anywhere in the Bible. The Bible writers seem to have believed that sin and salvation were such sober, serious issues that there was nothing there to joke about. We read several times of Jesus weeping, but never of Him laughing. The Scriptures often refer to “rejoicing,” but never to “having fun.”
Furthermore, Jesus warned that “every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36), and Paul exhorted us to “let your speech be always with grace” (Colossians 4:6). Our text says that foolish talking and jesting are “not convenient” for a Christian. Other things “not convenient” include the list of 23 sins in Romans 1:28-31, beginning with “unrighteousness” and ending with “unmerciful.”
Whether or not we can justify certain “convenient” times for jesting, there is one thing we can know is always convenient—that is, “giving of thanks.” HMM