Last updated on February 2, 2022
Is laughing at dirty jokes a sin? I try not to, obviously, but sometimes I can’t hold back. I’m asking because I know that coarse jesting is sinful.
“But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them” (Ephesians 5:3-7).
Paul lists three things that Christians need to avoid: fornication (sex prior to marriage), uncleanness (things that would encourage or lead up to fornication), and covetousness (greedy desire for what is forbidden). By saying “let it not even be named among you,” Paul wants a Christian’s behavior to be such that these things are so out of place in a Christian’s life that people would never associate a Christian with these deeds or thoughts.
In order to accomplish this, Christians must avoid filthiness (dirty talk — speech with sexual content or profane words regarding sex), foolish talk (senseless chit-chat, such as gossip about sexual exploits), or coarse jesting (witty remarks regarding coarse things — discussions that include sexual innuendos or jokes with sexual punch lines). You cannot talk like a person who thinks nothing of fornication and then expect people not to think you are committing fornication when no one is looking. In other words, your talk should match your walk in life.
Paul’s conclusion is not to join them. The word literally means to share with them. You don’t want to get involved in improper talk or jokes about sinful acts of sex because those who do will end up sharing the same fate in the judgment of God.
As Paul wrote elsewhere, “I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world” (I Corinthians 5:9-10). We are always going to have dealings with sinful people since we live in a sinful world. The difference between us and them is that we should not join sinners in committing sins.
The difficulty is that you can’t control other people or their mouths. You can only control yourself. You can tell people that you don’t appreciate bad jokes, but whether they will change their behavior is up to them.
Laughs are used when something strikes us as funny or when we are covering up an embarrassing situation. The current theory is that humor is a combination of two elements: a violation of an expected rule and a willingness to accept the violation. See The Humor Code. Crude jokes obviously violate moral and socially accepted rules. Unfortunately, dirty jokes get laughs because too many people accept the violation. But they also may produce laughs as a person covers up his embarrassment.
The real problem is that humor strikes so quickly, you don’t have time to think about what the appropriate response ought to be. So while laughing is not right because it encourages the guy to continue to make dirty jokes, you can walk away when he starts telling inappropriate jokes.
Simply apologize to God for getting caught off-guard and try to minimize it from happening in the future.