Though the Bible has much to say about scoffers, Christians rarely talk about the dangers of being one. We rarely ask ourselves, “Am I becoming a scoffer?” In fact, many of us probably don’t know what a scoffer is. Here are some things the Bible says about scoffers.
What is a Scoffer?
The word, “scoff” means to make fun of or mock. Scoffing is treating someone, or their ideas, as stupid or silly. So, a scoffer is a person who habitually laughs at, mocks, and makes fun of others. When a scoffer encounters an idea he doesn’t understand or agree with, his typical reaction is to laugh scornfully.
Being a scoffer reflects an arrogant spirit. “‘Scoffer’ is the name of the arrogant, haughty man who acts with arrogant pride” (Proverbs 21:24). Constantly seeing others as stupid and their ideas as ridiculous is a sure sign of a proud and arrogant heart.
Scoffers tend to have a lot in common with cynics. Meaning, they scoff not just at ideas, but also at the perceived motives of their opponents. A scoffer might even scoff at his opponents on issues where they would seem to agree. The scoffer will laugh and say, “You don’t really believe that. You’re just trying to fool and manipulate people.” The scoffer prides himself on his distrust and skepticism.
There may be an appropriate occasion to scoff, but it’s never appropriate to be a scoffer. If scoffing has become a pattern in your life, you may need to ask yourself if this is you.
Confessions of a Recovering Scoffer
I must confess, I have been a scoffer. I have mocked and made fun of people because I disagreed with (or didn’t fully understand) their ideas. Sadly, much of my early preaching, teaching, and writing reflected the heart of a scoffer.
In my early 20s, I had the audacity to think I knew more about Scripture than most religious leaders and Bible scholars in the world. When people said things that contradicted my beliefs, I presumed they were either ignorant or lacked a sincere love for God. If they didn’t see things the way I saw them, they were either blind to the truth or willfully disobedient.
But when I finally started to listen (really listen), I discovered there were so many things I didn’t fully understand. I realized that most of the people with whom I differed were not ignorant or insincere. They were often well-informed and loved the Lord as deeply as I did.
In some cases, I realized they were right and I was wrong on some things. In light of a better understanding of Scripture, I had to rethink and change my position. In other cases, I ultimately did not change my mind, but I certainly changed my attitude. I had a deeper respect for people and their positions, even when I disagreed with them.
I still struggle with scoffing. I have to remind myself, I can’t be a scoffer and love my brothers, sisters, neighbors, and enemies. In order to love them well, I have to be respectful, courteous, kind, and give them the benefit of the doubt (1 Corinthians 13:1-7; Titus 3:2; 1 Peter 3:15).
Scoffers Never Learn
The problem with warning people about being scoffers is that scoffers don’t listen. They scoff at warnings, correction, and rebuke. This may be why the Bible says more about scoffers than it says to them:
“Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.”Proverbs 9:7-8
“A scoffer does not like to be reproved; he will not go to the wise.”Proverbs 15:12
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”Psalm 1:1-2
The danger of becoming a scoffer is not only that you are treating people in an unloving way, but that you are being an unteachable person. So, if you find yourself drifting in this direction, turn back now.
Don’t Be a Scoffer
I’m not suggesting we should never disagree with people. I’m not even suggesting we should never scoff. But we cannot be disciples of Jesus and make a habit out of mocking those who think, vote, or believe differently than we do.
So, here are some phrases to help you interact with people who think, vote, and believe differently than you. When you are tempted to be a scoffer, think about which of these phrases might apply to your conversation:
- “I really don’t know enough about that topic to take a position.”
- “I may very well be wrong here, so I want to really understand before I speak.”
- “Would this be a fair and accurate way to summarize this idea?”
- “I can certainly see how you arrived at that conclusion.”
- “Here’s where I think we agree…and where I think we disagree…”
- “Would you be open to exploring a different perspective?”
- “Even though we disagree, I value our friendship and I hope this doesn’t come between us.”
As followers of Jesus, we should reject the way of the scoffer because we are called to love everyone, including our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). We should also reject the way of the scoffer because we are supposed to be teachable people who are, “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19).
So, before you mock someone with your words or with a clever meme, stop and ask yourself, “Am I becoming a scoffer?”
I love you and God loves you,