This spirit of jesting and joking, of lightness and trifling, is a stumbling block to sinners and a worse stumbling block to those who give way to the inclination of the unsanctified heart. The fact that some have allowed this trait to develop and strengthen until jesting is as natural as their breath, does not lessen its evil effects. When anyone can point to one trifling word spoken by our Lord, or to any lightness seen in His character, he may feel that lightness and jesting are excusable in himself. This spirit is unchristian; for to be a Christian is to be Christlike. Jesus is a perfect pattern, and we must imitate His example. A Christian is the highest type of man, a representative of Christ.
Some who are given to jesting, and to light and trifling remarks, may appear in the sacred desk with becoming dignity. They may be able to pass at once to the contemplation of serious subjects, and present to their hearers the most important, testing truths ever committed to mortals; but perhaps their fellow laborers, whom they have influenced, and who have joined with them in the careless jest, cannot change the current of their thoughts so readily. They feel condemned, their minds are confused; and they are unfitted to enter upon the contemplation of heavenly themes.
The disposition to say witty things that will create a laugh, when the wants of the cause are under consideration, whether in a committee meeting, a board meeting, or any other meeting for business, is not of Christ. This untimely mirth has a demoralizing tendency. God is not honored when we turn everything to ridicule one day, and the next day are discouraged and almost hopeless, having no light from Christ, and ready to find fault and murmur. He is pleased when His people manifest solidity, strength, and firmness of character, and when they have cheerful, happy, hopeful dispositions.
Says Peter, "Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." Here is a lesson for us to learn; here is a work for us to do to control the mind, not letting it drift on forbidden themes, or spend its energies on trifling subjects. "The end of all things is at hand; be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer." We are not only required to pray, but to guard the words and actions, and even the thoughts, —to "watch unto prayer." If the mind is centered upon heavenly things, the conversation will run in the same channel. The heart will overflow at the contemplation of the Christian's hope, the exceeding great and precious promises left on record for our encouragement; and our rejoicing in view of the mercy and goodness of God need not be repressed; it is a joy that no man can take from us.
During the waking hours, the mind will be constantly employed'''. If it dwells upon unimportant matters, the intellect is dwarfed and weakened. There may be some spasmodic flashes of thought ; but the mind is not disciplined to steady, sober reflection. There are themes that demand serious consideration. They are those connected with the great plan of redemption, which is soon to be finished. Jesus is about to be revealed in the clouds of heaven, and what manner of characters must we have to enable us to stand in that day? By dwelling upon these themes of eternal interest, the mind is strengthened, and the character developed. Here lies the foundation of that firm, unswerving principle which Joseph possessed. Here is the secret of growth in grace and in the knowledge of the truth.—Ellen G. White, in Review and Herald, June 10, 1884.
A Timely Caution Given
I have been pained to hear so much jesting and joking among old and young as they are seated at the dining table. I have inquired, Are these men aware that there is by their side a watcher who is disgusted with their spirit and the influence which they exert, and is making a record of their words and actions? Will our ministers, young and old, countenance these things? Shall not we who name the name of Christ take heed to the words, "In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned." . . .
All the sang-froid which is so common, the theatrical gestures, all lightness and trifling, all jesting and joking, must be seen by the one who wears Christ's yoke to be "not convenient," —an offense to God and a denial of Christ. It unfits the mind for solid thought and solid labor. It makes men inefficient, superficial, and spiritually diseased.
He who believes the truth for this time will practice personal piety. The language of his heart will be, "Who is sufficient for these things ?" Let every minister be sedate. As he studies the life of Christ, he will see the necessity of walking circumspectly. Yet he may be and will be if connected with the Sun of Righteousness, cheerful and happy, showing forth the praises of Him who bath called him out of darkness into His marvelous light. The conversation will be pure, entirely free from all slang phrases.—Ellen G. White, in a Discourse to Ministers, Oct. 25,1888, at General Conference, Minneapolis, Minn. (MS 8a).