“Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.” – Proverbs 17: 5
It is one of life’s basics. You don’t mock people who are vulnerable. You do not make fun of the poor or the unfortunate. You don’t laugh when someone else suffers a broken neck or a broken heart.
There is just something so fundamentally wrong about mocking those who are different or vulnerable. Perhaps that is why the proverb tells us that such mockery is not simply an insult to its victim, but an insult to the Creator. And yet . . . we live in a time when even a candidate for President does just that, mocking a differently-abled reporter.
It makes me long for Jane Elliott. “Miss Elliott,” as we knew her, was a history teacher at my high school. She was slight, grey-haired and stern. She did not suffer fools gladly, though we were a sea of fools. She had the capacity, which she exercised with some regularity, to a fix high school kid who was behaving badly, perhaps mocking some poor kid who was different, with a withering look that said, “for shame,” and send them off with their tail between their legs.
But when I looked up the word “mock” in the immense, old dictionary at our cabin I found something surprising: a positive example of the usage of “mock,” taken from the Bible no less. “Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god.” (I Kings 18: 27) In this particular instance, the prophet Elijah mocked a crowd of false prophets who were on the payroll of the corrupt king, Ahab. Elijah taunted them, suggesting they call louder on their god who has probably stepped out to the bathroom. Elijah’s mockery of the king and his hired prophets put him at no small risk.
And I thought of Paul, mocking death. “Death where is thy victory, O Death where is thy sting?”
So, it would seem that there are suitable times, places and subjects for mockery and derision; and there are times, places and subjects when mockery is an affront to God and just plain wrong.
Who or what do you mock?
Grant us the decency not to mock the vulnerable, and the courage to mock the deserving, even when that should happen to include ourselves. Amen.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul’s Letters to Timothy for a New Day. You can read Tony’s “Weekly Meditation” and “What’s Tony Thinking?” at his website, www.anthonybrobinson.com.