The Voice in Speech and Song


Chapter 46—Anecdotes and Humor

Levity Inappropriate—The minister of God is not to speak words which will create levity. We have been bought with the price of a great sacrifice, even the sacrifice of God's only begotten Son.—Manuscript 19, 1910. VSS 269.1

No Light, Trifling Words—The minister of the gospel who is a laborer together with God, will learn daily in the school of Christ....No light, trifling words will fall from his lips; for is he not an ambassador for Christ, bearing a divine message to perishing souls? All jesting and joking, all lightness and trifling, is painful to the cross-bearing disciple of Christ.—Evangelism, 206, 207. VSS 269.2

Conversation in Heaven—All lightness and trifling is positively forbidden in the Word of God. His conversation should be in heaven, his words seasoned with grace.—Testimonies for the Church 2:338. VSS 269.3

A Worthy Example for Youth—Ministers should set the youth a worthy example, one corresponding to their holy calling.... They are to put away all coarseness, all trifling, ever remembering that they are educators; that, whether they will or not, their words and acts are to those with whom they come in contact a savor of life or of death.—Gospel Workers, 126. VSS 269.4

Decorum in the Sacred Desk—What can the minister do without Jesus? Verily, nothing. Then if he is a frivolous, joking man, he is not prepared to perform the duty laid upon him by the Lord. “Without Me,” says Christ, “ye can do nothing.” The flippant words that fall from his lips, the trifling anecdotes, the words spoken to create a laugh, are all condemned by the Word of God, and are entirely out of place in the sacred desk.—Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 142. VSS 270.1

No Slang Phrases—The minister should be free from every unnecessary temporal perplexity, that he may give himself wholly to his sacred calling. He should be much in prayer, and should bring himself under discipline to God, that his life may reveal the fruits of true self-control. His language should be correct; no slang phrases, no cheap utterances, should fall from his lips.—Gospel Workers, 145. VSS 270.2

In Christ's Stead—Ministers cannot be too guarded, especially before the young. They should use no lightness of speech, jesting or joking, but should remember that they are in Christ's stead, that they must illustrate by example the life of Christ.—Testimonies for the Church 1:380, 381. VSS 270.3

No Jesting in the Pulpit—The minister who is ready to engage in frivolous conversation, ready to jest and laugh, does not realize the sacred obligations resting upon him, and if he goes from such an exercise to the pulpit, the Lord cannot stand by his side to bless him.... Flowery discourses will not be sufficient to feed the soul of the famishing child of God.—The Review and Herald, June 23, 1891. VSS 270.4

Speech Seasoned With Grace—Let trifling and joking be banished from the conversation of the minister, but let his speech be seasoned with grace; let the light and love of Jesus shine in his example and precept, that souls may be won for the Master.—The Review and Herald, April 5, 1892. VSS 271.1

Abuse of the Gospel—Some who stand in the pulpit make the heavenly messengers in the audience ashamed of them. The precious gospel, which it has cost so much to bring to the world, is abused. There is common, cheap talk; grotesque attitudes and workings of the features. There is, with some, rapid talking, with others a thick, indistinct utterance.—Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 339. VSS 271.2

Common Words of Human Devising—The messages of truth are to be kept entirely free from cheap, common words of human devising. Thus forcible impressions will be made upon hearts. Let not our ministers cherish the idea that they must bring forth something new and strange, or that cheap, common expressions will give them influence. Ministers are to be the mouthpiece of God, and they must eradicate from their speech every expression that is cheap or common. Let them be careful lest by attempting during their discourse to cause laughter, they dishonor God. VSS 271.3

Our message is a solemn and sacred one, and we must watch unto prayer. The words uttered must be of such a character that through them God can make an impression on heart and mind. Let the ministers of the gospel be sanctified through the truth.—Evangelism, 211. VSS 272.1

On the Enemy's Ground—As soon as a preacher comes down from the position a minister should ever occupy, and descends to the comical to create a laugh over his opponent, or when he is sarcastic and sharp, and rails upon him, he does that which the Saviour of the world did not dare to do; for he places himself upon the enemy's ground.—Testimonies for the Church 3:220. VSS 272.2

Pure Provender With No Chaff—The preaching of the Word should appeal to the intellect, and should impart knowledge, but it should do more than this. The words of the minister should reach the hearts of the hearers. Neither is it the object of preaching to amuse. Some ministers have adopted a style of preaching that has not the best influence. It has become a habit with them to weave anecdotes into their discourses. The impression thus made upon the hearers is not a savor of life unto life. Ministers should not bring amusing stories into their preaching. The people need pure provender, thoroughly winnowed from the chaff. “Preach the Word,” was the charge that Paul gave to Timothy, and this is our commission also. VSS 272.3

The minister who mixes storytelling with his discourses is using strange fire. God is offended, and the cause of truth is dishonored, when His representatives descend to the use of cheap, trifling words. VSS 273.1

My brethren, you are required by our Saviour to take heed how you witness for Him. You need to go deeper and still deeper in the study of the Word. You have all classes of minds to meet, and as you teach the truths of the sacred Word, you are to manifest earnestness, respect, and reverence. Weed out storytelling from your discourses, and preach the Word. You will then have more sheaves to bring to the Master. Remember that in your audience there are those who are constantly harassed by temptation. Some are wrestling with doubt, almost in despair, almost hopeless. Ask God to help you to speak words that will strengthen them for the conflict.—The Review and Herald, December 22, 1904. VSS 273.2

Irrelevant Anecdotes—Ministers should not make a practice of relating irrelevant anecdotes in connection with their sermons; for this detracts from the force of the truth presented. The relation of anecdotes or incidents that create a laugh or a light thought in the minds of the hearers is severely censurable. The truth should be clothed in chaste, dignified language; and the illustrations used should be of a like character.—Gospel Workers, 166. VSS 273.3

Comic Illustrations—A minister of the gospel should not be regardless of his attitude. If he is the representative of Christ, his deportment, his attitude, his gestures, should be of such a character as will not strike the beholder with disgust. Ministers should possess refinement. They should discard all uncouth manners, attitudes, and gestures, and should encourage in themselves humble dignity of bearing. They should be clothed in a manner befitting the dignity of their position. Their speech should be in every respect solemn and well chosen. I was shown that it is wrong to make coarse, irreverent expressions, relate anecdotes to amuse, or present comic illustrations to create a laugh. Sarcasm and playing upon the words of an opponent are all out of God's order.—Testimonies for the Church 1:648, 649. VSS 273.4

Amusing Stories—My brother, you need to examine more closely the discourses you present to the people. The object of your ministerial labors is not to amuse. It is not to convey information alone, not merely to convince the intellect. The preaching of the Word should appeal to the intellect and impart knowledge, but it comprises much more than this. The heart of the minister must reach the hearts of the hearers. Some have adopted a style of preaching that does not have a right influence. It has become a habit with them to cheapen their discourses by the relation of anecdotes. The impression thus made upon the hearers is not a savor of life unto life. You should not bring amusing stories into your preaching. The people need pure provender, thoroughly winnowed from all that is not food. “Preach the Word,” was the charge that Paul gave to Timothy, and this is your commission.—Letter 61, 1896. VSS 274.1

No Clowns in the Pulpit—I warned you against clownishness in the desk or before the people. Do you not sometimes bring this acting into the sacred desk? You please the world; you attract the world. Is this an evidence that you are having a deep spiritual piety, sanctified to God through the Spirit?—Letter 9, 1889. VSS 275.1