Practical Jokes and Wisdom

Proverbs 10:23 (ESV) … “Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.”


Some people think it is funny to play practical jokes on people. No such joke is really funny, however, and some are harmful. The fool thinks a joke is good sport and cannot understand why the victim of the mischief is put out and why thoughtful people are not amused. Solomon had in mind not mere horseplay, but malicious mischievous behavior. Often practical joking gets out of hand. Sometimes it backfires. Not infrequently the victim cannot wait to get even.


Similar to a practical joke is the hoax. Adolf Eichmann, chief executor of the Nazi pogrom to exterminate European Jews, perpetrated one of the cruelest hoaxes of history on the Jews of Hungary. To Eichmann, his mission was as important as winning the war. He was particularly bitter because the Hungarian government, although allied to Nazi Germany, did its best to protect its 800,000 Jews. Indeed, Hungary kept them out of Eichmann’s hands for almost five years. Finally Himmler acted and sent his henchman to Hungary to supervise the deportation of Hungarian Jews to the death camps.


The war by then had turned against Germany. Time was running out and many in the Nazi regime thought the government should strike deals and barter Jewish lives for badly needed trucks or clothing. Eichmann, a single-minded fanatic, would not compromise, so his colleagues were shocked to discover that he had agreed to a deal. Under the terms of one agreement the Nazi butcher agreed to let 1700 Hungarian Jews emigrate to Spain. We can imagine the delight and relief with which these fortunate Jews boarded the train. They were going to Spain! They were going to be free! The train pulled out of the station and they settled down to enjoy their ride to freedom, but it was all a cruel hoax. The true destination of that train was Bergen-Belsen, a Nazi death camp.


Eichmann was not only evil; he was a fool. The hoax was his idea of a joke. But before the repercussions were all over, he was tried before a Jewish court in Jerusalem, and now he is awaiting his trial before the great white throne of God. [1]



[1] Phillips, J. (2009). Exploring Proverbs 1–19: An Expository Commentary (Vol. 1, Pr 10:23). Kregel Publications; WORDsearch Corp.

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