Adam J. West
Your phone rings. You pick it up and say, “Hello?” A voice on the line says, “Hello… is your refrigerator running?” You say, “Y-yes.” The voice on the line, snickering, bursts out with, “Well, you better go catch it!” That “age-old” prank call is somewhat innocuous compared to what has played out recently in the news. What does the Bible say about this kind of humor?
Last month, Australian “shock jock” disc jockeys (DJs) Mel Greig and Michael Christian made a prank call to a hospital where the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine, was being treated for acute morning sickness. Impersonating the voices of the Queen of England, Elizabeth II, and her son, Prince Charles, they assumed their prank would be rejected out of hand due to their subpar British accents. But it was not. Rather, their call passed the reception operator. Consequently, they received an update regarding the condition of the pregnant Duchess.
Prank calls had been a part of the DJs’ normal on-air lineup numerous times before, yet this particular call was different. On December 7, 2012, just days after the prank call was made, it was announced that Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse working reception the day of the prank call, had committed suicide. She had transferred the prank callers to the attending nurse who divulged private information regarding Catherine. Jacintha was a mother of two.
Does Scripture give us any guidance about prank calls—deceitful dialing? Are there warnings against prank calling and this genre of humor?
Proverbs 26:18-19 encapsulates this tragic turn of events in graphic terms: “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death, is the man who deceives his neighbor, and says, ‘I was only joking!’” The DJs who engineered this prank call may not have thought of their actions as madness, yet that is precisely what ensued. They have since been kicked off the air indefinitely and their show has been cancelled. The Australian company that owns the radio station for which they worked, 2Day FM, has since ceased the practice of prank calling.
Scripture provides vital principles for speech. Exodus 20:16 states: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” In effect, do not tell lies about your neighbor, against your neighbor and do not lie to your neighbor. Ephesians 4:25 directs us: “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another.” Deceiving another is not showing them kindness, respect or love. In fact, it can tear down and even destroy.
Romans 13:10 affirms, “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” When individuals break the law of God there are always negative consequences and guilt. The two DJs are experiencing these results for the entire world to see. A USA Today article quotes Mel Greig saying, “The thought we may have played a part in (Saldhana’s death) is gut-wrenching.” Michael Christian said that he feels “shattered” and “heartbroken” (ibid.).
Prank calling is simply a deceitful form of communication. It not only is a childish pastime, but is also, as is plain now, a potentially deadly one. Whether Jacintha’s subsequent suicide was the result of the prank call is not known. Nevertheless, the remorse, regret and pain both “shock-jocks” feel now is a powerful warning against these vain and perverse attempts at humor. Real, godly humor does no harm and is funny, not only today, but also forever.
It is vital we reject deceitful forms of communication. To learn more about godly communication leading to blessings, happy relationships and lasting fun read our article, “Rebuilding Healthy Families.” To learn more about the way of life based firmly on the principles and teachings found in the Bible read our informative booklet, What Is a True Christian?