“You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:14 ESV).

I’ve heard it said–

Just because you can’t smell it doesn’t mean it don’t stink!

I learned this lesson the hard way. It wasn’t long ago in fact. My granddaughter left me a gift in her diaper, one I couldn’t smell (as I haven’t gotten that particular sense back since I battled Covid) but which stunk just the same. (Just ask the others in our home, several rooms away!)

And it stunk too, though more in a figurative sense, when I had to thoroughly clean her up, including washing her blanket and clothes, because that which I couldn’t smell lingered a little too long on a curious toddler of not yet two. Hence, it appeared that she’d tried to rid herself of the ickiness, making quite a mess in the process.

Let’s just say, it was an “out of diaper” experience.

This incident, however, was merely the natural inclination of a little girl not wanting to wear a dirty diaper. She had no mal intent, hadn’t plotted or planned, nor acted with premeditation. Though I suffered the consequences of her actions–with the extra laundry and a slight turn of my stomach perhaps–such wasn’t the result of any scheme on her part. In other words, this was no prank.

This is not always the case, with regard to pranking by the broader population, that is. In fact, pranks seems to be quite the thing these days, almost as though playing jokes on others, even quite cruel ones at times, is top-notch entertainment.

Just check out Youtube. There are countless Tubers who gain followers (financial support too) by pranking people or by showing videos of others pranking people. Honestly, watching these has become one of our daughter’s favorite pastimes, something we have to largely limit–especially when she (and friends) try to emulate what they see.

Whether it’s the old “Shaving Cream on the Hand then Tickle the Nose of Someone Sleeping” shenanigan or the “Put Something Funky in Their Food”  foolery, people apparently love to watch others get pranked by scheming friends (although, to me, these folks often seem more like foes).

We’d had a conversation with our tween-age daughter about this very thing–explaining how, despite the victim’s peals of laughter for onlookers, one is often left feeling wounded when others single him or her out to tease, pester, and prank.

No, it’s just for fun! Allie had argued, convinced that her parents are from some prehistoric time, know nothing of the good, clean comedy that comes from pranking.

So when I came across this passage in my morning Bible reading only days after we’d had this particular conversation, my attention was perked. Right there on the page, along with what the subtitle calls Rules for Holiness, God gave Moses a command to…

“…not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind…”

Almost seems like God’s saying “Don’t prank” or, at least, “Be careful how you prank.”

After all, we’ve been graciously given our five senses to both better our lives (Have you ever smelled a rose or heard a sparrow’s song?) and as protection. (Have you ever touched a hot burner or seen danger lurking?)

In this Old Testament passage, God says first–

Don’t curse the deaf. 

What does that mean exactly? Well, can’t you almost see a bully picking on a deaf person by saying all kinds of mean things–even curing him–while others look and listen on? The audience can hear plain and clear what the prankster’s saying, but the victim just smiles, perhaps nods, thinking everyone’s a friend, not realizing they’re really more like enemies.

And take the second part of this passage–

Don’t put a stumbling block before the blind.

Maybe you’ve seen them–those videos that show people rearranging furniture in their homes before whistling for their faithful pooches. (Pet pranks–yes, they’re a thing!)

Oh, did I mention the dogs in these videos are blind? What happens next might bring laughter, but it also makes anyone who loves animals–especially canines–cringe a bit. The pups, unaware that the couch, for example, is no longer in its predictable place, jump to the familiar perch, only to land hard upon the floor.

Perhaps I’m a little sensitive, seeing as (pun intended) we have a sweet, visually-impaired puppy who’s, more than once, run into a tree or hydrant or… (fill in the blank).

God clearly says it’s cruel to cause someone who’s blind to stumble purposefully by putting something in his or her path. (I mean, we truly do serve a merciful God!)

So maybe pranks are the thing. Perhaps they even make us laugh. But what long-term pain might they actually cause? Possibly–

  • Physical injury.
  • Fear of the future.
  • Insecurity.
  • A wounded heart–if not literally (though with some pranks, that’s possible) at least figuratively.

Sounds like God knows that pranking is unkind, and, therefore, such shenanigans serve as a quick detour away from what pleases Him (which, by the way, is called sin). Still, He allows us freedom to make choices, allowing us to be the judge of what’s too much.

***FYI–The one who’s been the butt of another’s joke or prank is likely to judge most justly.***

And maybe–just maybe–we should simply apply the age-old adage (Yes, even older than your mom and dad, dear daughter!) tucked right there in Jesus’s words–

“Here’s a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them…” (Matthew 7:12–The Message).

‘Nuf said! Because life is messy without others messing with it intentionally. Our days can sometimes downright stink, and the way before us, even with the best eyesight, is often unclear.

That’s why we need each other, friends–to have one another’s backs and to cheer each other on in life’s journey.

Next time you find yourself watching those prankster Youtube videos, ask yourself–Even though it’s not happening to me, does that make it right?

Because remember…

Just because you can’t smell it doesn’t mean it don’t stink!

Be honest. Are you one who enjoys a good prank? If so, which do you prefer–being the one who gives pranks or receives them? Why?

Dear Jesus, in all things help me be like You! Amen!