Proverbs 26:19

ESV is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!”
NIV is one who deceives their neighbor and says, 'I was only joking!'
NASB So is a person who deceives his neighbor, And says, 'Was I not joking?'
CSB so is the person who deceives his neighbor and says, "I was only joking! "
NLT is someone who lies to a friend and then says, 'I was only joking.'
KJV So is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?

What does Proverbs 26:19 mean?

This completes a lesson begun in the prior verse (Proverbs 26:18). Solomon (Proverbs 25:1) depicted someone insane and out of control, launching flaming arrows in every direction. Whether or not that person intends to cause harm makes no difference. What they do is still dangerous and will harm others. The modern world is full of similar attempts to avoid accountability: "I was drunk…I was angry…I didn't realize…" In a modern context, we might picture someone firing a gun in random directions. Telling an unfortunate victim "I didn't shoot you on purpose" doesn't take away their injury.

In the same way, lies cannot be excused by claiming "I didn't mean it," or suggesting it was a joke. Whether someone is sincere or not, their words can harm others. That's true whether the falsehood is deliberate (Exodus 20:16; 1 Timothy 4:2), or the result of hasty judgment (Proverbs 18:13, 17; John 7:24). Why someone spoke false words is irrelevant to the damage those words can do. Claiming one was not serious is no excuse, at all (Matthew 12:36–37). Guarding our speech can be exceedingly difficult (James 3:2–5), but it's a crucial part of spiritual maturity. It's also part of following the example of Christ (John 14:6), who did not speak dishonestly (1 Peter 2:22).
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