I’m a Christian, and sometimes a teacher/preacher.
I preached the Easter Sunday sermon at ConGlomeration science fiction convention. Since Easter this year also fell on April Fools Day, I preached about humor in the Bible.
Like all things, humor has a purpose.
God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise. (1 Cor 1:27)
Joyful heart is good medicine, crushed spirit dries the bones. (Prov 17:22)
For the happy heart, life is a continual feast. (Prov 15:15)
Humor is often a natural expression of joy. We laugh when we’re happy, even without an obvious humorous stimulus.
The role of the court jester or “fool” was not only to entertain with dance, music, and comedy but also to give bad news to the ruler. In Shakespearean plays, the jester is often the voice of common sense and honesty, pointing out the follies of those in higher stations.
“Ask me the secret to telling a good joke.”
“What’s the secr–”
[There is] a time to weep, and a time to laugh. (Ecc 3:4)
Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. (Lk 6:21)
Our mouths are filled with laughter, and our tongues filled with joy, for the Lord has done great things for us. (Ps 126:2)
The godly wife is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. (Prov 31:25)
Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice! (Ps 32:11)
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. (Phil 4:4)
For a long time, Philippians 4:4 was my favorite verse (and at times it still is), since I would occasionally suffer from depression. Paul wanted us to carry God’s joy so much that he said it twice in the same verse!
All things come from somewhere. Humor comes from our minds and our hearts.
Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. (Lk 6:45)
A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit. (Prov 15:13)
He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. (Job 8:21)
If the joy of the Lord is in us, joy should be coming out of us.
You’re Doing It Wrong
In my teenage years, I used to swear a lot. Then I got a job on the radio. That’ll clear up your language in a hurry! Since then, I’ve never had a real cause to go back to vulgarity. There’s rarely a real reason. If I hit my thumb with a hammer, I say “Ow!” If I feel the need to add “colorful metaphors” (as Spock would say), I often tilt it toward comedy, and use Yosemite Sam’s “rassin’ frassin’.”
Let there be no filthiness, foolish talk, nor crude joking, which are out of place; but rather thanksgiving. (Eph 5:4)
Let your speech always be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Col 4:6)
Even in laughter the heart may ache, and rejoicing may end in grief. (Prov 14:13)
Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!” (Prov 26:18)
There’s an old saying that there’s a little truth in every joke. I know a lot of people who tell jokes that belittle a group of people. It could be based on race, gender, nationality, or any other group. I don’t generally go for the “us versus them” kind of humor, where the same bad joke could be told about anyone just by swapping out who the target group is. We can’t tell a racist, sexist, or (fill-in-the-blank)-ist joke unless those feelings are somewhere inside us.
There are example of humor throughout the Bible.
Elijah challenged the priests of Baal to a divine showdown. His God (Yahweh) and their god (Baal) would try to set fire to a pile of wood. Baal’s people spent hours loudly praying, dancing, cutting themselves, and otherwise trying to call on their god to burn the wood. Elijah trash talked them.
Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” (1 Kings 18:27)
Maybe your god is taking a dump. Potty humor, right there.
Balaam was a pagan priest who was hired to curse God’s people. An angel (that he couldn’t see) stood in his donkey’s path. Balaam whipped his animal, trying to get it to move, then God gave the donkey the ability to speak.
The Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, to say, “What have I done to you, to make you have strike me three times?”
Balaam shouted, “You made me look like a fool!” (Num 22:28-29)
Balaam’s response wasn’t “Holy cow, a talking donkey!” or anything of that sort. He immediately fell into arguing with this talking beast, and accusing it of making him look like a fool.
This unlikely situation could fit perfectly into a sitcom or Charlie Chaplin movie.
Peter was in prison, so the church was praying for him. An angel of the Lord appeared, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. He went to the house and Peter knocked, and Rhoda came to the door. She was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it. (Acts 12:5,7,12-14)
“Hey, open the door! Let me in!” *knock*knock*
Jokes from Jesus
Humor in the Jewish culture at the time was largely based on exaggeration.
Here are some bits that Jesus threw into his speeches:
- a camel in the eye of a needle (Mk 10:25)
- a plank in a person’s eye (Mt 7:3)
- the blind leading the blind into a hole (Mt 15:14)
- giving a son a snake instead of a fish (Lk 11:11)
- putting pearls on pigs (Mt 7:6)
- being born a second time (Jn 3:3)
- forgiving seventy times seven (Mt 18:22)
- nicknaming flaky Simon a rock (Mt 16:18)
The Last Laugh
The wicked may seem to benefit for a while, here on Earth, but their time is limited.
But the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. (Ps 37:13)
He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. (Ps 2:4)
God himself laughs at the wicked, for He knows that they will pay for their sins.
Henny Youngman used to say, “I used to be an atheist, but I gave it up since they have no holidays.” As a former atheist myself, I can relate.
A friend of mine pointed out that atheists technically do have a holiday:
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Ps 14:1)
He who trusts his own mind is foolish, but he who walks in wisdom is safe. (Prov 28:26)
Atheists are fools, so April 1 is a day that we can reserve for them.
This gives Jesus’ words in Matthew on a more serious meaning:
Anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Mt 5:22)
Calling someone a fool in this context is the equivalent of telling them to go to hell.
Condemning people is not our job. That position has already been filled. There is no vacancy there.
You can download the PowerPoint slides here.