Humour can be used both for good and for ill. It can bring delight and yet it can cause damage. So we ask the question: Is it appropriate for us as Christians to use humour? Let us focus initially upon humour in the light of the character and workings of our God.
God was manifest in the flesh in our Saviour Jesus. Our Saviour lived for some thirty three years on earth and is never recorded as laughing. We do read of him weeping (see John 11:35) when he was by the grave of Lazarus. Moreover, the prophetic word concerning Him was that He was to be a man of suffering, and familiar with pain (Is. 53:3b). Having recorded these facts, what significance does it have for the manner in which we conduct our lives?
Peter writing to Christians going through suffering exhorts them by saying Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps 1 Peter 2:21. And we must not forget our fundamental calling to be disciples. This means that we are duty-bound to be learning from our Master. Jesus Christ is to be the model for our living. So when we start to ponder upon how we should conduct ourselves we should be thinking how would Christ our Lord have conducted himself in the various situations of life. Our LORD was not a joker. He was rather a man of reverent sensitivity to all people in all situations. This resulted from His awareness of the consequences of the curse which were all around Him. Lives were “messed up” by sin all around him and he could not be laughing and joking amidst such devastation. Similarly, we should be careful how we conduct ourselves amidst the desperate circumstances of many lives around us.
However, we must emphasise that our Saviour was no killjoy. He attended the wedding in Cana of Galilee and provided the best wine so as to enhance everybody’s enjoyment (see John 2:1-12). As someone has said “Do we suppose Jesus and his fellows were invited because they were wet blankets sure to dampen or sour the festivities?” We cannot think of him being a big sour-puss who delighted in being miserable. Rather, there must have been something very attractive about him, so that the little children were happy be taken up in his arms (see Mark 10:13-16). There was an attractiveness to Jesus. Without wanting to speculate too much, we can surely be led to think that Jesus had an endearing smile.
We also want to note that Jesus was the most joyful man who ever walked this planet. After all he was full of the Spirit (see John 3:34) and an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit is joy (Gal. 5:22). At one point we read: At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:21). So we do not need to be laughing and joking all the time to be full of joy. Rather joy is a far deeper experience of contentment which flows out of us having peace with our God.
So where does all this leave us as regards to this issue of humour? Should we do those things which provoke others to laugh? We need to be aware straight away that there is nothing wrong with the use of humour. Surely, when we start to ponder upon the scriptural record we start to see that the LORD working in humorous ways. Think of the donkey who spoke to Balaam (see Num. 22:21-41). And note how the ostrich is described God did not endow her with wisdom or give her a share of good sense (Job 39:17). Surely when we read and ponder on these things we are caused to raise a smile and even a chuckle. The pithy statements in Proverbs also provide us with reasons to smile on occasion. Can we but smile when we read Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion (Prov. 11:22)?
Our Lord also used humour Himself in His teaching. We so easily read over it, but the words in Matthew 7:3-5 about the beam and speck were surely humorous for those disciples who first heard them. The disciples would surely have chuckled as they thought of someone having a plank of wood in their eye. Similarly the thought of a camel going through the eye of a needle (see Matt. 19:24) would raise similarly amusing thoughts for the hearers.
We begin then to the get some sense of where humour fits in the orderings of our God. Our God is full of joy, but he is not a casual joker. When he acts and speaks humorously, it always has as its purpose to bless and to benefit. That purpose is to give potency to the message which the Lord wants to bring to people. As we chuckle the edge of the message digs into our minds and souls. Humour is never used carelessly though. Next month we plan to look at some of the details of how we should and should not use humour.
(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of June 2013)