We thought yesterday (see here) about the nature of humour in the context of who Our God is and what He does. We want now to give consideration some of the details about how we use humour.
It is good to commence by placing before us three reminders of what the driving forces are for our life as believers in Christ:
- All should be done for the pleasure of the LORD. Romans 12 picks up on the sacrificial imagery from the Old Testaments and says that our lives should be holy and pleasing to God (1b). Often when dealing with the offerings to the LORD in Leviticus and Numbers, 25 times in fact in the NIV, the phrase “an aroma pleasing to the LORD” is connected with them. Similarly in all things our lives should continually give off an aroma pleasing to the LORD.
- All should be done for edification. Paul says to the Ephesian Christians. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up (Eph. 4:29a)
- All should be done out of love. “Do everything in love” is what Paul enjoins the Corinthian Christians to do and so should we.
We have then established three pointers to guide us in respect of our displaying of humour. When interacting with someone, let us think: Is this pleasing to the LORD; does this build them and others up; and am I doing this out of love?.
These things are helpful for us to have in out minds for we need to remember that when we are dealing with humour we are dealing with something that can be either a force for good or for evil. We should never use humour as a weapon to beat someone with.
As regards to the love element, we need to examine our hearts about why we are using this jest or humour. Is it because I want the best for this person or is there bitterness, or even arrogance motivating me? Love fences in our Christian freedom so that our liberty does not damage others unnecessarily. To use humour in a wholesome way out of a heart of love brings delight into a situation. To use humour for malicious purposes is disgraceful for a Christian.
We need, also, to be very aware about how our humour will be received. Everyone is different. We come from different backgrounds and different cultures. Something which you may feel is an innocuous jest can potentially cause great offence to someone else. We need also to remind ourselves here, that every culture can be guilty of stereotyping those from other cultures. Just because the humour in another culture does not operate in the same way as humour does in your culture, does not mean that the other culture does not appreciate humour. It is grossly offensive to categorize others from a culture different to our own in this way.
Furthermore, we need to be aware of the particular situation someone finds themselves in. It may be completely inappropriate to use humour at a certain time with a certain person because of the difficulties they are passing through at that time. Love makes us aware of these things. Such humour may be appropriate even beneficial at another time. Love makes us sensitive to situations.
We need to remember that there are some things which are not to be joked about. We live in an age where the sacred is very often mocked by comedians and others around us. We are to shun such things. To joke about our God is reprehensible. To jest about the ways of our God and in particular His purposes of grace in Christ Jesus is surely a work of darkness. And Paul says: “we put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light (Rom. 13:12b). In this light let us be careful about how we speak of the contents of scripture. Remember it is the LORD’s holy Word and we should not speak lightly of His truth.
One user of humour who is particularly condemned in the scripture is the mocker. He is manifest in the Proverbs. He is someone who scoffs at, scorns and jokes about what should never be subject to such treatment. They pour forth their mockery on what is holy and good and is precious to God. Such should never be seen among us.
Paul speaks about how careful we need to be in the realm of humour when he says But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving (Eph. 5:3-4). We are in world where these things are common place. But let us reject the world’s way and seek purity in Christ for God’s glory.
Let us remember as we draw to a close of this study of humour to go back to our Saviour. We saw the nature of His life to be one which was very much aware of the grievous implications of sin in the lives of the people around him. If you are laughing and joking all the time then you are not emulating the conduct of your Saviour. Moreover you are undermining your ministry of helpfulness to others. For surely the love of Christ constrains us to desire to help others. If others are in need and think that you are likely just to crack a joke when you approach them then they are not very likely to approach you for help.
Let us not forget, though, that there is truly a time to use humour. It can bring brightness into our lives. Medically as well it is proven that laughter can improve our well-being. And as Solomon observes a part of life is that of laughter as well as mourning (see Ecl.:3aa). Let us consecrate our humour to the LORD that out of love we might edify others and all might be pleasing to the LORD.
Taken (and adapted) from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of July 2013.