Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A rabbi, a priest, and a minister walk into a blog . . .
I like to make people laugh; God has gifted me with mediocre wit and a good sense of timing. Most people think I’m decently humorous (aside from one of my sons, who, when he was eight or so, told me, “Mom, you should try to be funnier.” Duly noted, kid . . . someday you’ll get me). Humor has helped me in many situations—to break the ice, to make connections with people, to add some levity to tough times and lift the mood of a room. But it’s also gotten me into trouble, like when I’ve spoken too quickly and offended someone for the sake of a laugh or when people take my written words too seriously because I’ve failed to include that little winky-faced emoji.
It begs the question: What is the role of humor and laughter in our lives as Christians? When is it good and holy, and when is it . . . not?
Here’s what I know:
1. Laughter is a gift from God. How can it not be? Belly laughs happen. Comical situations happen. Spontaneous joy happens. God reminds us time and again in the Bible that laughter and rejoicing are gifts to be used and enjoyed to the fullest. He doesn’t want us to be Debbie Downers. In fact, we read in Proverbs 17:22 that “a cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” A Christian without joy isn’t really a great poster child for the kingdom of God. The fact that we can laugh and remain joyful shows people an important thing—that we are not buried under the woes and sadness of this world and that we have hope in a heaven where our joy knows no bounds.
2. Humor can bind or divide. Humor can be very hospitable; it can open doors and spark connections. It can bind people together over shared experiences and deepen the bonds of friends and family. But it can also divide people if there is derisive or mocking laughter at someone’s expense. Sarcasm, which comes from a Greek word meaning “to tear flesh,” is not able to build people up the way that Christ wants us to build up the church and, therefore, has no place in our ministry. The key is knowing when humor will help a situation and welcome people in and when humor will harm. It can be hard to pass up the laugh, but it’s not worth it if we’re going to cause pain and drive someone away from the love of Jesus.
3. Timing is everything. I was recently at the funeral of a family member who, by our human thoughts, was taken away from us too soon. There were questions and regrets and tears. But there was also Jesus, and because of Jesus, there was blessed laughter. After the funeral when we gathered for food and drinks, memories were shared and laughter could be heard echoing through the family homestead. We celebrated his life the way he lived it, with joy and jokes. This laughter was a healing balm from God, our Great Physician. Ecclesiastes 3 tells us: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die . . . a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (verses 1,2,4). There are certainly times in our lives when weeping and mourning are appropriate and necessary for healing and growth. There are times in our lives when we need to feel remorse so we can be led back to our Savior, and some things shouldn’t be covered over with a layer of laughter. Sin is serious, and our walk with God should be taken seriously; however, as oxymoronic as it sounds, our joy should also be taken seriously. When the timing is right, we can and should laugh in the joy of the Lord.
4. Laughter is delighted humility. Something amazing happens when we realize we are not running the show and we surrender our entire lives to God with a chuckle. When we are humbled—like that time I had to carry a puking child out of a classical music venue while another kid puked in the wastebasket in the aisle—we can either break down in tears or break out in laughter. What would life be like if we couldn’t find humor in things like our kids or this weather or the fact that we keep tripping over the same step that hasn’t moved in years? When we reflect on and laugh at our own humanness, we truly realize how big our God is. When we’re filled with a deeper joy and trust in God, we can, like the iconic Proverbs 31 woman, laugh at the days to come, knowing that God’s got this.
“Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The LORD has done great things for them.’ The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” (Psalm 126:2,3).
Missy lives in Green Bay, WI, with her husband, Jon, where they own and run Copper State Brewing Company. She homeschools their four active children, oftentimes at the brewery, and they somehow keep learning in spite of her. Missy loves witty banter, adventures of all sorts, and coffee . . . lots of coffee. And Jesus . . . lots of Jesus.
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