Elton Trueblood, the noted and often quoted 20th-century theologian and author of 33 books on very serious subjects once wrote a book entitled “The Humor of Christ.”
It is said that Trueblood was inspired to write on the topic after reading Jesus’ words about a log protruding out of the eye of a hypocrite that made his four-year-old laugh. (Matt 7:3-5)
Jesus often used humor, dry wit, and satire in making his points. The idea of a camel going through the eye of a needle was an amusing way to make a serious point about one’s attitude toward wealth (Lk 18:25).
The prophet Isaiah employed humor while poking fun at the folly of idolatry (Isa 40:18-20; 41:5-7; 44:9-20).
Several times the Psalmist pictures God derisively laughing from the heavens at the foolishness of those who oppose Him. His will. And His Word. (Ps. 2:4; 37:12-13; 59:8.
Much of the humor in the Bible is subtle. And often hidden in the language differences. But there is humor found in irony, sarcasm, word-play, exaggeration, hyperbole, imagery and funny situations.
The book of Proverbs has some expressions that will bring a smile to your face. “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion” (Prov 11:22). What a visual description.
Suppose Solomon had a fight with one of his wives when he wrote, “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife” (21:9).
Of how about the lazy fellow who shuns going to work, “The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside; I will be killed in the streets!” (Prov 22:13).
How funny is it that God spoke to Balaam through the mouth of a donkey? Can’t you hear God laughing at Balaam’s surprised look?
While not humorous to the Egyptians, it is amusing to see how God showed His power over the Egyptian gods with the plague of jumping frogs overrunning the land from their bedrooms,to their kitchens, to the palace of Pharoah.
Humor can be effectively used in teaching and preaching to make serious points. G. K. Chesterton expressed it this way, “Humor can get in under the door while seriousness is still fumbling at the handle.” However, I’m reminded of the humorless, sour sister who chided her preacher for telling a joke in the pulpit. The preacher opined that God had a sense of humor. “How do you know that? She demanded. “Well,” said the Preacher, “He made you, didn’t He?”
And don’t forget the giraffe. The octopus. And the duck-billed platypus. I can imagine God smiling, or even chuckling, after creating the wide variety of animals.
“A day without laughter is a day wasted,” once said the late Charlie Chaplin. “Life’s better when you’re laughing,” suggested another humorist. Indeed the wise man was right, “For the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast” (Prov. 15:15).
The Preacher in his famous section of Ecclesiastes wrote: “To everything, there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven.” Included in his life’s observations is “a time to laugh.” (Eccl. 3:1, 4).
While we live in troublesome times that try our souls, let’s not lose our sense of humor. Or the joy of our faith. Let us “Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! (Ps 100:2).
Are you downcast, discouraged and disheartened? The Bible prescription is some humor in your life. “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman