by Kim Fields
One morning I was thinking about something I read in John, and it occurred to me that I couldn’t think of any stories with Jesus laughing. I thought there had to be a couple… right? You can’t be human for 33 year and not have some good laughs. I bet Jesus had a pretty good sense of humor, plus he traveled with 12 other guys and you know that had to bring out a few good laughs. Knowing what he knew and seeing God’s work throughout the world had to make Him a pretty cheerful person. But I also remembered the last verses of John . He wrote that there was much more Jesus did, that he only wrote down enough for us to believe.
I could have stopped that train of thought there for the day but I did wish there was a few more examples of Jesus laughing in the bible. So I spent the next couple of days finding some interesting things online about laughing and humor in the Bible, enough that I wanted to write it down. I formed some of my own ideas and I agreed and disagreed with many of the things I’ve read on this subject. I’ve tried to write this out to show truth. I don’t believe I am far enough along in my knowledge of God to stray very far from Doctrine, from the absolute truths of the Bible, and teach Theology, but I know that there is going to be some theory in my message today. But like Lowell says, please don’t take me on my word alone, check up on me, and I will pray that even if I don’t get this just right the Holy Spirit will only let you hear what needs to be heard.
Laughter by definition - is to show emotion by a series of spontaneous unarticulated sounds often with corresponding facial and bodily movements. It is to find amusement or pleasure in something. My favorite being – To influence or to move by laughter.
Laughter is based in humor meaning “Liquid, fluid” and “a capacity to appreciate or understand”.
The word “laugh,” in its various forms, is given thirty-eight times in the Bible. Sometimes laughter is right and sometime it’s wrong. Sometimes it is a fool who is laughing. Sometimes it is God Himself. There four kinds of laughter mentioned in the Bible. There is laughter of disbelief, Laughter of fools, Laughter of God, and Laughter of salvation.
I focused more on the laughter of the Saved and broke that down even further in my own curiosity. I wrote out a little bit on The Holiness of Laughter, Jesus’ Sense of Humor, Fellowship with other Christians, and Humor with Humility
Holiness of Laughter
Scientists report that the average child laughs 200 times a day. The average adult: only 18. (but then kids also cry more too) Somewhere along the way, we lost a big part of our sense of humor, we found a middle ground with our emotions…I’m sure the goal was to cry less, I have found myself telling Sam to stop crying over silly things like not having the pink hair tie, or being last in the race with her sisters to get dressed the fastest… So why do children laugh so much? I think the world still amazes them, and the don’t feel self conscious about showing it. That’s one of the reasons we love children so much, because they remind us of the small miracles everyday brings us. We take ourselves so seriously that we don’t have time to laugh at things. We get so wrapped up in our own affairs that we forget that God is God and we’re not in control. Ultimately as we grow up and learn more about life we tend to laugh less. I believe this is a religiously significant fact. And a cause for concern. In losing the ability to freely laugh and laugh often, we lose one of our most important spiritual tools.
Children have no problem taking God seriously, to see that he is in control and to enjoy the small gifts he gives us daily, which is why Jesus said you need the faith of a child.
Reinhold Niebuhr, a Theologian wrote that ” Humor is, in fact, a prelude to faith, and that laughter is the beginning of prayer.”
Reinhold said that it is our sense of the absurd that can lead us to trust God. The same human ability that enables us to laugh at an arrogant and proud man slipping on a banana peel is what can open us up to faith. We laugh at the contrast between his arrogance and false dignity on the one hand, and the humiliation and indignity of his fall on the other. That kind of humor can serve us very well in the everyday of our lives. It helps us to stand outside of ourselves and not take ourselves too seriously (pride). It can help us avoid the pretense and the “fakieness” we see in others. If you have ever had a day in which everything was going wrong, and you were able, finally, to laugh at it all—at the inconsistency of what you want and what you are actually getting—then you know what Reinhold means here.
We see God’s laughter in the bible when he gets to surprise us……to do something contrary and have it turn out great (for example Sarah and Abraham). It’s our ability to see the inconsistencies around us that allows us to truly see that the possibilities are endless and nothing is too hard for God, despite the odds.
I came across a great Christian slogan that sums that up nicely “I’m not okay, You’re not okay, But it’s okay!”
In addition to helping us manage incongruity, a sense of humor is also a precondition to holiness. Holiness is about our spiritual discovery and discovery of our true selves. For those discoveries to happen, it is necessary to get out of the way, to loosen our grip, to lessen our need to control, and to let God be God. A sense of humor helps the lifelong transformation process because it encourages us not to take ourselves too seriously. Taking ourselves too seriously deals a lethal blow to holiness.
There is no question that we are not in charge. We need to let go of Control, and surrender. Holding onto preconceptions and “the way we always did it” needs to be relaxed.
Humor lets us be free. It lets us see things differently and lets us, let go of our daily troubles and concerns and helps us change our perceptions to truly hear what God is often telling us.
Laughter frees up our behavior, giving us opportunities for creativity. Like prayer, humor and laughter helps us deal with surprises that upset the way we think our lives should be going. Paul’s first letter to the people of Corinth says that “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise and the weak things to confound the strong” (1 Cor 1:27-28). That kind of paradox points out the creativity possible through Laughter. When we are able to laugh at the things that confound us then we can see a new approach to our “problems”. Quite simply, in laughter, freedom and spontaneity is found, enjoyed and used to get closer to God. You can’t tell me that you don’t believe that when we laugh, God laughs. Just picture yourself not laughing when your own kids are laughing hysterically. No way you don’t laugh, and the result is you end up connecting with them in the process. I think it must be much the same way with us and God. When we laugh with God we get to truly connect with him.
Jesus’ Sense of Humor
Jesus must have tried to get that connection across in a lot of his stories but the subtle laughter and humor doesn’t translate very easy over 2000 years and countless language translations.
Have you ever heard a joke and didn’t get it? Have you told a story only to have it fall flat, so you say “I guess you had to be there to get it” Do you think that is how Jesus must feel has we study the Bible? I think years of hearing parables and studying scriptures takes some of the interest and fun out of the telling. Don’t get me wrong studying is never bad and is often relaxing and eye opening in your daily lives. I’m just saying we look for the holiness in the scriptures and end up missing out on the human Jesus was, the complete picture of who it is we strive to be like. God made man into the image of himself. If we are like God, and we are the only creature to claim that likeness, and we are the only creature to uniquely and joyfully laugh, than that goes to show you that God is the God of laughter, of humor, of allowing our spirits to openly and freely rejoice. I agree with something I read once , it stated “that if Jesus was both God and Human, then he had the gift of laughter and a sense of humor in a greater proportion then any other person who has ever lived”. So why don’t we see this more in the scriptures?? I think we do but we missed the joke. And of course a lot was omitted because as John said we were told just enough. We didn’t really need to hear about the time the guys were sitting around the campfire and they got into a burping contest, and Jesus said that reminds me of the time my Father burped and created a Globular star cluster. It would have been cool and funny…but not necessary.
What is there, is pretty funny if you let yourself read it through the eyes of someone that is free of preconceived ideas, expectations, and plans. Basically read the bible with the eyes of a child. Actually picture a 5 year old and what their reactions would be and read a few stories in the bible. I tried that and my girls and they thought the weirdest things were funny. The guy walking around with a plank in his eye got questions like “how would it fit?! and could he even see the other guy?” Then I got a funny show of the girls walking around like zombies with a board on their heads. The story of the disciples speaking in tongues got the most laughs and the most debate on how weird or cool it would be to talk differently all of a sudden “just because God said so”
Then we have my favorite kind of humor…irony. I think that is the easiest to pick up on. Jesus used irony on a regular basis to point out how silly we all are for not seeing the obvious. Like building our house on sand…obvious, right…nope we still do it. Or the plank in our eyes…obvious solution…nope we still avoid self examination.
Laughter with Humility (pride)
Which actually points out our sin of pride. I think most of us like to hold onto that particular “plank”. Pride often gets in our way along our journey with Christ, and laughter goes along way in giving us humility. When we take the time to examine ourselves we take out the arrogance, pompous pride, and self absorption. Now we don’t want to get too serious in this self discovery, we want to come at it with a bit of humor. Humility and humor are interconnected. A sense of humor, like a true sense of humility, involves ruthless honesty about who we are. What can happen, of course, is to become too grave, and to deal with God with excessive formality, and take our relationship with God so serious that we miss the big picture. When really the opposite route is more direct and fulfilling. With God’s grace and humor we can face ourselves with a little bit of laughter and lightness so that we can more easily listen to the plan God has for each of us. We get to a point where we stop thinking so much about things we can’t change and we become humble enough to accept that we are not in control. …Now I can get more into humility, because trust me there was a lot of interesting points I came across, but for point of this message I’ll try to stick with the humor point.
Our sense of humor, the jokes and stories we tell, can help us big time in becoming more Christ like and humble or it won’t. It depends on how we use it. Do we use it to hurt others, by pointing out others faults, or do we use it to see our own faults and laugh at ourselves. Do we make others uncomfortable with a racist story or do we search for wisdom and laugh at the inconsistencies in life, letting others see the laughing God, the God with a sense of humor so great he made an animal like the giraffe, or toddlers of any species, and my favorite Fathers of daughters. I dare you to try to find something funnier then a Dad working his way through that mine field! Just look at my husband, he is great with the Girls but it takes a great ability to laugh at yourself (or humility) to play some of the games the Girls drag him into. Once I think he even forgot and wore nail polish to work once. Yep you can’t be arrogant with pink nail polish. Now can’t you see Jesus winking at you and joining in the on the fun.
Fellowship with other Christians
Jesus liked to join in on the fun. The Pharisees were annoyed by his fellowship with others. How dare he eat, drink, and go to dinner parties when he was said to be a prophet. He should be holy and apart. Wrong. We have you ever gone to a weekend retreat and not laugh, joke, and come closer to God because of it? We wouldn’t want to be too serious with our religion, thats when politics start jumping into it. A scholar once said “Seriousness implies gravity, gravity is the force that pulls all things to the center. It is what keeps us from flying. It is the opposite of levity, which is the force that raises things and makes them light. Religion is supposed to free the spirit from gravity, raise it, lighten our loads, and enlighten out minds.” We lose out if we let in too much gravity. An even better quote by writer Anne Lamott says “Laughter is like carbonated holiness. Like a can of soda pop, it’s bubbly and fizzy and sometimes spills over.”
A great example of laughing in fellowship to help spread the Word is the story about The 3 Laughing Monks. These monks were from China and they only ever did one thing: on entering a new village, they would stand in the market place and start laughing. They would laugh with their whole being (mind, body, heart, and soul) and suddenly people would wake up to the Life and Kingdom of God that surrounded them. A crowd would soon gather and everyone would start laughing because of these three crazy monks. Eventually, the whole town would get involved and be alive to joy. Then with out saying a word the monks would move on to another town.
See they didn’t have to say anything. It was enough that the people knew they were Christians and they were able to reach thousands of people just by letting the joy of the holy spirit move through them.
In other words fellowship with other Christians is truly and wonderfully effective when we laugh together, when we are comfortable and humble enough with who we are to truly relax and realize we are together saved by grace and will enter heaven laughing with eternal joy. Laughter in the body of Christ also gives us a graceful way out of a situation. We all have opinions and you can bet that we will clash with each other through out our lives but God gave us the ability to laugh at ourselves. A sense of humor helps us step back from our conviction that we must be right, and it does it in a way we can accept far easier then anything else I’ve come across. If You can’t tell, I’m speaking from experience on this one. I’m probably one of the most stubborn people in here, but Logan taught me pretty early in our relationship that stubbornness doesn’t hold up very long when you start laughing. Although I might still want to be right, laughter gives me perspective and it often points out that I really don’t need to take myself that seriously. It lets me ease out of the corner I often back myself into.
Raymond Moody said. “Laughter is fundamentally an act of celebrating existence. Laughter is an expression both of enjoyment and of thanksgiving.”
So keep that in mind the next time you laugh, the next time you are unsure about how to spread the exciting and unbelievable good news of Christ, Because if nothing else you can at least show others the great joy knowing God has brought you.
To sum it up
(1) Retrain the yourself to look for holy humor. It has possibilities in everywhere
(2) Spend time with people who have a sense of humor. Their perspective will be contagious. Spend time with people who know how to laugh at themselves.
(3) Don’t forget the alliance between laughter and communication with God.
(4) Use laughter to ease the stress of feeling on the defensive.
(5) Practice laughing. Why not? Would you feel weird laughing for no reason? Then give yourself a reason, it loosens you up and lightens your heart. Look for occasions to laugh and then do it, even if it takes a little push.
(6) The last suggestion may be the most important of all: Look for humor in the Scriptures. We often overlook the humor because of what we might already “know” to be true. Be prepared to be surprised. Relax. Loosen the controls. Read the Bible, be open to the possibilities. God is laughter, lightness, freedom, spontaneity, and joy!
I came across this prayer, which I think is a perfect close to this message. It was labeled the clowns prayer.
“Lord, as I stumble through this life, help me to create more laughter than tears, dispense more happiness than gloom, spread more cheer than despair. Never let me become so indifferent that I will fail to see the wonder in the eyes of a child or the twinkle in the eyes of the aged. Never let me forget that my total effort is to cheer people, make them happy, and forget, at least for the moment, all the unpleasant things in their lives. And, Lord in my final moment, may I hear you whisper: “When you made My people smile, you made Me smile.”