I’m amazed at how many Christians think that humor is inappropriate and that Jesus was mostly a man of sorrows. I read an online Relevant Magazine article by James Martin, S.J., entitled “Jesus Was Funnier Than We Think.” I loved it, and so did many others, but some of the reader comments had me scratching my head.
One said that there’s nothing funny at all about Jesus, that humor and joy aren’t related. Others said that because there’s no Scripture that specifically states, “Jesus had a sense of humor,” it’s a stretch of truth to suppose that he did. Roman oppression was just too serious and Jesus had his hands full taking on the sins of the world. Apparently, he couldn’t even crack a smile.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think Jesus did stand-up schtick, but he definitely did use tongue-in-cheek wit and sarcasm regularly. Some of it was aimed at the often-obtuse disciples, but most of it was aimed at the Pharisees.
Be of Good Cheer
I guess it all depends on one’s definition of funny and humorous, and how it relates to joy, laughter, and song. I’ve read of some Christians leaving a church that was too happy and not teaching the serious issues, which I can understand. We want a strong God who can relate to and handle the tough side of life.
But we badly need a God who can relate to and encourage the bright side of life, too. An angry, vengeful God who only knows suffering is, I think, a soul-killing vision of the God whose own heart delights in many things. The point of the Christian life on Earth is to overcome darkness with light, grief with comfort, blindness with vision, and anxiety with peace even in the midst of trouble.
Jesus did exactly that. He remained calm in the face of bombastic, rattled personalities; and I think a robust sense of humor is a vital component of his personality that enabled him to do it. So, if we’re walking closely with him, some of it should rub off onto us.
“But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Jhn. 16:33) For what it’s worth, my reader comment on the article was this:
Oh, if only the church could just be more like God and lighten up a bit!
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mat. 11:28-30)
The people in Jesus’ day were more oppressed by Pharisees than Romans. That’s what people needed relief from. The Pharisees were highly offended by Jesus; the Roman government wasn’t. Pharisees persecuted Jesus; Pilate wanted to let him go.
Jesus’ message was that a kingdom different from the Pharisee regime was available, but “unless you exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees,” you can’t enter it. (Mat. 5:20)
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” (Mat. 23:15)
Overall, Jesus’ mission was (and is) to save people from a burdensome, humorless lifestyle of religious chores and rule-following by showing them how to live a life full of joyful character, easy-going wit, and love.
There are too many puns, figures of speech, sarcasm, and clever plays on words by Jesus to think he had no sense of humor. It’s a shame that so many people miss it! Straining out gnats to swallow the camel, wolves in sheep’s clothing, and whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones are only a fraction of the original expressions he came up with to describe the woeful life of a religious “expert.”
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (Jhn. 10:10)
What about you? Do you perceive humor as too care-free, slap-stick stupid, or maybe even disrespectful for Christians? Given the great suffering in the world, is it appropriate to embrace laughter?