The typical Christians’ ability to get a joke is a good indicator why there are no jokes in the Bible.
One entertaining thing about doing an anonymous Christian humor account on Twitter is the number of people who take me seriously. A quick glance at my timeline would demonstrate to people that I’m just making dumb jokes and an occasional point.
Yet the number of people who feel a need to correct my terrible (supposed to be kind of funny) take on pastoring, church, and Christians is quite large.
But non-humorous Christians are not just on Twitter; they are everywhere Christians are. Routinely I make jokes in my sermons. Very few jokes get a response. Maybe I’m not that funny, or maybe they’re all sleeping.
Several times people have taken issue with my sermon jokes. I said “shut up” one time in a joking manner in one of my illustrations. A family expressed their displeasure with me using that phrase and left the church not long after.
I made a joke one time about my son doing some dumb thing and how I wanted to kill him. My larger point was about the Gospel. My son might do something so bad I’d feel like killing him, but never would I feel like killing my son for a sin some other person did. I thought it was an insightful point about the Gospel. I was later lectured about promoting child abuse. These people left the church not long after as well.
On and on it goes. People need to lighten up. Here are a few quotes from G. K. Chesterton on the issue of humor and Christianity.
“The man who takes everything seriously is the man who makes an idol of everything: he bows down to wood and stone until his limbs are as rooted as the roots of the tree or his head as fallen as the stone sunken by the roadside.”
“I do not like seriousness. I think it is irreligious. Or, if you prefer the phrase, it is the fashion of all false religions.”
“There is no limit to the lunacy of men when they think themselves superior both to laughter and humility.”
Now, you may disagree with his points. Many people think jokes are not fit for the pulpit or for Christians. Many quote Ephesians 5:4:
“Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.”
I agree there are limits and there are lines that can be crossed, perhaps I did with my above jokes that offended people. Paul says to avoid these things when “inconvenient,” which might imply, work with me here, that there is a convenient and appropriate time for a joke.
But I think humor has a place. Some people have a natural sense of humor that even if they tried it’s not going away. I’m one of those people. I can’t help it. Trust me, I’ve gotten better muting jokes that pop into my head, but there are times it just comes out. Not everyone has this struggle because not everyone is funny.
That’s why we’re supposed to act with humility and grace toward each other. Humorless people need to graciously put up with people who say OK things, even if not the way you would say it. Humorous people need to treat humorless people with grace when they misinterpret or don’t get our jokes.
Humility and grace are needed for all human interaction and I doubt the humor issue is an exception. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Think things through before over-reacting one way or the other. Be sensible to what others like and are offended by. Study Romans 14 and use humor in a way that does not cause your brother to stumble. And be humorless in a way that does not cause your brother to stumble either!
But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.