What does the Bible say about HUMOR?

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Does God have a sense of humor? Does God LAUGH? Does God think some of the things humans do is FUNNY? How did God use humor in the Bible to teach vital eternal lessons? Was Jesus always sorrowful and serious during his ministry? On the other hand, was he sometime playful and "fun" to be around? Did he ever use colorful language, hyperbole, irony, wit or make "tongue in cheek" statements that showed he knew what it meant to be funny?

It only makes sense that since our Creator made man after himself, and we know we have a sense of humor, that God would have a sense of humor too! If we can look around us and find things funny or humorous, so can God. Those who study the Bible can become so familiar with its verses and teachings that they forget to step back and consider what they read from a different angle. We need to change our perspective of the Bible to discover the wide variety of humor found within its pages.

For example, see if you can discover the humor in one of Jesus' well-known parables he gave during one of his most well-known messages.

41. And why do you look at the sliver that is in your brother's eye, but you do not perceive the beam that is in your own eye? . . . First cast out the beam from your own eye . . . (Luke 6:41-42)

A small child reading the above verses would laugh at the idea of a man with a big wood beam in his eye trying to find a speck or sliver of wood in someone else's eye. Taken literally, these verses appear ludicrous and silly - but that's the point! Christ used a humorous, exaggerated analogy to drive home the concept that before we pick on the little faults and flaws of others we need to take a hard look at our own giant shortcomings!

Another example of Biblical humor is how God stopped a prophet from cursing the children of Israel. The story begins when King Balak, fearful of the children of Israel as they journey to the Promised Land, hires a prophet to curse them. The "prophet for hire" is named Balaam. He asks God if it is alright to curse the Israelites. God tells him not to curse his people for they are blessed. A while later Balaam asks God again if he can curse Israel. God allows him to travel to Balak with some of the king's princes. The prophet is ultimately rebuked by a donkey who was only trying to save his life (Numbers 22:21-30)!

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One of the funniest parts of this story is that Balaam shows no surprise that he is suddenly able to hold a conversation with a donkey! The Psalms tell us God is certainly able to laugh "But You, O Lord, shall laugh at them" (Psalm 59:8)

Jesus uses sarcasm

Early in his ministry Jesus called Philip to be one of his disciples. Philip then tells his friend Nathanael that he has found the person spoken about in the law and the prophets. Nathanael's sarcastic reply is the following.

"And Nathanael said to him, 'Can anything good come out of Nazareth (where Jesus grew up)? '" (John 1:46)

Philip get his friend to travel with him to see Jesus. As Jesus sees Nathanael coming his says that an Israelite is coming toward him in whom is found no deceit (verse 47)!:

Jesus, of course, knew what Nathanael said about him (verse 48). The slight sarcasm comes from the fact that Jacob's name (the father of the twelve tribes of Israel) literally means someone who is full of guile or who deceives. Jesus, in other words, is stating something like "Isn't that unusual. We have finally found a descendant of Jacob who was without guile!"

Jesus uses irony

Jesus, as he drew near the city of Caesarea Philippi, asked the disciples what did people say about him. After getting several responses he asks THEM what is their view regarding him. Peter then makes a bold reply that only God the Father could have inspired.

"He (Jesus) said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter answered and said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' Jesus answered and said to him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter (a rock) . . .'" (Matthew 16:15-18)

Just a short time after Peter is nicknamed the "rock" he attempts to correct Jesus! The response he got was swift.

"But He (Jesus) turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind Me, SATAN! . . . '" (Verse 23).

Peter's behavior was not exactly what you would expect from a "rock" of faith! Some time after this event it was Peter who, after Jesus' arrest, denied him three times after he boldly proclaimed that even if all the other disciples leave him he would not (Matthew 26:33, 35). Nevertheless, with God's help, he eventually did live up to the new name given to him by Jesus.

A playful challenge

Picture for a moment Jesus' quick conversation with a Syro-phoenician lady who interrupted his meal. Jesus blends ethnic insight with a playful-like challenge to the non-Israelite woman who kneels at his feet and who asks him for something special. The woman, instead of giving up after she was initially denied, responds with a wry answer that causes her request to be granted.

"But Jesus said to her, 'Let the children (referring to the Israelites to whom he was sent) be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs (gentiles or non-israelites).'

'Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.' (Mark 7:25-29)

Jesus, no doubt with a smile on his face, gave her what she wanted.

Good, clean humor celebrates the goodness of God. It is the key component to joy, one of the primary attributes of God's spirit within a person (Galatians 5:22-23). The Christian walk should be a joyful one. Paul told the church at Philippi what they could do to enhance their life as a Christian in this evil world.

"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble . . . meditate on these things." (Philippians 4:8)

We could also add "whatever things are humorous" to Paul's list.

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