In the Bible, weeping and mourning is often mentioned. Joy and gladness are also mentioned, but never humor. Jesus wept, but I never see an occasion where Jesus laughed. What do you think of humor in regards to the Bible?
Your question is a good challenge. It is true that the Bible doesn’t say that the Lord Jesus ever laughed. He had little reason to laugh. As the God-man He perfectly understood every thought and need of those around Him. The world for the Lord Jesus was like a hospital ward with dying, suffering people on the one hand and a war-zone of rebellion, disdain and unbelief on the other hand. Besides the prophet wrote that “He was afflicted, smitten of God” and Matthew added, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.” (Matt. 8:17) There are people who have gone through such terrible ordeals that they have never been able to laugh again. The Lord Jesus walked with so many sad and grievous things on His mind that it would have tempered His emotional mood so that laughing was probably not something He would even have felt like doing.
That doesn’t mean of course that the Lord Jesus never laughed or smiled. From the Scripture’s description you can notice that even children were never afraid to be near Him. To me that means that He was lovely in His dealings, no doubt greeted them or looked at them with a smile of friendliness and inner joy.
Moving to our life, aren’t there thousands of reasons to smile? God surrounds us with His mercies every day in so many ways and a sour look isn’t something we should ever have on our faces! It would be an offense to look like that when you are receiving a constant flow of gifts of mercies and grace. Personally I can’t stand those grim faces of those who greet the day with growl or a sour look. Besides, God commands us “to be kind one to another” (Eph. 4:32) and one way to communicate kindness is with a smile.
Now let’s think about your question about humor. Humor I define as something that brings laughter and relaxation. Some people have the ability to say something in such a way that you feel like smiling or laughing in response. It is the ability to make a point in an entertaining way. It can be used to break the ice (relieve an uncomfortable tension), or to lift someone’s spirit,
Humor isn’t simply telling jokes. Humor can be constructive or useful even. Children sometimes can say something in a humorous way that brings pleasure or a good laugh. A father can use humor to make a point never to be forgotten. I read once a story of a father who served his children some very special “brownies.” After a discussion that it was ridiculous rule not to watch certain movies because most of it was good and only here and there was something offensive, the father delayed the final resolution. He prepared some “brownies” for the children. Besides the regular ingredients he added a bit of dog poop. Before he served them he told his children, “I have made these special brownies for you tonight. I have used the freshest eggs, fine sugar, good quality white flour, sea-salt and cocoa. However, there is one ingredient that is not the best quality. I added some dog-poop.” None of the children even touched the brownies!
Such use of humor I think is very legitimate and useful. Looking through the book of Proverbs, in which more is said about the use of tongue than in any other book, I came across the following verse.
Prov. 12:18 There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health
Prov. 12:25 Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad.
Prov. 14:13 Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful: and in the end of that mirth is heaviness.
Prov. 15:23 A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!
Prov. 15:30 The light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart;
Prov. 16:24 Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.
Prov. 17:22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
Eccl. 3:4 A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.
When you review these verses, it must be clear that God doesn’t condemn laughing, joy, cheerfulness or fun. He built into His creation various components that are there simply for our joy. How wonderful He created our taste buds, colors and eyes to enjoy it, wonderful vistas in nature and even the joy of marriage life! All these things were created to give us various pleasures of enjoyment. Why did God create us with the muscle ability to produce a smile? In order to use to His glory and to serve our neighbor!
Likewise, the ability to add in your speech some humorous expression to bring a smile or lift a down cast heart is to be used for that end. Not to bring attention upon ourselves but to love our neighbor as ourselves. In Prov. 14:13 I was struck with the word “that” in the phrase “the end of that mirth is heaviness.” That means that there is a mirth (joy, fun, happiness) that is not heaviness. Good and clear humor fits into that category.
Yet Prov. 26:18-19 gives a caution against the inappropriate use of humor, As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death, so is the man that deceiveth his neighbor and saith, “Am not I in sport?” How often doesn’t it occur that someone has to respond with, “Oh, I was just joking!” Their use of “humor or jokes” obviously went too far. Aren’t we all guilty of that?
Today humor has invaded many pulpits. Many preachers are trying to make their congregations laugh by spicing up their message with humor. We ought to radically distance ourselves entirely from that method. As Eccl. 3 says that there are times to weep and times to laugh, so there are places where humor should never be used. That’s why you look in vain for “humorous” expressions in the Bible. Scripture is never meant to be entertaining or to be used for entertainment. It is confront us with the giant truths of God, sin and salvation.
Hopefully this gives some direction on your question. Thanks for asking it! It made me do some thinking also.
Warmly, Pastor Vergunst