Is It Biblical to Be Funny?
- Tuesday, July 14, 2009
2) Don’t mock everyone. If you mock your spouse, children, or your own mom, you are a dolt and not funny no matter how many people laugh. Furthermore, don’t mock rape victims, abused children, battered women, and the like, because the point of prophetic irony is to bring sinners to repentance, not to bring victims to tears.
3) Don’t mock all the time. Only some of the Bible is funny, which means that most of our speech should be serious and that some of our speech should be humorous. In that vein, the majority of my sermons are not funny but, rather, straightforward Bible teaching. Since my sermons last an hour or more, though, I do throw in a few laughs to keep folks with me and to break up the monotony. I don’t remember telling any jokes at all during some sermon series because I did not think the content called for humor. While preaching a twelve-week series called “Christ on the Cross” about the murder of Jesus, I don’t remember telling a single joke, and the book I wrote on the same subject22 contains no humor at all.
4) Don’t judge yourself by yourself because Paul says that is foolish, no matter how funny you think you are. If someone in authority over you (e.g., boss, parent, pastor) tells you that you have crossed the line and need to apologize and grow up, then repent before you become the joke.
5) Don’t worry about getting tempered as you age. With age comes wisdom, if you are perceptive and humble enough to learn from your experiences. Therefore, as you age, you should do so graciously by becoming tempered, though not neutered.
6) Don’t keep picking on the same group of people. It is important to expand your comedic horizons and mock lots of groups of people for their self-righteousness. If you keep picking on the same group, eventually people will call you hateful, but if you pick on lots of groups, they will thankfully downgrade you to cruel or, if you are really blessed, maybe just to mean. For the newbies, it is often easiest to start with vegans, homeschoolers, rednecks, NASCAR fans, and any Christian who thinks Left Behind is really going to happen any minute.
7) Don’t assume you know where the line is. The problem with comedy is that the line is different for everyone, and the line changes from one culture and subculture to the next. So remain teachable and flexible. I once preached a sermon from Philippians 2 on humility and confessed my sin of pride, but one guy let me know he did not think I was genuine because I was wearing a T-shirt with a picture of deejay Jesus spinning turntables. While pride apparently does not trouble this guy, he has chosen to draw a clear line at kitschy Christian T-shirts from Urban Outfitters. The painful truth is that you generally find the line of propriety only by crossing it, and when you do, make sure to apologize and repent.
8) Don’t forget to laugh at yourself—often. The best material is the stuff of your own life. You know better than anyone that you are a nut job, so do not waste such precious comedic fodder. Tell stories about yourself, pointing out your imperfections, folly, stupidity, pettiness, self-righteousness, and the like before you turn your funny guns on anyone. By doing so you will reveal that your humor is not scorn but, rather, the acknowledgment of a common mess we are all in as sinners. In the end, we are all hypocrites and good for a laugh. By laughing together at one another and ourselves, we are experiencing biblical fellowship and celebrating gift-righteousness from Jesus; his gift removes our pride and vain attempts at self-righteousness, which in the end make us deadly serious defenders of our goodness, as if we had any. In short, we are all Pharisees to varying degrees.
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