Is It Biblical to Be Funny?
- Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Wallace goes on to conclude, “The term conveys both revulsion and worthlessness in this context. In hellenistic Greek it seems to stand somewhere between ‘crap’ and ‘s**t.’”8 Pastor and author Douglas Wilson goes so far as to say that Paul’s word for religion is “dog s**t.”9
We are going to take a look now at some of the more intriguing examples of humor from the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the teachings of Jesus Christ. By doing so, we are not making light of Scripture; rather, we are practicing the teaching of 2 Timothy 3:16–17, which says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” That good work includes knowing when to laugh and when to make fun of others for a prophetic purpose that is deadly serious. As Douglas Wilson summarizes in regard to cutting prophetic humor, “The prophet Jeremiah attacked idolaters, the Lord Jesus attacked self-righteous Pharisees, the apostle Paul attacked Judaizers, Irenaeus attacked Gnostics, and Luther attacked the papists.”10
Before moving on, it is important to note that the Bible laughs at the expense of sinners upon occasion, but most often at serious religious types who are legalistic, self-righteous, and sinfully judgmentalof other people. Though such verbal jabs are painful, they are a demonstration of biblical love. Biblical love, unlike sentimental love, does not merely feel mushy, gooey, and syrupy sweet, but acts for the good of the beloved. These acts include, as needed, confrontation, rebuke, and steady doses of truth delivered in whatever form is most effective, including mockery. Indeed, it is not always the one kissing you who is truly your friend, as Jesus himself experienced with Judas. Proverbs 27:5–6 says, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” Therefore, when the Bible laughs at someone, it does so in love, seeking to expose the folly of fools so that they might come to their senses and repent.
HUMOR IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Our study of biblical humor begins, appropriately enough, in the book of Genesis, which is the book of beginnings. There we find one of my favorite funny stories about the “righteous” man Noah. You will remember that he and his family alone were spared God’s wrath in the flood. Upon exiting the ark as the father of a new humanity, “Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent.”2 Every time I read this account I chuckle. Noah is obviously a camping redneck, because only a camping redneck would make his own liquor and pass out naked in his tent wearing nothing but a John Deere ball cap. For all we know, his tent might have been made of blue tarps, and he may have dozed off while singing country songs about the hillbilly trinity of dogs, trucks, and cornbread.
While preaching through Genesis, I was continually amused by Jacob, whose name means “trickster.” The previously laid-back, easygoing homebody Jacob3 rolled in to Haran, where he met the lovely Rachel at the well.4 He was so excited that to show off his manly strength he removed the stone covering the well, a job so dudely that it normally took a crew of men to get it done. Still flexing his muscles and enjoying his manhood, Jacob kissed Rachel like one of the guys who just won a NASCAR race and locks lips with the trophy girl on the platform. In the ensuing chapters, Jacob the trickster is taken to the woodshed by the Michael Jordan of con artists, Laban. There we read that after working for a full seven years to marry Rachel, Jacob rolled over the morning after his wedding to find lazy-eyed Leah in his bed, not her lovely sister Rachel. Laban had swapped out the girls, thereby forcing the trickster to work another seven years and marry them both! The entire account is dripping with satire.
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