God And Humor

Does God have a sense of Humor? Not a topic more serious students of theology pursue, but an interesting one all the same. I first thought about this when a member of my church raised the question "Does God Laugh?". The puritans may laugh at this question, but it does not eliminate the implications of this simple question. Did we get the sense of humor, enjoyed and desired by many around the globe, from God when He created us? Or did we get it as a result of sin? Or did we get it from God after the fall? Was it in built in us when God created us in His image? Many traits such as personality, creativity, etc. were in built in us when we were created. Or did we get it when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, like the traits of death, sin, etc. Or did God give it to us after the fall. Attributes like multiple languages, the indwelling of Holy Spirit etc. was given after the fall by God whenever it was necessary for the human race. If the first option is true, a sense of humor is a divine trait and must be encouraged. If not why did God find it necessary for mankind to have such an ability? Is it an evil like many things we got as a result of sin, or is it an amoral character? Is it to be encouraged or discouraged? Now that you have understood the seriousness of the question and stopped laughing at it, let me continue. I searched the Bible for the answer to the question I have given at the beginning ie. Does God Laugh?. The answer is yes. He Laughs. But not as expected.

"But You, O Lord, shall laugh at them; You shall have all the nations in derision." Psalms 59:8
"The Lord laughs at him, for He sees that his day is coming." Psalms 37:13
"Darts are regarded as straw; He laughs at the threat of javelins." Job 41:29

God laughs at men because of the futility of their efforts. Yet, it is evident enough that there are things that the Lord finds funny.

Finding the answers to these questions are very difficult due to the fact that humor is almost entirely absent from the Bible. This fact also supports the theory that God does not have a sense of humor. As Alfred Nort Whitehead(Philosopher) puts it "The total absence of humor from the Bible is one of the most singular things in all literature." As I studied the Bible, I found that the statement by Mr. Whitehead is not entirely true. Puns and assonance are employed in the Bible many times. But it is not as an expression of joy, as in our times. On the contrary, it is used many times to express grief and sorrow. Jeh 6:1 is one of the many examples of this. These kind of puns promote much weeping, often from the Bible translators who have to translate them. Puns are always headache for translators because the pun loses its meaning in another language. Whenever one encounter a foot note in the Bible, "This word sounds like the Hebrew word for..." it means that the translators had a tough time.

I personally believe that God has a sense of humor. As a brother in my church so eloquently puts it, "God has every good qualities. And a sense of humor is a good quality." A Bible scholar said that the fact that God have a sense of humor is reflected in His creation. He went ahead to give the example of the Albatross along with other examples. The Albatross is the bird with the largest wing span. It is very graceful when it is flying. But when it lands, it falls all over itself, which is very funny to watch. He stated that watching the Albatross land is enough to see that God has a sense of humor. Indeed, watching the Albatross land can evoke a few laughs, but I doubt whether it provides sufficient evidence on this matter. Lets turn to the Bible to see if we can find something we can laugh at.

As I had said earlier, humor is very rare in the Bible. But not totally absent. The Bible writers were primarily jews. They were overwhelmed by the magnificence of God that they could not associate God with humor. This reflected when they wrote the Bible. They consciously avoided any humor. Yet there are places when they knowingly or unknowingly allowed some humor to slip through.

My personal favorite of all the humor found in the Bible is found in one of the most popular portion of the Old Testament, The Elijah - Baal Showdown. The whole incident can be seen in I Kings 18:20-40. I would like to draw your attention to the 27th verse.
"And so it was, at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, "Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened."
An impatient Elijah watched with a smile on his lips when the 450 men of Baal did all kinds of stupid things like jumping up and down around the alter to get Baal's attention. As this show continued on, the smile Elijah's lips became a snicker and finally at noon he started throwing comments at them. He was not afraid because he knew what was going to happen. We further see that God did not mind Elijah's jesting as He hears Elijah's plea and sends fire from heaven as His signature to everything that happened on that day. God does not mind jokes.

Another example of such mockery is found in Paul's writings. Paul is known to be an excellent debater. He knew that one of the techniques employed in debating is to mock the opponent. In the fifth chapter of Galatians he employs this technique when he tries to show the mistake of some men who advocated circumcision. He first explains that circumcision avails nothing. Then he goes ahead to take a direct hit at the people who advocated that theory. A hit literally under the belt.
"I wish those agitators would go so far as to castrate themselves!" Gal 5:18
Clearly, Paul does not think much about the "Salvation by Surgery" theory.

Most of the humor in the Bible are in the form of mockery. Most unfortunately, it is used negatively too. People of God have been mocked by onlookers. It is also recorded in the Bible. For example the disciples were mocked on the penticost day.
"Others mocking said,'They are full of new wine'" Acts 2:13
Even to this day, people who are willing to live for Christ will be mocked and ridiculed by the onlooking world. Even Jesus was mocked by the soldiers, pharisees and other onlookers before He was crucified. They were forgiven. But there is one incident where the punishment of mocking a man of God was instantly given. This incident can be found in 2 Kings 2:23. When Elisha was going to Bethel after he received the double portion of the spirit from Elijah, some youths came up to him and mocked him saying "Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!". They heard about Elijah, the way he went up. They were very sarcastic about that incident and did not hesitate to express their sarcasm. Moments later, two bears came out of the wood and mauled them. They learnt their lesson.

I intentionally saved the best for the last. I wanted this to be the coup de grace for my argument. Despite everything, one man stands out in providing good humor in the Bible. And He happens to be the main character of the Book. Who else is it, but our Lord Jesus Christ? This will put to rest the no-nonsense notion of many people. Despite being heavily out numbered, Jesus made a laughing stock out of the pharisees. He regularly ridiculed them them by throwing comments at them like "they strain out a gnat and swallow a camel(Matt 23:24)" and "why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye(Matt 7:3)". It is interesting to read chapters like Matthew 23 where Jesus really chews out the pharisees. The attempts of the pharisees to trap Jesus and the response of Jesus are excellent example of the quality humor in the Bible.

There are many more examples in the Bible to prove that God has nothing against good humor. But we must be cautious in exercising our right. There are boundaries to everything. Even humor has a boundary in the Bible. Let us refrain from joking about God. He is not a person to be laughed at. Unfortunately this kind of humor is very popular these days. Another thing that we should keep in mind is what Paul advised to the people in Ephesians.
"Let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, not foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting." Eph 5:3-4.

Let us use the gift of Humor in a good way. Let us enjoy it without exploiting our right to enjoy it. And let us thank God for this wonderful thing called humor.

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