Today we’re going to talk about humor in the Bible. Now people don’t normally think of God as having a sense of humor. But he definitely does. In fact, being God, being perfect, God has the perfect sense of humor, and he has the perfect reasons for using it.
For example, in Genesis 31, after Jacob, and his family, left his father-in-law Laban, Laban later caught up with Jacob and asked him, “…wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?” (Gen 31:30). See Jacob’s wife, Rachel, had stolen her fathers idols, and Jacob didn’t even know that she did that. Later, at God’s direction, they got rid of the idols. But I want to point out to you the humor in the question that Laban asked; he asked, wherefore hast thou stolen my gods? why have you’ve stolen my gods? Now that questions’s funny because his so-called “gods” must not have been very powerful if someone could steal them… And that’s God’s sense of humor; God’s mocking the idea of worshipping idols; God’s saying that these idols are so powerless that, no, they can’t help you when you pray to them, in fact, they can’t even help themselves: a woman stole them, and hid them, and no one could find where she put them.
And so God used humor here as a form of critique; God was criticizing the idea of worshipping a powerless idol, instead of worshiping him: the true, Almighty God. Modern-day humorist, John Cleese, said that the very essence of comedy is criticism. And Cleese makes a valid point; humor is a unique and effective way of criticizing something; humor shows you when something’s not right, by exposing it in a funny way.
Another example of this is given in the account of Balaam and his donkey. Turn in your Bibles to Numbers 22, starting at verse 26. Here, God rebukes the false prophet, Balaam, through the donkey that Balaam’s riding. The text says that God opened the mouth of the donkey, giving it the ability to talk, and then the donkey proceeds to rebuke Balaam. In fact, the donkey shows more wisdom and more common sense than the man, Balaam does. And that’s funny. It’s funny that the donkey has more sense than the man. This whole situation is a humorous critique of the false prophet’s madness of trying to prophesy against God.
And the passage reads: “And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff. And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times? And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee. [Ok stop here for a second, isn’t it kinda funny that Balaam doesn’t even blink an eye when his donkey starts talking to him? Balaam just talks back to his donkey, as if talking donkeys were a normal thing. I think that’s kinda funny, and it shows the obtuseness of the false prophet; because he doesn’t even notice that something very unusual and supernatural is happening. So, continuing at verse 30:] And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? and he said, Nay. Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face. And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me: and the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive” (Num 22:26-33).
This account is thick with irony; the false prophet was hired to prophesy against God’s people, so he was being “perverse,” as the angel of the Lord said, by trying to go against God and his people. And Balaam knew the truth about God. Balaam didn’t have a saving faith, but Balaam knew God was God. Balaam had conversations with God. And yet Balaam still tried to go against him. Now that’s madness. I mean it’s insane for someone who knows about God, to consciously try and go against God.
Peter wrote of Balaam, and his kind, that they are, quote: “…cursed children: which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet” (2 Peter 2:14-16)… And, again, the humorous critique, in this incident, is that the dumb donkey had more common sense than the prophet had; Balaam was a bigger donkey, than his own donkey. It’s foolish for a man to try and defy God.
As Psalm 2:1-4 says: “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.” How can people even think that they have a chance to defeat Almighty God? When people plot against God, God just laughs at them. And, in this case, at least, God has us laughing with him.
As a final epitaph to Balaam and his donkey, Psalm 32, verses 9 and 10, read: “Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee. Many sorrows shall be to the wicked …”
Next, turn to 1 Samuel, chapter 5, verse 2. 1 Samuel 5, starting at verse 2. This is one of my favorite humorous parts of the Bible. And, actually, this was the passage that made me first realize that God has a sense of humor. It’s when the Philistines defeated Israel in war, and then the Philistines took the Ark of the Covenant from them, and then they put the Ark next to their idol, Dagon. And it’s funny that God kept making their idol bow down before him.
And the passage reads: “When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon. And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the LORD. And they took Dagon, and set him in his place again. And when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him. Therefore neither the priests of Dagon, nor any that come into Dagon’s house, tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod unto this day” (1 Samuel 5:1-5).
So maybe the first time the Philistines found their idol bowing down before God, maybe, that time, they thought it was just an accident, or something, and that somehow Dagon just fell down. But when God did it a second time, and also cut off the idol’s head and hands, there was no doubt that the true God was making that false idol bow down before him. After the second time, the Philistines closed up that temple, and never walked into it again… And that’s humorous; it’s funny that God kept making that idol bow down before him. Because idols are nothing, right? I mean, idols can’t answer prayers, idols can’t move, unless you carry them; in fact, the only time this idol ever did move was when it bowed down before the true and living God.
Isaiah also makes a commentary on the absurdity of worshipping idols. Isaiah points out that men will cut down a tree, and then use part of the tree to make a fire for warmth, and they’ll use part of the tree to bake bread on, and then, with the rest of the tree, they’ll make an idol, and worship it! And Isaiah basically asks: how do these people not realize that they’re worshipping a tree?! It’s the same tree that they used for a fire to bake bread on! What is wrong with them?
So in Isaiah 44, starting at verse 16, Isaiah says, talking about a tree that people cut down: “He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire: and the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god. They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand. And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?” (Isaiah 44:14-19).
This is a humorous critique. It’s ridiculous that people would bow down to the wood of a tree, and actually think that idol could do anything for them. It’s just a tree!… And when you realize that God is using humor to critique something, in the Bible, it really helps you to understand that passage better. It’s eye-opening when you realize that God must have been laughing when he made Dagon bow down before him. And Isaiah must have been laughing when he wrote: they’re worshipping the same tree that they cooked food on!… It’s kind of amazing to realize that God has a sense of humor, and that these events, that he recorded in the Bible, are meant to be funny. God has a sense of humor, and he wants you, his people, to laugh with him at the foolishness of this world.
Now, as God the Father has a sense of humor, the Lord Jesus, who is also God, also has a sense of humor. For instance, I like the light humor in his parable about the Persistent Widow and the Unjust Judge. What I find funny about this parable is that the heroine, the widow, is commended for being annoyingly persistent; I mean, she just kept pestering that judge, and she wouldn’t leave the guy alone, until he finally gave in and gave her what she wanted. And it’s funny that, in a sense, God’s telling us to be annoyingly persistent in our prayer requests to him. God’s telling us to be just like the persistent widow.
In Luke 18, verses 4 and 5, at the climax of the story, the unjust judge says to himself, “…Though I fear not God, nor regard man; yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me” (Luke 18:4-5). It’s funny that the judge doesn’t do the right thing, because it’s the right thing to do. He only does it because the widow wouldn’t leave him alone.
At the beginning of the parable, we’re told what the moral of the story; Luke 18:1 reads: “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” So we’re supposed to pray to God, and to keep praying, and never give up, having confidence in the Lord’s love for us; that he wants to answer our prayers, and give us good things. At the end of the parable, Jesus commented: “… Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily …” (Luke 18:6-8)… So if persistence will even get an unjust judge to grant requests, how much more will persistence get God, the just Judge of all, to grant our requests.
This parable reminds me of Pastor Yaghtin’s relationship with his children. One time Afshin’s eldest son asked him for something, and Afshin said no. But then, about a half hour later, his son asked him for it again. His son kinda reworded the request, and told him why he wanted it this time, but it was basically the same request. And I thought to myself, Oh oh, that kid’s gonna get in trouble! Afshin already said, No! But, to my surprise, the boy didn’t get in trouble. Afshin told him, No, again, but that’s it. And this same pattern of behavior went on throughout the evening, the boy kept asking, Afshin kept saying no- until, finally, at the end of the night, Afshin gave in to the boy’s persistence, and said that he would get it for him.
It was fun to be a silent observer of this interaction between father and son. And I was kinda happy for the boy, I mean, his persistence paid off! Now let me just say that Afshin’s kids are very well-behaved and obedient. When Afshin gives them a stern, No, to something, they won’t ask him for it again. But they also know when they have a chance of getting a, Yes, from him; and they have confidence in their relationship with their father, and in his love for them; they know that Afshin wants to give them good things. And that’s the point of Jesus’ parable of the Persistent Widow and the Unjust Judge; if an unjust judge will give in to a persistent request, how much more will the Just Judge of all, and the Savior of our Souls, and our Loving Father in Heaven grant us our persistent requests. So, Christians, don’t forget to be like that annoyingly persistent widow, and don’t forget to be like Pastor Yaghtin’s son: we should always pray to God, and never give up, having confidence in his love for us.
Aside from the type of humor used in that parable, Jesus also used a lot of humorous imagery in his teachings. For instance, to illustrate hypocrisy, among believers, Jesus gave us the famous image of a man with a huge beam of wood sticking out of his eye, criticizing another brother for having a teeny mote of wood in his eye. Jesus said, in Matthew 7: “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Mt 7:3) The imagery really is funny, and it perfectly exposes Christian hypocrisy.
And the Lord also used humorous imagery to expose the Pharisees’ hypocrisy. The image of straining out a gnat, but then swallowing a whole camel, is kinda funny, even though what’s being exposed and critiqued, by the humor, is very serious. Jesus said, in Matthew 23: “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel” (Mt 23:23-24)… Do you see the funny image that Jesus is drawing? Can you picture a Pharisee making a big show of taking a gnat out of his drink, but then not even noticing that there’s a huge camel in his cup? and then he ends up drinking the camel whole! Can you picture the Pharisees neck stretching way out, as he gulped down the camel!… Jesus has a sense of humor.
Now sarcasm is another form of humor, and Jesus often used sarcasm to expose the Pharisees self-righteousness. Remember that time the Pharisees asked Jesus, “Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?” (Luke 5:30) Well Jesus bitingly responded to them by saying: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). Jesus was mocking the Pharisees’ self-righteousness, when he said, I came not to call the RIGHTEOUS. The Pharisees weren’t actually righteous, but they thought they were. Sadly, they didn’t know that they were sinners in need of salvation from the punishment for their sins. So they wouldn’t come to the Jesus to save them. And so, in a sense, he wasn’t calling them, he wasn’t calling the [do finger quotes] “righteous”! You have to know that you’re a sinner before you can come to Jesus for salvation.
Jesus also used sarcastic humor in the face of danger; kinda like the heroes of secular movies do today. One of the times when Jesus revealed that he’s God, the Jews took up stones to kill him, and Jesus asked them: “… Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?” (John 10:32) That’s kinda funny, right? I mean, being God, Jesus could only do good works- which also proved that he’s God. And so he basically asked his would-be executioners: wait, before you guys kill me, let me just ask you this: for which one of my good works are you gonna execute me for?… Cracking jokes, in the face of death, like I said, is the kinda thing you see in modern-day secular movies. But Jesus was doing it long before they were doing it in Hollywood.
So we’ve seen God the Father’s sense of humor, and we’ve seen Jesus’ sense of humor, but the Holy Ghost can be funny also. Turn, in your Bibles, to 1 Samuel, chapter 19, starting at verse 18. 1 Samuel 19:18. This is one of the times when King Saul had lost his mind, and was trying to kill David. But every time Saul sent messengers to kill David, the Holy Spirit came over those messengers, and they started prophesying instead. So finally Saul went out himself to get David, but the Holy Spirit did the same thing to Saul, and just made Saul prophesy instead. The Holy Spirit actually made Saul lie down, naked, all day and night, and prophesy. Which is kinda funny.
Starting at 1 Samuel 19:18: “So David fled, and escaped, and came to Samuel to Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth. And it was told Saul, saying, Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah. And Saul sent messengers to take David: and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed over them, the Spirit of God was upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied. And when it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they prophesied likewise. And Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they prophesied also. Then went he also to Ramah, and came to a great well that is in Sechu: and he asked and said, Where are Samuel and David? And one said, Behold they be at Naioth in Ramah: and the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on, and prophesied, until he came to Naioth in Ramah. And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Sa 19:18-24)
So that’s kind of a funny way for the Holy Ghost to stop one wacked out believer from killing another believer. And the people even made a little saying about it, to commemorate Saul’s humiliation; the people would say to each other: is Saul also among the prophets? They were kinda mocking Saul with their little commemorative saying.
Now in you’re in 1 Samuel 19, turn to 1 Samuel, chapter 24. 1 Samuel 24. I want to show you how God also records a kind of situational humor in the Bible. These are instances where maybe God wasn’t directly using humor, but he records events where the situations themselves were kinda funny.
Like this one time when Saul was, again, trying to kill David. And Saul had an army with him, scouring the country, searching for David. But Saul had to go to the bathroom. And so his whole army waited outside for him, while Saul went into a cave, by himself, to do what he had to do. But Saul ended up going into the very cave that David and his men were hiding in. Now that’s kind of a funny situation because Saul couldn’t find David to kill him with his army. But then Saul accidentally went, alone, and undefended, right in the midst of David and his men. Where David, of course, could’ve killed him. But David didn’t.
1 Samuel 24, starting at verse 2: “Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats. And he came to the sheepcotes by the way, where was a café; and Saul went in to cover his feet [now the phrase, “cover his feet,” is a euphemism for going to the bathroom; because Saul’s undergarments were covering his feet as he went to the bathroom. So Saul was as vulnerable as he could possibly be. But David didn’t harm Saul, because David feared God, who had made Saul king… And, so starting at verse 3 again:] And he came to the sheepcotes by the way, where was a cave; and Saul went in to cover his feet: and David and his men remained in the sides of the cave. And the men of David said unto him, Behold the day of which the LORD said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee. Then David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saul’s rob privily. And it came to pass afterward, that David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt. And he said unto his men, The LORD forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the LORD’s anointed …” (1 Sam 24:2-6) And so David let him go. But it’s just funny that Saul, unwittingly, went to the bathroom right where David and his men were hiding. That’s an example of a funny situation in the Bible.
Now the book of Jonah also records a lot of situational humor: and this humor is mainly a critique of the reluctant prophet, Jonah, himself, for not doing what he was supposed to be doing. Like when God told Jonah to go, one way, to Nineveh, but Jonah got on a ship going the exact opposite direction to Tarshish.
Or when, after everything was said and done, and the people of Nineveh repented. Jonah went and sat outside of the city, because Jonah still wanted to see God destroy them all. And then Jonah started pouting when he realized that God wasn’t going to kill them all.
The whole situation was kinda odd. And Jonah was kind of a messed up prophet. But it’s cool to see God’s patience with Jonah. And how God gave Jonah that object lesson with the gourd, that plant that Jonah got really attached to, and then, later, got upset about, when the plant died. God was trying to teach Jonah that if Jonah could get so emotionally attached to a little plant, then Jonah should think about how God feels about the people of Nineveh. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and neither should we.
But, you know, if Jonah was the author of the book of Jonah, and we don’t know for sure, but he might’ve been, and if Jonah was the author of the book of Jonah, then he did learn the lesson that God was trying to teach him. And the situational humor, in the book of Jonah, was actually Jonah criticizing himself: warning us not to act like he did… and that’s kinda cool.
In the New Testament, it was funny when that small tax collector, [Zach-key-us] Zacchaeus, wanted to see Jesus, but, because Zacchaeus was so short, he couldn’t see above the crowds that had gathered, and were waiting for Jesus. And so Zacchaeus climbed up a tree, just so he could see Jesus, when Jesus passed by.
And I think the Lord appreciated the situational humor of small Zacchaeus up a tree, because the Lord stopped right under Zacchaeus, looked up, and invited himself to dinner at Zacchaeus’ house. And Zacchaeus was so happy about that, that he gave away half of his money, and Zacchaeus put his faith on Jesus and got saved… The Lord cares about the little guy. The Lord cares about those whom everyone else dismisses or rejects (see Luke 19:1-10).
Another funny situation was that time when Peter was in prison, and the whole church was praying for him. And then the angel of the Lord freed Peter from the prison. And so Peter went to one of the believer’s houses, where everyone there was praying for him, and Peter knocked on the door. And a girl went to answer the door, but, when she realized it was Peter, she got so excited, that she forgot to let him in. And instead she ran to tell everyone in the house that Peter was at the door! Now at first they didn’t believe her, and so they started debating with her, whether Peter was really there or not. But, meanwhile, the whole time they’re debating, Peter was still out there, knocking on the door, waiting for someone to let him in.
Or how bout that other time when Paul preached a really, really long sermon, and a young man, who was listening to the sermon from a balcony, fell asleep, and fell off the balcony, and died… Now Paul brought him back to life, so everything turned out good. But it’s funny in that I think we’ve all experienced being sleepy during a sermon, and trying to stay awake, and not embarrass ourselves. Well that young man really embarrassed himself. I mean, we’re still laughing at him… It’s also kind of funny that the Bible would show us that the great Apostle Paul could sometimes be a little long-winded.
There’s also situational humor in my own story with God; and in the way that God saved me… [Tell your story…]
Now, the thing is, if God has a sense of humor, and we see, beyond a doubt, that he does. Then us believers should have a sense of humor too. And a perfect example of this is Elijah, and the humor that Elijah used that time when he was having a showdown with those 450 false prophets of Baal, in 1 Kings, chapter 18. Go ahead and turn there; 1 Kings 18, starting at verse 25.
So Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to prepare a burnt offering to their false god, but he told them not to light the offering with fire, but, instead, see if their false god Baal would light it for him… And then Elijah said that, afterwards, he would do the same thing with the real God… Now the funny part in this passage comes at the end, when Elijah starts mocking their false god…
And so the passage reads: “And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked” (1 Ki 18:25-27).
So Elijah was totally mocking them and their false god, saying: maybe he’s talking to someone… or maybe he’s sleeping… of course the false god never answered them. And then Elijah prepared his burnt offering to the real God. And Elijah completely drenched his offering with water, three times over, just to make a point. And then the real God sent down fire that not only burnt up the offering, but also burnt up the water, and burnt up the wood underneath the offering, and burnt up the stones underneath the wood, and even burnt up the dirt underneath the stones!… That’s kinda funny, right? I think God was playing around a little, following Elijah’s lead- the false god couldn’t burn up anything, whereas the true God could burn up the meat, the water, the wood, the rocks, and even the dirt!… God’s point was unmistakenly clear: there are no other gods- there’s only him! and it’s absolutely foolish, and wicked, to worship anyone or anything other than God.
Another believer with a sense of humor is the Apostle Paul. Now his humor is a more subtle. For example, in 1 Corinthians, chapter 1, he used a kind of ironic satire to rebuke the believers at the church at Corinth because they were dividing up into different groups, each group claiming to be a followers of a certain teacher, instead of all of them uniting under Christ, like they should’ve been doing.
Paul said, starting at 1 Corinthians 1:11: “For it has been declared unto me, of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor 1:11-13) So Paul was being very sarcastic when he asked: was Paul crucified for you?… Paul was basically saying: was I crucified for you?? of course not! so stop saying that you’re of me! you’re not of me! you’re of Christ!… And it’s easy to miss the humor there, but it is there. Because Paul drew the absurdly satirical image of Paul himself dying on the Cross for our sins. Now that’s absurd because only Jesus could die for our sins; only God the Son is capable of taking the world’s punishment for sin on himself. Paul asked the rhetorical question, “was Paul crucified for you?” And, of course, the answer to such a preposterous question is, No!
This reminds me of a t-shirt that came out a few years back. And this t-shirt used the same absurd, satirical imager to prove the same point: that only Jesus could, and did, die for our sins; the shirt I’m referring to had a picture of Santa Clause, nailed to a cross, along with the caption: “Santa Did Not Die For Your Sins”… Santa didn’t die for our sins, we really shouldn’t be celebrating Santa Clause. And Paul didn’t die for our sins, we shouldn’t think more highly of Paul than we ought. Only Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day. Christ crucified is the only gospel that saves, and Christ crucified is the gospel under which all believers should unite.
Now Paul’s satirical humor can also be seen in 1 Corinthians 12, where Paul was, again, trying to teach the church not to divide among themselves, because we’re all part of the one Body of Christ, even though each of us has different functions within that Body. And Paul uses humorous imagery here, to illustrate his point; like the absurd idea of different human body parts trying to rebel against the one body that they’re a part of. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12, starting at verse 13: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?” (1 Cor 12:13-16) So this imagery that Paul’s painting is funny: I mean, can you imagine your foot, first of all, talking to you? That’s kinda funny, right? And what if my foot said to me, Marshall, I am NOT part of your body!… Well, would that make him not part of my body? Of course not. I’d say to my foot, Sorry, foot, but you’re definitely part of my body. I mean I can look and see that you’re connected to me. Aside from that, I really need to you, foot; and you need me, foot!… So the idea of a foot even talking is ridiculous, and kinda funny. And the idea of a foot thinking that he’s not part of the body he’s attached to is also absurd, and funny. And Paul’s point is well taken: All of us different believers have different gifts, but we’re all part of the one body of Christ, and we all need each other to function as a church body.
In the same passage, Paul also draws the funny image of a body not having a bunch of different parts, like a foot, and a hand, and an eye, but Paul, humorously, asks: could a whole body be made out of just one part? Could an entire body be made out of just eyes? or could an entire body be made out of just ears? Paul asked, “If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?” (1 Cor 12:17) I mean, that’s some crazy imagery, right? an eye body- an entire body made up of only eyes!… or an ear body! and entire body made up only of ears!… it’s absurd imagery, and it’s funny imagery. And, again, Paul’s using humor to make a very important point: Christ gives each person in the church different gifts, and we all need each other exercising our different gifts together, in or order for the church to function properly. God gave some of us the gift of pastoring, and some of us the gift of teaching, and some the gift of helps, and some the gift of faith, and some the gift of mercy (these gifts, and more, are listed in Romans 12, and 1 Corinthians 12). Now in order for a local body of Christ to function properly, we need different believers with different gifts all working together. If everyone in a church was just a teacher, then who in the body would show mercy to those who need it? Or if everyone in a church just had the gift of mercy, then who would do the teaching? We need each other, we’re all part of the one body of Christ. Paul’s imagery of an entire body being made out of just one body part was humorous, but illustrated a very important point.
And, you know, understanding that God has a sense of humor, and that there’s humor in the Bible, really helps to open up the Scriptures. It helps to understand the Scriptures when you realize that Paul had a smile on his face, when he asked, “If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?” A foot thinking that he’s not part of the body, is funny! And understanding this humor, helps us to understand the biblical lesson being taught.
And it helps to open up our understanding of Scripture, when we realize that Jesus was humorously mocking the Pharisees, when he compared them to a person with a huge beam of wood sticking out of their eye, trying to criticize someone who had a tiny piece of wood shaving in their eye. Jesus perfectly exposed their hypocrisy with that humorous imagery. And when Jesus preached that, his audience must have laughed! Realizing that Jesus was making a joke, at the Pharisees’ expense, gives us an extra depth of understanding of that passage, it really helps to open up the Scriptures.
Another reason it’s important to recognize God’s humor in the Bible is that, when one person makes another person laugh, it has the effect of drawing those two people closer together. It forms a kind of intimacy between them. Because, for one thing, it takes a degree of intelligence to understand humor, and to get someone’s joke. And so, if I tell you a joke, it’s like I’m showing you respect, because I’m saying that you’re someone who’s able to get that joke that I’m making.
Also, just laughing together, just being joyful together creates a kind of intimacy as well. And so it’s cool to realize that God makes jokes to us in the Bible, and that God thinks we’re capable of getting his jokes. And it’s cool to just realize that God wants us to laugh with him, and to share the joy of humor with him. Sharing humor gives yet another degree of depth to our relationship with the Lord.
Now there’s this one passage in the Bible that’s kinda hard to understand, but the passage really opens up to you when you understand that God has a sense of humor. Turn to Matthew 15, starting at verse 22. Matthew 15:22. Now, in this passage, a Canaanite woman, a non-Jew, was asking Jesus for help. And it seemed like Jesus was ignoring her. Maybe even because she was a lowly Gentile. And his disciples asked Jesus to send her away because she was so persistent in calling out for help. And then Jesus makes what seems like a racial slur, in calling her a dog, to her face… But the woman knew something about Jesus; she knew that Jesus is God, and she knew that God loves the whole world, and is not a respecter of races. She knew that Jesus’ racial slur was just kind of a joke, just kind of a test of her faith. And so she responded in kind- she responded with her own joke, with her own pithy saying. And Jesus was very pleased at her faith.
And so Matthew 15, starting at verse 22: “And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour” (Mt 15:22-28).
And so I want you to notice that it helps to understand Jesus, it helps to understand God when you know that he has a sense of humor. This Canaanite woman knew that Jesus loved the world, and she probably knew that Jesus came to save us, and she knew Jesus had a sense of humor. And so when Jesus said to her, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs, she wasn’t offended, she didn’t even blink an eye, she just responded in kind: she knew Jesus loved her, and would help her, and that he was just making kind of a joke. She knew Jesus wasn’t racist. And maybe Jesus was even trying to teach his disciples not to be racist either… And so the point, again, that I’m trying to show you here is that it really helps us to understand God when we realize that he has a sense of humor, and that sometimes he uses humor to teach us a lesson.
And so, if God employs humor in the Bible, and men of God, in the Bible, have a sense of humor then, again, we should have a sense of humor too. And not only should we have one, but we should grow in our sense of humor.
Now I’ve known Pastor Yaghtin for a long time, long before he was a pastor. And let me tell you something about his past: although he could always appreciate good humor, he never had a good sense of humor himself. Throughout the years, he’d occasionally try making a joke, but we’d always end up laughing at him, instead of with him. Because the guy just wasn’t funny.
But something happened these last few years, after being called to be a pastor. After spending hours of intense study every day, preparing sermons, and after receiving an extra anointing of the Spirit in order to oversee this church… he’s grown a sense of humor; he’s actually become quite funny… Which is rather shocking to me: cause I thought you either had it, or you didn’t: and he didn’t have it… but now he does.
And I couldn’t figure out how, until, after doing this study on God’s sense of humor, I finally realized what happened: as Pastor Yaghtin’s become more and more like Christ, he’s been growing in Christ’s attributes, including… Christ’s sense of humor.
We’re supposed to be like Jesus, right? Ephesians 4:15 says, “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” And so if we’re to grow up into him in all things, that includes growing up into his sense of humor. As we saw, Elijah followed God’s lead and had a sense of humor, Paul followed the Lord’s lead, and had a sense of humor, and Pastor Yaghtin, somehow miraculously, followed the Lord’s lead and got a sense of humor… And so, of course, we should all do the same; we should follow Jesus’ lead, and have a sense of humor… And so may the Lord richly bless you… to be funny. Let’s pray…