I once had the honor of preaching with a bunch of clowns. Maybe I should qualify that statement. These were actual clowns, with funny clothes and noses and makeup, not pastors with a jaded sense of dignity. These were Caring Clowns, who present Bible lessons in humorous yet heartwarming ways.
I wanted my mini sermon to fit the occasion, so I did a brief study of humor and merriment in the Bible and shared the joy of what I found.
I love humor and comedy. I collect certain ceramic clown castings, and like to use humor as an icebreaker. Laughter can be disarming--I understand Venus de Milo was a riot. Who among us has not laughed so hard bubbles came out our nostrils?
I believe God has a sense of humor-- he created kittens, monkeys, babies, and penguins, and humor for our good. Jesus was not as somber as we portray him. He was a popular guest at weddings and banquets, and even brought joy to funerals! Talking about a camel passing through the eye of a needle was boffo stuff in Bible times. The story of Balaam's donkey reminds me of Yosemite Sam.
Laughter and humor are good for health and well-being. Hospitals find patients who watch funny shows have better attitudes and heal more quickly. Clowns visit hospitals to cheer patients to help their recovery. The Bible explains three ways humor is beneficial.
Humor is good medicine: "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones" (Proverbs 17:22). Pleasant activities release endorphins that generate a sense of well-being, reducing the sensation of pain and stress. The alternative to the cheerful heart is the "crushed spirit." When my wife broke her ankle, she wore a cast during the healing to prevent the bruised ankle from moving. It was sensitive to every twist, turn, and pressure while it was hurt. A crushed spirit is like spiritual osteoporosis, making one sensitive to every irritation.
Humor is good makeup: "A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit" (Proverbs 15:13). The face reflects the heart. A quick smile is the automatic outburst of a merry heart. Wrinkles don't seem so bad if we call them "laugh lines"! On the other hand (or face), a heavy heart makes for fallen features.
Humor is good motivation: "Light in a messenger's eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones" (Proverbs 15:30). A cheerful look, a ready smile, a pleasant countenance, bring hope to the recipient. They are as effective as a good word. Good news brings various reactions, from relief to joy. When Sarah was told to expect a child in her old age, she laughed and named the boy "Isaac," which means "laughter" (Genesis 17:17, 18:12, 21:6). When the Babylonian captivity ended, "Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, 'The LORD has done great things for them'" (Psalm 126:2).
Solomon reminds us there is "a time to laugh" (Ecclesiastes 3:4). The Beatitudes of Matthew chapter 5 count those who suffer as blessed, a reason for rejoicing.
As we saw above, Proverbs 15:30 extols "good news" as that which brings "health to the bones." The greatest "good news" should bring the greatest health, and that is true. The word "gospel" means "good news," and it is the best news. That Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose after three days (1 Corinthians 15:1 - 5) means we can be forgiven and fit to live in God's joyful presence forever, "by whose stripes you were healed" (1 Peter 2:24). "The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing" (Zephaniah 3:17).
In contrast, the Lord has a type of laughter that sinners should fear: "The Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming" (Psalm 37:13). That is the sound of laughter you don't want to hear, and God would rather laugh with you than at you.
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