People enjoy humor and laughter. God gave mankind the capacity for humor and the ability to laugh. But are there right and wrong kinds of humor? Would we laugh at this or that joke in Jesus’ presence? Would He find it funny?
Surely we have all heard jokes that make us laugh so hard that our sides hurt. Everybody loves a good joke, and we enjoy laughing. Laughter can be a very healthful thing. We have heard the saying that laughter is the best medicine. An article in Psychology Today shows that laughter reduces pain and blood sugar levels and helps restore a positive emotional state. Laughter helps blood vessels function better. An article on WebMD describes beneficial physiological changes due to laughter. We even burn some calories!
The Bible tells us that among many other things, there is also a time to laugh (Ecclesiastes 3:4). But, as we might suspect, there is a right kind of humor, and a wrong kind. Humor can be classified as “clean” humor, or as “off color” or “filthy.” Those who are striving to follow Jesus Christ will avoid the wrong kind of jokes and humor. “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love… But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting… Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:1–10).
Filthy humor is base, course, obscene or indecent. Foolish talk is from the mouth of one who is a fool, lacking sense, silly or idiotic. Course jesting, though witty and playful, is indecent, bawdy and irreverent. An example would be a double entendre that uses a nice term to suggest something crude, ribald or vulgar. This kind of humor is not fitting for a follower of Christ.
Humor acceptable to God can be heartwarming, endearing and joyful. Our children and grandchildren can make us laugh when they say or do something funny. Our pets can make us laugh. Our little dog makes me laugh every morning. She waits for me to come down stairs, knowing she will get a treat. I toss a treat past her so she has to scamper after it. When she retrieves it, she proudly runs out of sight to eat it. She makes me laugh every time.
Good, clean humor and jokes can be a joyful part of fellowship, or a wonderful, poignant way to illustrate a point in a sermon and make it memorable.
We find good and bad humor in many venues. It’s in the workplace. It’s on the radio and television. It’s in books and on the Internet. It’s passed around in e-mails from one end of the earth to the other. As with our other actions and behavior, we will be held accountable. “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. … A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:31–37).
We must avoid foolish and profane humor. But we can learn what kind of humor is acceptable to the Lord, and enjoy it heartily and healthfully.