I love The Office–I have seen every episode and plan to watch every future episode until the show runs its course. I love awkward humor and The Office supplies its fair share, but a recent episode was tragically awkward and not funny at all. In the second to last episode of the season, it comes to the attention of Dunder Mifflin’s many employees that Michael (the boss) has been sleeping with a married woman–this results in a crusade by Andy to make Michael feel guilty for his adultery in which Andy introduces Michael to the woman’s unsuspecting husband. The whole show was built around the awkwardness of such a situation and though I love the show it wasn’t funny, but tragic. I didn’t regret watching this episode because this particular episode illustrated quite aptly the pain caused by adultery in a realistic way–in a way seldom illustrated in your average sitcom. It was a rare moment moment in the show because it wasn’t funny and it seemed the writers didn’t intend for it to be.
The Office, unlike most comedies is willing to move in directions that are painfully real and not funny at all–I found this refreshingly appropriate. Far more common is the comedic tactic of making light of sin. I did not need to see The Hangover to tell you that the entire premise of the movie is to get us to laugh at the tragic decisions people make when they are drunk. Perhaps this is funny to the Christian who is far removed from the “party” culture, but drunkenness is a real issue in the real world and it can cost people their lives. The Hangover seems poised to get us to start thinking that drunkenness is funny. Another example that comes to mind is Friends and the incessant jokes leveled at Ross’ failed marriages, Joey’s premarital sexual exploits, and the irrational decisions Rachel makes when drunk.
Is it ok to laugh at sin? We shouldn’t take TV too seriously right? When is sin funny? Does Ephesians 5:4 prohibit laughing at sin?
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
I don’t think Paul is warning against potty humor here, I think he is saying, don’t make jokes about what is shameful, i.e. don’t make jokes about things that damn people. “Foolish talk” is not a reference to silliness–the fool in scripture is one whose soul is danger because of his lack of wisdom (Psalm 14:1; 53:1; Proverbs 10:8-23; 12:15-16; 13:16).When media makes light of lust, pride, and greed and our response is to laugh, I fear we reveal that we are deceived by sin in our hearts (Jer. 17:9). Simply put, sin is no laughing matter–it is destructive, at best it damages people’s earthly lives and at worst damns them for eternity. When media mocks sin–and show its destructive nature, perhaps it is appropriate for us to laugh and to say along with the media–that is foolishness! But to laugh at sin as if it is silly is dangerous.
That is the difference in what I saw in the aforementioned episode of The Office–the show mocked adultery and brought out very clearly the pain that it causes. We see this in Scripture–Elijah mocks the prophets of Baal when their gods fail to light their sacrifice, he even uses “potty humor” by asking if perhaps their gods were “relieving themselves” (1 Kings 18:27). In the account of the Tower of Babel–God mocks the pride of the builders when the text tells us that God “went down” in order to see the tower that had supposedly been built to reach up to heaven.
My goal here is not to tell you not to watch shows that make light of sin, but rather to beware of making light of sin along with media which does so. In the rare instance that what we watch, play, or read serves to mock sin, I suppose it’s appropriate for us to laugh, but in either instance the goal is the same to glorify God by what we eat, drink, read and watch (1 Corinthians 10:31).