Anyone who watches the late night talk show hosts understands the tremendous weapon comedy can be.
Historically, humor has also been a great gospel weapon. The renowned Reformed Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon, said:
I do not know why ridicule is to be given up to Satan as a weapon to be used against us, and not to be employed by us as a weapon against him. I will venture to affirm that the Reformation owed almost as much to the sense of the ridiculous in human nature as to anything else, and that those humorous squibs and caricatures, that were issued by the friends of Luther, did more to open the eyes of Germany to the abominations of the priesthood than the more solid and ponderous arguments against Romanism. . . . “It [humor] is a dangerous weapon,” it will be said, “and many men will cut their fingers with it.” Well, that is their own look-out; but I do not know why we should be so particular about their cutting their fingers if they can, at the same time, cut the throat of sin, and do serious damage to the great adversary of souls.1
After pondering the benefits of humor for the cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I have uncovered nine reasons why I believe it is beneficial.
- Jesus Christ laughed, and Christians are supposed to be like Jesus and thus laugh. Elton Trueblood wrote:
The widespread failure to recognize and to appreciate the humor of Christ is one of the most amazing aspects of the era named for Him. Anyone who reads the Synoptic Gospels [Matthew, Mark, and Luke] with a relative freedom from presuppositions might be expected to see that Christ laughed, and that He expected others to laugh, but our capacity to miss this aspect of His life is phenomenal.2
2) Poking fun at the silliness of religious people (including ourselves) and their sources of sinful self-righteousness serves both them and others who are prone to follow in their example. Such humor is arresting and difficult to ignore. But, this kind of humor is intensely theological and significant. Religion takes some human work or accomplishment as the basis and certainty of a right standing with God. Therefore, to not take it seriously is to help those who are tempted toward religion to instead. Just consider for a moment that Judas Iscariot would participate in the murder God on a Friday or a Sunday but would not murder God on the Sabbath day of Saturday because that would be wrong. What troubled him was not murdering God, but rather ensuring that he did not murder God on the wrong day.
3) Too many people take themselves too seriously and God too lightly. Subsequently, they like the folks who rebuked Jesus for not washing his hands but had no problem falsely accusing him, falsely arresting him, falsely trying him, and falsely killing him. Similarly, one church I knew of years ago wanted to appear tolerant, diverse, and non judgmental. So, they invited a Buddhist monk to lead them in prayer. But, the churchgoers became upset – not because someone who did not believe in God was leading them in prayer – but because he was doing so using a hand drum and they were offended…by the drum.
4) Some things are silly, and to treat them seriously would be wrong, but turning them into a joke keeps them from being legitimized. The earth created itself. Huh? It’s wrong for people to judge so we judge people who judge people for judging people. Huh? Sometimes a chuckle is more fitting than a syllogism.
5) Proverbs 14:13 says, “Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief.” Life in a sinfully crooked, fallen, jacked-up world is incredibly painful and filled with overwhelming heartache and pain. Sometimes the only way to keep from cleaning your gun while mumbling Lamentations is to find something funny in it all and laugh through your tears.
6) Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Too many Christians are spiritually weak and sickly, but their souls would be built strong through regular, deep belly laughs just as much as an athlete sculpts their physical body by pumping iron at the gym.
7) Cultivating your sense of humor heightens all your other emotions. The person who can laugh deeply is passionate enough to also weep deeply. Those who bottle up their emotions in a Spock-like existence display little if any of the characteristics of their passionate God, who both laughs and weeps, as Scripture says. Scripture also commands us to “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:15).”
8) Laughter is sometimes an act of faith, in that it enables us to rise above the pain of the present while we await the coming kingdom, where there are no tears.
9) In 1 Corinthians 9:22–23 Paul writes, “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” The average person listens to talk radio comedic banter on the way to work, downloads funny YouTube videos during break, listens to more drive-time radio banter on the commute home, watches a sitcom after dinner, and watches a comedic late night talk show host before dozing off. To reach people, we need to speak their language, and their language obviously includes comedy.
- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “The Uses of Anecdotes and Illustrations,” in Lectures to My Students (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1954), 389.
- Trueblood, The Humor of Christ, 15. 22. Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears, Death by Love: Letters from the Cross (Wheaton, IL: Cross- way, 2008).
- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Eccentric Preachers (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1879), iv–v, 13–14, 37, 104–5.
This blog is adapted from the book Religion Saves by Mark Driscoll.