Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Does God Have a Sense of Humor?

It's always bothered me when people say bemusedly, in response to a strange or inconvenient happenstance, "Well, the Lord must have a sense of humor!" I think this suggests a deficient view of God. As Luther once said to Erasmus, "Your thoughts of God are too human." To be sure, God has always existed in a state of utter joy and happiness. But humor is not the same as joy; a chuckle is not the same as happiness. Consider the following quotations from Mark Twain:
So you see, the quality of humor is not a personal or a national monopoly. It's as free as salvation, and, I am afraid, far more widely distributed. But it has its value, I think. The hard and sordid things of life are too hard and too sordid and too cruel for us to know and touch them year after year without some mitigating influence, some kindly veil to draw over them, from time to time, to blur the craggy outlines, and make the thorns less sharp and the cruelties less malignant.
~ Interview in The New York Times, Nov. 26, 1905

What is it that strikes a spark of humor from a man? It is the effort to throw off, to fight back the burden of grief that is laid on each one of us. In youth we don't feel it, but as we grow to manhood we find the burden on our shoulders. Humor? It is nature's effort to harmonize conditions. The further the pendulum swings out over woe the further it is bound to swing back over mirth.
~ Interview in The New York Times, Nov. 26, 1905

Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of Humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.
~ Following the Equator

Twain believed that humor exists because sorrow exists. I think I agree with him. We humans laugh at ourselves and at one another to ease the pain and frustration of living in a fallen world: "A merry heart does good like a medicine." I, for one, love to laugh. Try to remember the last humorous story you told to a friend. What was it about? I'd wager it was about something that annoyed you, or the pettiness of a co-worker, or a humiliating experience that offended your vanity, or a squabble with a loved one, or some such thing. But in heaven there is none of these things--there is no sin. God does not experience frustration or humiliation. He "works all things according to the council of his own will." Human sin does not threaten his eternal happiness. He does not need humor.

When we arrive in heaven, we will not need it either. It will be replaced by unimaginable gladness in the presence of God. We will certainly rejoice and be merry and laugh--perhaps we will sometimes laugh for a million years--but our joy and merriment and laughter will be of such a kind that we will think of them as altogether new things, and nothing like mere humor.

I think humor belongs to earth, and joy belongs to heaven. As Christians, we understand that life is really very serious business. What could be more serious than warning people of judgment and pointing them to the Savior? But even these matters are ultimately out of our hands. We are responsible to be wise stewards, to pray, to sow, "but God giveth the increase." While we're here, we should accept humor as a gift. We should laugh. Laugh at yourself, and by all means laugh at me.


Molly Carlisle said...

Interesting thoughts, Josh. And I will certainly accept your invitation to laugh at you. ;)

Have a great weekend!

MadMup said...

This is a topic I've pondered many a time. I've heard it said that the best comedians are those with the most pain in their lives.

I'm thankful God's gift of humor!

Tony Kummer said...

I am updating Said at Southern and need your name, degree seeking and anticipated grad date so I can feature your feed. Thanks

Kevin Foflygen said...

That's interesting. I never thought about it like that. Reminds me of "The Pleasures of God" (which I'm enjoying reading, btw). I don't imagine that the Father's eternal, infinite joy in his Son would include friendly ribbing or knock-knock jokes.

Paul Fuller said...

Hmmm.. I understand the perspective of not wanting to make God a jovial comedian. However, what about instances where God is sarcastic (a form of humor, albeit negative) or ironic? Christ did this many times. You'll see very interesting uses of irony in the Hebrew especially.

Josh said...

Are you going to make it down here for the Fall Semester? We'll be glad to help you move in.

James and Christen said...

I think it depends what you mean by humor. I wouldn't agree that all humor is derived from sorrow and not joy. Whether or not God has a sense of humor, again it depends on our definition of humor. I have heard people try and differentiate joy from happiness and I understand their reasoning, but I also disagree with it. I think that humor, pleasure, gladness, joy, and happiness in God are all the same basically. I think there will be humor in heaven and that God does have a sense of humor.