The subject of humor in preaching can create tension. Personally I think that natural humor appropriately used can be a great tool in preaching. Obviously I agree that unnatural humor inappropriately used for the sake of entertainment in preaching is not good at all. Satan loves to take something that is good and corrupt it, even in the church. But I’m not wanting to write about humor in preaching, I’m thinking about laughter in the preacher. Perhaps a preacher with a great laugh comes to mind, like Charles Swindoll, or a preacher with dry humor, or whatever, but I’m not thinking primarily about preaching today.
I just read the quote that laughter is an instant vacation. Perhaps in the busy-ness of life and ministry, we need something akin to mini-sabbaths by laughter. Before you start thinking that my view of sabbath is limited, hear me out. I know that the biblical concept of Sabbath from Genesis 2 to the book of Hebrews is very rich theologically. I also know that we of all people, hopefully understanding the Bible well, being experts in the struggles of contemporary life, carrying the pastoral burdens of deeply hurting folks, facing spiritual opposition at potentially elevated levels, etc., we of all people have reason to be sombre and serious.
Yet at the same time, if we know the Bible well, if we know God well, if we have a firm grasp of the theological truths in which we deal every day, the truths of a God who has grasped our hearts and poured out his love into them . . . we of all people should have laughter in our lives. The Psalmist wrote about the return of the captives and spoke of how their mouths were filled with laughter. Why? Because they knew, indeed all the nations knew, that the LORD had done great things for them! (see Psalm 126) The book of Proverbs speaks of a joyful heart being good medicine (Pro.17:22). They say the laughter of a Dad is critical to the psychological health of a child. Laughter, by definition, seems to be a healthy ingredient in life.
I don’t deny the other side of the coin. The need for seriousness in many aspects of life and ministry, the sadness that may overwhelm our hearts as they beat with His for this hurting rebellious world, the deep realities of mourning in this world that itself groans in travail. I do not urge flippancy or silliness or folly. I simply want to prod myself and perhaps you too . . . surely we of all people should have regular bouts of laughter. God-inspired, clean, honest, “I’ve cast my cares on Him so the burdens are not on me” laughter. God-given, grace-prompted, “God has given me so much to rejoice in that I am able to enjoy the little blessings” laughter.
Perhaps if we allow ourselves to laugh in private, it may even spill naturally and appropriately into the pulpit. Maybe that wouldn’t be a bad thing sometimes.