I believe the question has an obvious answer but mostly, I think, we’re inclined to think that He doesn’t because of His great power and holiness. We generally associate holiness with sombreness. I got to thinking about all of this after hearing about some uproariously funny stories of ministry experiences recently told at a denominational gathering by our Canadian Alliance president, Rev. Dave Hearn. It made me realize that God intends the lives of His followers to be filled with joy — not joy in the sense that the world thinks of it, but a deep abiding sense of joy in the heart because we know Him and His victory over the world of sin and and all the sorrow that goes with it (i.e. John 15:11).
How do we know God has a sense of humour? Well, in the first place, it is obvious that He created people with this important capacity. People universally, despite the problems and difficulties that attend their way, enjoy a good laugh. In fact, humour is one of the great motivators of our lives. We will do almost anything to ensure that sooner or later we have a good time. We love to be entertained, to hear funny stories, and to experience pleasant surprises. We are drawn to people who have a good sense of humour. We love to be with them and to have them as friends. They help assuage the negative aspects of our lives.
God’s sense of humour can also be seen in nature. One has only to think of some of the strange looking and colourful animals that He has created. Think of a monkey, or a rhinoceros, not to mention some very strange looking birds. The beauty of creation reflects something of God’s interest in that which is pleasant to our eyes and ears. It seems to me, if I think about it, that God has far more interest in humour than that for which we give Him credit.
Thirdly, God’s sense of humour can be seen in many of the stories of His people in the Scriptures. One of my favourites is the one of Haman in the Book of Esther having to regale his most hated enemy, Mordecai, on the streets of Susa (Esther 6). Another is of the guards being “blown away” at the time of Jesus’ resurrection. Many of the stories of humour have to do with God’s sense of laughter at the expense of the wicked. It is a case of seeing the ridiculousness of humanity’s pride in the face of God’s incomparable greatness.
It’s true that humour can be a distraction from more important issues that we need to consider. Life is a lot more than humour and there are many forms of it that play on the evil desires of our hearts. The Bible warns against a certain kind of frivolity that is sordid or that causes us to ignore more serious questions of life. I think of Ecclesiastes or even Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:4. There is a time to cry and a time to laugh, a time to grieve and a time to dance — Ecclesiastes 3:4.
I’ve been thinking of all of this in the context of the prospect of the Christmas season. It dawned on me that Jesus’ coming into the world brought a kind of lightness into the midst of the oppression of those times. This dawning of light in the midst of the darkness was prophesied through Isaiah in the 9th chapter when he wrote that the people walking in darkness have seen a great light; that upon those living in the darkness of death, a light has dawned. And when Jesus came so many years later, it wasn’t long before people came to know of someone who was bringing a whole new perspective into the world. It wasn’t long before it became known that someone had arrived who was bringing heaven’s blessings into the world. And it brought joy. That’s why Christmas is naturally a time of joy.
I think it’s important for us — especially those of us who have been Christians for a long time and are quite naturally and properly preoccupied with very serious matters — not to forget that God intends our lives to be characterized by His joy. We should so live and relate to one another and the world that people will be drawn to consider the message of the gospel simply because of the evidence of joy in our lives. We should be careful not to allow the prospect of God’s judgment upon sin and wickedness to eclipse the joy that is rightfully ours because of the very real victory He has already won on our behalf.
I regret that some aspects of my evangelical church tradition have over-emphasized sobriety at the expense of a good sense of humour. I want to know a better sense of balance between serious-mindedness and a legitimate sense of God-given humour. May my spiritual sensibilities always make lots of room for a good measure of appreciation for the divine right of holy joy.