Does God have a Sense of Humour?

I attended Andy Kind's comedy stand-up show this week at Word Alive. This amusing gentleman I have heard before. His pre-prepared stories and gags nicely complimented the extempore banter such performers are wont to have with members of the audience. He was very funny and it was worth the wait (events starting at 10.30pm are increasingly out of my range).

I have often wondered about whether God Himself has a sense of humour. I have heard people adamantly argue that He most certainly has. They cite evidence from nature, such as unusual and bizarre creatures, such as the duck billed platypus, the strange features of which may certainly elicit a smile from those who consider it. To warrant such a claim about God, however, one must turn to scripture, not the natural world, to understand His qualities. Natural theology (making deductions about God by considering what we can see) is rather limited; scripture, though sparing in its detail, is a fuller record of our indescribable God’s amazing qualities. Nowhere, as far as I can tell, is God described as humorous or sharing a joke. Although He is said to laugh (in Psalm 2, for example), He is deriding the feebleness of His human opponents, rather than chortling at some punchline. Perhaps the kings of the earth setting themselves up against heaven’s God is the punchline- a terribly unfunny one.

Genesis 1 clearly teaches that humans are made in God’s likeness or image. This surely refers to their eternal natures, their moral compass and their feelings, such as compassion and sorrow, which animals (generally) and angels (possibly) cannot feel. I think it also refers to their sense of creativity and desire to build, improve and construct. As God made a universe, so His little likenesses build houses, design rooms, arrange belongings. Our God must have given us that sense of humour. We laugh and guffaw, chuckle and giggle. We see the oddities, ironies and foibles of life; circumstances make us smile and laugh as we reflect thereon. It is God who made us this way, and one might argue that this reflects His own character.

Indeed, several passages of the Bible are humorous. I remember falling about laughing at the proverb:

As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed (Prov. 26)

I recall loudly quoting it to my university housemates when I had an early lecture and they had not. Elijah, while not claiming to be quoting the Lord, suggests to the prophets of Baal atop Mount Carmel that their deity sends no fire because he is sleeping or passing waste. Rather droll, no? The Lord Jesus, while He was on the earth, told several stories which likely caused His hearers to laugh. The admonition to consider the log in our own eyes rather than the speck in others’ is a wonderful piece of hyperbole. Similarly, the prospect of a camel passing through a needle’s eye would have warranted some laughter from the Lord’s original telling.

Yet if God is so obviously humorous, why is there so little of it in His word? To answer this, we need to understand the purpose of the Bible. It is not primarily a piece of wonderful literature as pseudo-religious bores will tell you, neither is it a collection of moral teachings bequeathed us by the ancients. It is a loud wake-up call to sinners that they might repent of their sin and call on God for salvation, ahead of the coming tsunami of righteous judgement. What is there to laugh about that? Where’s the fun? If I effected the rescue of a neighbour from a housefire, during which I risked my life while saving his, I would be annoyed to hear him complain afterwards that I failed to make him laugh as I carried him out of the blazing inferno. Why should the prophets and apostles regale us with gags when their precious ink had so vital and urgent a purpose?

Interestingly, the answer one gives to this question likely reflects our own levels of humour. One particular Calvinist I know argues that God has no humour, which clearly reflects his own dour character. Those who feel compelled to share jokes from the pulpit instead of preaching God’s plain truth would doubtless insist that our God is as great a joker as they; heaven will be one long comedy show. There is therefore a danger that, while answering this question, we create a god in our own image, projecting onto him our own assumptions and desires. This is a form of idolatry, against which the Biblical writers wrote most vehemently. God is not a man (Numbers 23:19); we must not assume that our own personalities are perfect copies of His character, of which our colleagues’ personalities must therefore fall short.

I think I am therefore unable to answer my own question; the evidence points to it, but the scripture is essentially silent on the matter. Furthermore, our fallen human natures make rude jokes, painful barbs and sarcastic swipes which intend to humiliate, belittle and ridicule. If our God has a sense of humour, it is far better and purer than that which passes for human wit.

When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion,

We were like those who dream.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,

And our tongue with singing.

Then they said among the nations,

“The Lord has done great things for them.” Psalm 126: 1-2, NKJV

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