I am convinced that God has a sense of humour. You only have to consider the fact that he called me to be a Minister to have your hackles of suspicion raised. A little more theological deduction and you may suggest that having a sense of humour is inherently human and God made us… therefore he must have a sense of humour to give us. Not entirely convincing as an argument because it would follow that therefore he must also have a trunk like an elephant, stripes like a zebra, leaves like different trees, a mouth that closes on flies like a venus fly-trap and every other attribute of his Created order.
When I was at the vicar factory where they tried to train me I wrote my dissertation on a Theology of Humour (subtitled ‘A serious look at the lighter side of God’). I loved writing it and discovering humour in unexpected places throughout the Bible. I won’t bore you with it now, but one of the joys was discovering humour in Jesus. We miss much of it because we do not share the same sense of humour as first century Jews, but it is there all right. I sense that so much of what he said was with a sparkle in his eye and a broad grin.
At first this seemed so out of character with the dour, serious Man of Sorrows that I learnt about growing up going to church that I could not cope with it. It felt wrong. But then I realised that if Jesus was fully human then he must have had a sense of humour as well. (As Jesus is also fully God, we can say through theological deduction that therefore God does have a sense of humour). So you see him smiling knowingly as he tells people that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I believe that this was Hebrew humour, based on hyperbole (exaggeration to an extreme). Jesus was not saying it was impossible, he was simply cracking a joke to show just how hard it is.
I had a conversation with someone today who was asking about when Jesus said that we should hate our parents and siblings. Was he serious? Well, I wonder whether he was cracking another hyperbolic joke here. The point was not that we should hate our family, rather that we should be 100% devoted to God and that he should have our first loyalty.
People who listen to my sermons are usually treated (!?) to a joke or two. I think it is good to season what is said with a little joy and levity – if it was good enough for Jesus who am I to argue? So here’s a chuckle to conclude:
The old man placed an order for one hamburger, French fries and a drink.
He unwrapped the plain hamburger and carefully cut it in half, placing one half in front of his wife.
He then carefully counted out the French fries, dividing them into two piles and neatly placed one pile in front of his wife.
He took a sip of the drink, his wife took a sip and then set the cup down between them. As he began to eat his few bites of hamburger, the people around them were looking over and whispering.
Obviously they were thinking, ‘That poor old couple – all they can afford is one meal for the two of them.’
As the man began to eat his fries a young man came to the table and politely offered to buy another meal for the old couple. The old man said, they were just fine – they were used to sharing everything
People closer to the table noticed the little old lady hadn’t eaten a bite.
She sat there watching her husband eat and occasionally taking turns sipping the drink.
Again, the young man came over and begged them to let him buy another meal for them. This time the old woman said ‘No, thank you, we are used to sharing everything.’
Finally, as the old man finished and was wiping his face neatly with the napkin, the young man again came over to the little old lady who had yet to eat a single bite of food and asked ‘What is it you are waiting for?’