esus used humor as a way to connect with people: parables and stories with lessons, practical jokes, loveable eccentricities, overturning social conventions and common sense. Today, as a pastor and teacher, I’m often told that “Jesus is not a laughing matter.” But Jesus saw things differently. He used humor to communicate the truth of his mission — and connect with others.
Jesus’ Use of Humor in Teaching
Humor has played an important role in Jesus' life and ministry. In fact, some of his stories and parables would not have been nearly as effective if they had been delivered without the use of humor.
By using humor, Jesus was able to break down barriers that separated people from him, his message and from God. Humor is a powerful tool for reaching people in a way that makes them more receptive to the message of the gospel.
Oftentimes, in ministry, I come across people that believe Jesus never laughed. However, the reality is different. The Bible actually includes a lot of humor. There are funny stories, funny words and funny situations. In fact, Jesus used jokes and stories to get his point across.
One example of Jesus' sense of humor is in the book of Luke when he spoke with the religious leaders of his day.
"'Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge,' he told them. 'You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.' After that they no longer dared to ask him any questions." (Luke 11:52-54)
This was an obvious reference to a key and a door — but it was also a play on words. The word for "experts" in Hebrew is "sophists," which means "blockheads." In other words, Jesus was telling them they were so smart about the law that they had made it impossible for people to enter their faith. Clever stuff!
In Matthew 25:11-13, Jesus deals with the importance of being ready to speak truth in love at all times, even when it's difficult. To make his point, Jesus tells a story about someone who gets asked to give a speech and doesn't prepare. The man's unpreparedness results in him making statements that are foolish and embarrassing.
The moral of the story is clear: Don't wait until you're pressured into speaking to consider whether your words are wise. But Jesus' telling of the story is also a demonstration of how he used humor to make his point. He could have spoken directly about the need for wisdom and preparation, but he chose instead to illustrate the point by telling a humorous story about an unprepared speaker. We see evidence of this throughout the Gospels.
Jesus' sense of humor doesn't seem like much by our standards today — he had a knack for using hyperbole. He would overstate things to make his point or prompt others to think differently about their lives and the world around them.
Laughter Brings Healing
Jesus was known for being a radical, out-of-the-box teacher. He regularly broke social customs of the day and challenged people to rethink their actions and beliefs. But Jesus also knew how to connect with people and make them feel comfortable. He used humor as a way to make people feel more at ease, gain their trust, and open up. Jesus, as God's son, understood the role laughter plays in our daily lives, and why God created it in the first place.
In the Bible, Proverbs 17:22 (KJV) teaches us that “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”
Why is laughter so good for us?
- It's healthy for our bodies. Laughter increases blood flow to all parts of the body, including the muscles, stomach and intestines. This results in a more relaxed, better-functioning body. Laughter also increases levels of infection-fighting antibodies and disease-killing cells, which helps protect us from colds and flu.
- It relieves pain. Laughing can help ease headaches and temporarily reduce muscle pain. It raises endorphin levels in the brain, which helps control pain and stress. A good belly laugh can even ease menstrual cramps!
- It improves our moods. Laughing decreases stress hormones while increasing happy hormones like endorphins and serotonin (the "feel-good" hormone). Laughter also triggers positive feelings that can last long after the joke is over or funny movie has finished playing.
The Importance of Laughter
Laughter can be a powerful tool to help you connect with others. It can reduce stress, and help make you healthier by decreasing your blood pressure and releasing endorphins.
Laughter reduces stress and eases tension. When people are laughing, they feel more relaxed and at ease with each other. Humor helps us relax so we can deal with the stressful situations in our lives.
Laughter helps us connect with others more deeply. We all have things in common, and laughter is one of them. Even if you don't share someone else's sense of humor, you can still appreciate it simply as a way to build bridges of understanding between you and another person or group that may be very different from you.
Laughter connects us with God's joy and his love for us. God created humor for us to enjoy because he wants to see us happy (Psalm 104:31). When we laugh, we are expressing our gratitude for the gift of joyfulness that God has given us."
Laughter Brings Us Closer to Jesus
Jesus, the Incarnate Word, the Word made flesh like you and me, is the great teacher of life. He is the way, he is the truth, he is life. That same Jesus was a man of laughter. He laughed with his friends, he laughed with children, he laughed with sinners—even when they were laughing at him!
Jesus' merciful heart laughs along with us as we live in this broken world. He came to teach us how to be happy. As St. Therese of Lisieux said: "Let us not look for joy in the things that pass away but let us find it in Jesus our happiness."
Jesus Laughed, So Should You
God brought laughter into the world with Adam and Eve. He used laughter to build intimacy, to build community, to bring joy and to bring healing. Since then, God has continued to use laughter as a tool for relationship building.
As a pastor I have seen how people from all walks of life have been able to draw closer to God through humor in many different ways. It is not surprising that Jesus himself experienced joy, laughter and fun during his time on earth.
Jesus taught us about the need for humility when we laugh at ourselves. This happens when we understand our own weakness and are able to laugh at our shortcomings without being offended or without defending ourselves. Humor can be an amazing tool for helping us connect with one another because it helps us overcome barriers of pride and self-centeredness that keep us from connecting.