Editor’s note: This is part two of columnist Eric Veal’s four-part series highlighting some of the things he’s thankful for.
Is laughter an attribute of God? Did Jesus ever laugh?
If God created laughter, happiness and humor, then it only makes sense that Jesus—who is God—would laugh often and express humor while on earth.
Although Scripture gives us plenty of hints that Jesus had a sense of humor, I want to give just one example. It’s the encounter Jesus had with Matthew in Matthew 9:9-13.
Think about what this divine encounter may have looked like.
Jesus asked Matthew, a greedy tax collector, to be one of His closest team members. It is comical, really.
But isn’t this just like Jesus? Even in the choosing of His disciples, He displayed a sense of humor.
So, why would Matthew give up everything to follow Jesus? Perhaps, Matthew had so much money that materialism no longer satisfied him. Maybe he had a guilty conscience because he was tired of cheating people. Maybe he needed a break from all the stress and thought, “If Jesus comes to town again, I will consider following Him.”
Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t tell us everything that transpired between them.
My friend, Josh Howes, imagines what this meeting may have looked like:
Matthew looked up from his stacks of coins to see Jesus headed his way.
Jesus asked, “Hey Matthew. I’ve got a joke for you. How many tax collectors does it take to change the world?”
Matthew responded with a joke of his own. “We don’t want to change the world, Jesus. We just want to take their change!”
But Jesus smiled and said, “You think you’re funny Matthew. But the correct answer is one. It is you. I want your help to change the world. Quit this hopeless job and be My disciple.”
Matthew jumped up, pounded his fist on the money table and said, “Done! But on one condition. You must come to my house tonight and celebrate.”
“Deal,” Jesus said.
Can you imagine Jesus joking around like this with His disciples? Or with anyone else? I don’t find this hard to believe.
I picture Jesus laughing and displaying a keen sense of wit that would make comedian Tim Hawkins envious. He certainly did this with the Pharisees in the “Seven Woes” sermon in Matthew 23. And when Jesus interacted with children, I can’t help but think that He was playful and full of laughter. I also picture Jesus telling jokes around nighttime campfires with the disciples.
This is why, I believe, Christians should be thankful for laughter. Laughter is an expression of joy and a gift that God has given us.
God created each of us with unique personalities. Some of us find it hard to laugh because we aren’t wired that way. Some just have a hard time laughing because we don’t feel at peace. We simply can’t find the inner joy that comes from a relationship with Jesus that we’re told we are “supposed to” feel.
Unfortunately, for many of us, joy has eluded us, and along with it, laughter.
But the truth is that joy doesn’t flow naturally just because Jesus lives in our heart. Even though we are Christians, we often still have to fight for joy.
While joy may come natural to some, allowing the work of the Holy Spirit—and having the self-will to choose to die to self—is a very real struggle for many of us. But just as we must go to war against our sinful natures in order to “die,” we also must battle for joy.
Just as 98.6 degrees is a sign of a healthy body, laughter is a sign of a healthy and joyful spirit.
We must find ways to laugh. It is imperative that Christians be the most fun, humorous, joyful, laugh-infected, joke-filled people on the planet.
Laughter, joy and humor are gifts of God, but like sex, they are to be used the right way and expressed within the proper context. Laughter shouldn’t come from coarse humor, inappropriate jokes or talk that is offensive to God.
Laughter is also important in sharing the Good News. It helps to unify friendships, families and churches. It can even transform cultures because unbelievers can visualize a tangible expression of God’s joy living within His people.
My prayer is that during this Thanksgiving season, we all might appreciate the gift of laughter which God has so graciously given to us.
Take a moment, right now, and thank God for this wonderful gift.
Eric Veal has been a member of Southeast Christian Church since 1990.