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A long time ago, Harper and Row published a book by Elton Trueblood titled "The Humor of Christ." When the book was published in 1964 -- it's out of print today -- all of us serious religious types rushed out to purchase and read it. Trueblood was one of those "must-read" guys.

Is it too much to expect Jesus to have a sense of humor? Considering all of the things we have going on these days, surely Jesus (God) must be laughing. Unfortunately, too much of the time we take one of Jesus' teachings and attempt to make it so serious that we miss its humor. Trueblood says the idea for his book began when he was reading the story in Matthew 7 about someone worrying about a speck in another person's eye when his own eye had a beam in it. His son laughed at the story. Of course, Jesus was providing a very important teaching, but Trueblood's son knew instantly that no one could have a beam in his eye. The idea was ludicrous.

Or consider how Jesus often inserted a sly example while he was teaching something serious. His disciples were questioning him about when certain things would occur because they didn't know and were worried about the future, and Jesus said, "But know this, that if the householder had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would have been awake and would not have left his house to be broken into." Duh! Sounds dumb, but it's also funny. If we knew when something bad was going to happen, we would make sure we were prepared.

Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, recognized Jesus' humor when he read about the necessity of someone becoming like a little child in order to enter the kingdom of God. In his explanation, Kierkegaard has the child laughing because he has not yet been brainwashed. We do not go backward in our lives to become smarter (although it isn't a bad idea); we move forward, obtain a quality education and experience in order to understand and to create. Becoming like a child is foolish, so we must laugh.

Or consider Jesus' use of hyperbole. In addressing the problem of riches, he declared that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. That's impossible to even think about, so biblical interpreters often claim that Jesus surely was not talking about the eye of a sewing needle, but one of the gates in Jerusalem that was so low a camel had a difficult time going through it. But it really doesn't make any difference whether it's a sewing needle or a gate if a camel can't get through it. Where did Jesus come up with this idea if not to make it so preposterous his disciples could both laugh and wonder at his teachings?

It's not that we should not take the Bible seriously, for we should; it's only that when Jesus says something that is both true and ludicrous, we should feel free to laugh at it. If you're not catching the humor, please lighten up; it's there.

Robert Box, the former chaplain for the Bella Vista Police Department and current Fire Department chaplain, is a regular columnist for The Weekly Vista. Email him in care of ourtown@nwadg.com.

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