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Building Family Ties with Laughter

Laugh together like you mean it

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At the tender age of 16, Matt landed his first job as a delivery boy for a florist. Things were going pretty well until one day he had two deliveries to make on the same run. One of the arrangements was to go to a church that was having a big dedication service for their new sanctuary. The other, to a funeral home.

A few hours later the florist got a phone call from an irate preacher. "We have a big problem," the pastor said. "Our dedication service starts in thirty minutes, and up in the front of our new sanctuary is this huge basket of flowers that says, 'Rest in Peace.'"

"You think you've got problems?" the florist said. "Somewhere in this town next to a casket, there's an arrangement that says, 'Good Luck in Your New Location!' "

A study conducted by the University of Maryland shows that laughter is good for the heart. Laughter releases chemicals into the bloodstream that relax the blood vessels. It reduces stress, blood pressure, and heart rate and can improve your immune system (Reuters News Service and CBS Radio News, November 15, 2000). The Bible said it, and medical science confirms it: "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones" (Proverbs 17:22). No wonder a sense of humor is consistently one of the top characteristics desired in friendships, among coworkers, and in a spouse.

Take a Lesson from Jesus

In case you are humorically challenged, a brief tutorial on the subject might help. Longtime Christian comedian and speaking coach Ken Davis understands the role of humor in speaking. Years ago he shared with me that in order for something to be funny, it must always have one of three elements: exaggeration, truth, or surprise.

My kids were very young when I taught them the Big Three. They learned those faster than their social security number. And for years the premise has been validated—anything we laugh about falls into one of those three categories.

Jesus had a great sense of humor. He captivated crowds for hours. Children flocked to him. He excelled at building relationships with people of all backgrounds. Why? Because love and laughter can break down the strongest of defenses.

People often ask me if Jesus ever used humor when he taught. Fact is, he actually used all of the Big Three in his talks. He primarily used exaggeration, because in first-century Jewish culture, humor was based on hyperbole. Jesus was a master at the technique; the bigger the exaggeration, the funnier the joke. So when Jesus said, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and fail to notice the plank in your own?" (Matthew 7:5 Phillips), people in the crowd weren't reverently murmuring, "Amen." They were cracking up because of the gross exaggeration.

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Building Family Ties with Laughter