The Best Laugh

How to teach the difference between godly hilarity and hurtful "humor"

Last week, I supervised in my son's classroom during lunch. With the teacher away, the kids joked coarsely and hurtfully. Finally I said, "It's okay to laugh and tell jokes. But how about telling jokes that aren't crude and don't make fun of others?" The ringleader replied, "They wouldn't be funny then."

The idea these children had about what's funny probably reflects the obnoxious approach to humor taken by many television sitcoms. While I do what I can to keep my son from adopting this view, I know that a healthy sense of humor enriches life. Here are ways I direct his attention to godly hilarity.

God's Gift of Laughter
While my son and I were browsing in a Christian bookstore, I mentioned buying a kid's joke book. "But if it's Christian," he said solemnly, "it won't be very funny."

Although appropriate humor involves some needed prohibitions, the idea that Christian and funny are contradictory is a false impression.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine," says the writer of Proverbs 17:22. Laughter is, in fact, a God-given gift to relax and free us.

Humor researchers are discovering the benefits of healthy humor.

It reduces tension and moderates anxiety. It enhances relationships. It promotes confidence, learning and creative thinking. More important, the ability to enjoy healthy humor is a mark of true spirituality.

In an article in Christianity Today, J. I. Packer writes, "Appreciating pleasures as they come our way is one mark of a reverent, God-centered heart . ? Pleasure is divinely designed to raise our sense of God's goodness, deepen our gratitude to him, and strengthen our hope as Christians looking forward to richer pleasure in the world to come."

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