John T. Willis

Sunday, May 22, 2011


A very important aspect of speech is humor. Of course, some humor is inappropriate. At the same time, humor is the very best approach to communicate great truths about God and human beings. Here are a few contemporary humorous statements of Robert Frost, followed by a few paragraphs from the Bible in which Jesus and others used human very effectively.

1. Robert Frost: "A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman's birthday but never remembers her age."

"A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer."

"A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel."

"A poet never takes notes. You never takes notes in a love affair."

"Education is hanging around until you've caught on."

2. Jesus: Matthew 7:1-5:
"Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Whyh do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in yhour own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' while the log is in your own eye. Your hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye."
The original audience that heard this paragraph could not keep from bursting out in laughter. A huge log protruding out of a person's eye would look hilarious. And to think that a person who had such a log protruding from his eye trying to examine the eye of someone else who had a tiny speck in his eye is preposterous. What a powerful, memorable message for all of us. It is so easy to see the faults of others, and ignore our own faults.

Mark 10:23-27:
"Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, 'How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God.!' And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, 'Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.' They were greatly astounded and said to one another, 'Then who can be saved?' Jesus looked at them and said, 'For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible."
When this audience originally heard the thought of a camel going through the eye of a needle would undoubtedly have rolled on the ground erupting with belly laughs. [By the way, a "needle" was a very small bone needle, not a small gate on the walls of Jerusalem. Such a thing just does not exist, and never has!!!]. What a powerful, relevant, memorable message. It is IMPOSSIBLE for rich people to enter into the kingdom of God, but God by his mercy and grace enables such people to do so.

3. Other texts.
Genesis 18:10-14:
"[Yahweh] said, 'I will surely return to you [Abraham] in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.' And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah LAUGHED TO HERSELF, saying, 'After I ahve grown old, shall I have pleasure?' The Lord said to Abraham, 'Why did Sarah LAUGH, and say, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?' Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.' But Sarah denied, saying, 'I did not LAUGH'; for she was afraid. He said, Oh yes, you did LAUGH.'"
Often in the Bible, the composer, speaker, writer uses a word-play or pun to communicate an important memorable truth. The composer of Genesis 17:15-22; 18:9-14; 21:1-7 emphasize the importance of humor, of laughter. Abraham and Sarah LAUGHED in unbelief over God's promise that He would give them a son in their old age. Yahweh responded by naming this child ISAAC, the Hebrew word for LAUGH. Isaac is "little laughing boy," so that everyone would remember that God gave Abraham and Sarah a child in their old age--to emphasize that God can do anything.

Psalms 2:4; 59:8.
"He who sits in the heavens LAUGHS;
the Lord has them in derision."

"But you LAUGH at them, O Lord;
you hold all the nations in derision."

Often, powerful nations and people rise up against God as if they could successfully resist and overpower the creator of the universe. Biblical composers reply that our God who lives in heaven LAUGHS at the very idea that human beings could resist him. This is rich humor: "You have to be kidding!!!" "You are out of your minds!!!" How foolish it is for human beings [individually or collectively] to oppose our creator successfully.

As YOU study and meditate on the Bible and on life, be sensitive of the importance of humor, of various types of laughter. This is a powerful communication of speech.

Share YOUR ideas and insights with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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