Thursday, May 03, 2007

Attitudes That Do Not Square with the Christian Faith: Sillyness

A key part of the self-understanding of many modern persons is that they do not take themselves, or life, very seriously. Mockery is everywhere around us. Turn on most any tv sitcom and the brand of humor is not punchlines, it's subtle, arrogant mocking. In addition to this posture, sillyness proliferates today. This is a problem for the Christian church, and it requires that we chart a new course.

But too often we simply sail according to the world's compass. I can't count the number of times I've heard a pastor tell a joke to "warm a congregation up." I'm all for personal connection with one's audience, and I myself enjoy a pastor who is warm and engaging, but I'm not sure why Christians think they need to be silly in order to connect with one another. Pastors aren't comedians. There's nothing in the Bible that would lend us to think that there's anything funny about preaching. There may be occasional humor in a sermon, but to strike a silly pose is to rob the pulpit of its solemnity and its power. Moving from services to everyday life, so many young people today think and act like life is one big joke that circles through all of one's conversations. I'm amazed at how foolish many conversations I have actually are. With men, especially, or more specifically young men, I'm struck by how often and how quickly common interactions turn ridiculous or silly. Such dialogue cheapens life and robs it of meaningfulness. I'm all for being lighthearted, but we've sacrificed lightheartedness for sillyness in the current day.

Sillyness and mockery prevent us from seeing people as dignified beings made in the image of God. Futhermore, these postures subtly trick us as they leave us thinking that life is fundamentally funny and easy-going. This is far from the truth. Life is difficult, and sin is real, and Satan is whisking people to hell every second the world turns. There's nothing funny about that. Such a reality should not rob us of joy, but it should infuse us with a seriousness that respects people and treats life as a meaningful exercise. The next time you contemplate a ridiculous youth group event, pastor, or you crack your fourth joke in an otherwise serious conversation, young man, think about the approach our Lord took towards life, and remember your mother's words: "Wipe that silly grin off your face!" There's a place for laughing in our lives, but there's also a considerable place for seriousness.


Blogger Tony Kummer said...

Interesting article. I agree with your general drift but think you've drifted a little too far.

Humor is a blessing from God - best enjoyed with a clear conscience and humility. Even as such it can be abused - as you have noted.

But you overstated your point when you said: There's nothing in the Bible that would lend us to think that there's anything funny about preaching.

The hyperbole that Jesus employed in his preaching was clearly humorous. And what shall we say about brother Ezekiel?

You are right to correct the "stand-up comedian" model of preaching. But serious, God-fearing expositors should have the freedom to enjoy humor - even in the pulpit.

Maybe Charles Spurgeon is a good example of the balance. Thanks again for your careful thinking.

2:23 PM  
Blogger Noah Braymen said...


Lord willing I'm going to be participating in the internship program at CHBC this fall. I have a few questions for you about the internship and SBTS (I'm a student through the internet). Can you email me at Thanks brother!

In Christ,

4:19 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

I have found that good preaching provides its own humor, through irony and example. I cite John MacArthur as exhibit A - his wit and wisdom can produce timely humor in the flow of faithful preaching. Not everyone can do it, but it can happen. The preacher who ties to be "funny" just makes a fool of themselves and - most seriously - the Word they are to proclaim.

I am convicted of this sin myself; I'm trying to be better. May God make us all more sober minded in our proclamation of His Word.

6:28 PM  
Blogger Benjamin said...


I think you may have taken on a slightly overlarge topic. It seems a bit much to put preaching jokes, general goofiness, and acceptance of secular wit into one general bag, and then call it sillyness and condemn it.

Many times I have found the ability to find enjoyment in various types of humor (within certain boundaries, of course) to be a witness to the fullness of life that Christians experience. There are also many times that a quick wit and ironic style of communication can make a helpful point more strongly than simply stating objective truths... Mark Driscoll might be an interesting example, though sometimes he probably goes too far.

Still, I do think you have some good points regarding the overuse of jokes in sermons and the need for Christians not to simply submit to the world's approach to humor. Thanks for the thoughts!


8:28 PM  
Blogger JTapp said...

One pastor of mine was always "silly" anytime he was away from the pulpit. He later explained to me that it was because he was so intense and serious most of the time. In the pulpit preaching the Word, or in his office studying the Word, or fervently praying for people. The rest of the time, he needed to lighten up to provide balance. So, I think there's a place for humor and "sillyness."

1:34 PM  

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