Question #396

What about humor and jokes during worship?

I enjoy your website. I was wondering what the Bible has to say on humor and jokes in the worship of God. I find no mention of it in the New Testament. Thank you for your response.

The Answer:

The Bible has nothing to say about humor and jokes in worship. That does not mean that the Bible condemns humor and jokes in worship. One need only look at God's creation to know that God has a sense of humor. The giraffe and the hippopotamus are prime examples. His inspired word is not without humor. One reason that the modern reader may not appreciate much of the Biblical humor is because it was addressed to the ancient Jews and to first century readers. Elton Trueblood's "The Humor of Christ" is a good place to begin gaining insight into Biblical humor.

Humor has always been considered a valuable tool in teaching. It is the same in preaching. A preacher without personality is little more than a robot. If humor is part of that personality it makes sense to use it in teaching and preaching.

That said, humor for humor's sake may well be out of place. The humor of the bible is always a teaching tool. There is not a single recorded sermon that begins with a series of jokes unrelated to the sermon. While such may "break the ice," it is more likely to break a worshipful attitude that must then be regained. How often in prayer do we ask for the ability to "set aside earthly thoughts" only to have them thrown at us from the pulpit. Good humor fits the occasion and the moment. Some sermons lend themselves to humorous illustrations and applications; some, e.g., the trial, scourging, and crucifixion of the Lord, do not.

That said, is the use of the humor in the pulpit sinful? Absolutely not, assuming it is not vulgar or suggestive. This should go without being said since such language is sinful whether humorous or serious. The science of preaching is one thing; the art of preaching is another. The approach, style, delivery, and other indefinable ingredients that are part of personality are different for different people. (Perhaps it would be humorous if everybody were exactly alike!) One preacher uses humor and hits the target; another attempts humor and shoots himself. The preacher must know himself, accept himself, be himself, and develop his best self if preaching is to be effective.

The preacher should also remember that effective humor is one of the most difficult aspects of sermon preparation. As long as it is used appropriately its importance can hardly be overemphasized. It can help to get inside the hearts of people, especially those who think that religion never seems to enjoy anything, and open those hearts to the gospel.

It has been said of the early Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards that he always spoke in monotone, both pitch and volume, so that nothing in his manner or mannerisms would interfere with his message. In researching for this answer, his history was reviewed and that reputation appears to be false. As a boy I recall hearing preachers who had only one pitch (high), one pace (fast), and one volume (really loud), and who paused only to suck in more wind. Talk about humor in the pulpit! There are many ways to distract from the preaching of the gospel. On the other hand, there is hardly any approach that isn't appreciated by somebody. If one does not appreciate the preacher's approach where he worships, the place to begin is talking with the preacher. If that which is not appreciated is not changed the best path of action is probably to find another place to worship. No one person or family should attempt to force a change since the issue is not a matter of faith.

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)