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Humor and the Gospel

Using jokes and fun in Christian communication

“The Gospel is too serious a matter to present in a serious manner”

Humor is very valuable in evangelism and Christian communication because:

Says who?

The Bible. Funny?

Someone asked recently in a newspaper, “Are there any jokes in the Bible?” It is filled with humor – usually wry Jewish witticisms, hyperbole and idiom! “You can tame every animal on earth, but not the tongue,” says James. “Yeah, yeah,” says Micaiah to King Ahab, “You’ll win the battle for sure.” (I Kings 22). “I don’t want to twist your arm, but hey, you owe me on this one,” (Paul to Philemon). [Loose paraphrases] Paul amusingly quotes the ‘liar paradox’ in reference to Cretans, which children still play as the game of ‘opposites’. (Titus 1:12).

Many of the Proverbs communicate timeless wisdom with a smile and a wink. God invented humor! So surely we would expect Jesus to use it. And He does, frequently. Many of the parables are intrinsically amusing cameos. They were surely not delivered as deadpan monologues, but in the style of the story-teller with voices and gestures to match (and much two-way banter) – and with very likely from time to time the involvement of children or other listeners as props. This method of communication was very near to street theater!

Here are more thoughts from different Christian writers:

Looking for it

There is much whimsical word-play and punning, particularly in the Old Testament in the naming of people and places. Bible footnotes often explain these meanings.

Humor is embedded into so much of the Bible, yet often we don’t notice it because we don’t expect it to be there. Modern paraphrases (e.g. The Message or The Living Bible often bring out this humor more clearly. Mark or highlight humorous verses in your Bible as you read it, and you will be surprised just how many marks you make.

Comedian Spike Milligan was tragically unable to see the humor in the New Testament which he was convinced must have been there.

“Jesus never compared the Kingdom of God to a religious experience in a temple, but with a party or celebration!” says church growth consultant Andrew Jones.

Books and websites about communication and humor

Surprisingly little has been written (either online or in print) about the use of humor in the Bible, or its value in Christian communication and evangelism. Although humor is now used much more in the church than in past times, there is still a sometimes a lack of appreciation that it is in fact a key to good communication, that we have a biblical mandate to use it, and that the Bible is full of humor. There are only a handful of books on this subject! There are a few commentators who cover these issues online: Steve Bilynskyj | Dr Swiney | Hershey Friedman | Bob Hostetler

If you know of other books or web-pages on this subject, please write.

Using humor in online outreach

How can we incorporate humor into online evangelism?

More humor links

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