I read last week that sales of humor books fell by 5% from 2014 to 2015. Does this signal that humor is fading in our culture? It does seem to me society is slowly losing its sense of humor. Or maybe the political and hot-button topic books are more attractive to readers. Or perhaps it's just that no one is writing anything that's funny right now. It does bring up the question of why we read what we do. To be entertained? To be informed? To be motivated? All of the above?
Here’s where I think balance is a good thing. If we’re reading such serious content on a regular basis, at the expense of some more light-hearted material, what does that do to us as a person? How does this affect us as people of faith, and followers of Jesus Christ? Most of us are familiar with the scripture “A cheerful heart is good medicine” Proverbs 17:22 NLT. The benefits of laughter have a positive impact on both our physical and mental well-being. I think we should want to laugh more.
So what do we, as Believers, find funny? Paul wrote to the Ephesians “Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Ephesian 4:29 NLT “Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes--these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God.” Ephesians 5:4 NLT
Jeff Allen is a Christian comedian that my wife and I thoroughly enjoy. We drove half-way across the state of Pennsylvania just to see him in person. He is probably the funniest comedian we have ever heard. And my wife loves to laugh. I think our first date was to a Pink Panther movie. I had to marry her because she was the only one who repeatedly laughed at my jokes!
Some humor, though not particularly offensive, gets its laughs at the expense of a particular grouping of people and at our individual actions and habits. I think the current wave of extreme political correctness has served to censor some humor. And humor often pokes fun of a sacred cow, or two. And we all can define lines that we’d rather not see crossed when it comes to what is presented as humorous. There is humor that appeals to a more lowbrow audience, and there is humor that engages our intellect just a bit more. It seems like our culture tolerates, and even prefers, humor that includes “obscene stories, foolish talk and coarse jokes.” But we are told in the Bible to be salt and light to the world. Good (clean) humor can bring some much needed flavor and freshness to our culture.
Laughing disarms people. Getting people to laugh can be like knocking on their door, giving us the chance to move the dialogue to something more serious. Jeff Allen, while very funny, also uses his platform to testify how the Lord saved his marriage and from his drug habit. He gets people laughing hard while still modeling Paul’s instruction to “let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”
Sometimes humor is how we deal with difficult issues and circumstances. I never considered myself a cat person until a cat adopted us. Years later when her kidneys shut down it fell to me to have her put down. The timing was horrible – two days before Christmas. Several years after that, here’s the song that came out.
So my point in all of this is how can we use our God-given sense of humor to bring Jesus’ light to others? How can you, as a writer, bring more humor to your work and encourage those who read your words? I know that writing humor is difficult for many people to write well, but there are those who God has gifted in this area. If that’s you, I encourage you dive in and write something that makes us all LOL. Maybe you’ll be the one to write a truly funny book that will lead to a rise of book sales in the humor category!
And I’ll leave you with this deep thought: if cows laugh, does milk come out of their nose?