Sunday, September 13, 2009

Divine laughter

Do you ever think about God’s laughter and sense of humor? Divine humor is fun, colorful, occasionally harsh, always deserved, and not emulated by us nearly enough. If we want to be like Him, we might want to look at what puts a smile on His face and what makes Him laugh.

I imagine that God frequently laughs because of how much fun He has creating things. We all know the joy of little children with play-dough, and the fun things they create. Imagine how much fun God had at creation, and how much fun He still has sustaining His creation. No doubt He chuckled as He made the platypus and the giraffe, or when He decided to make elephants and first watched them trying to mate. He is the Master Artist, brilliant and creative to the extreme, yet mixed a sense of humor and a love of fun that we haven't even begun to understand. I am sure God laughs often, and has been doing so for all eternity. God isn’t a killjoy; He’s the author of joy.

The Bible teaches that God delights to give His children good things. We know how much a loving human father delights in the joy His children receive when opening up a gift, how he laughs and smiles at their innocent pleasure and fulfillment. He jokes with them, plays with them, gives them gifts, and delights to give them a safe, loving environment in which to enjoy themselves.

How much more does God do that? I can only imagine the laughter and smiles God enjoys when a person realizes his or her need for the Cross. Or when His children realize the joy of giving up their rights and dreams for the sake of ministering to others. Or when someone counts the cost of witnessing, and gets to see the faith spread to an unexpected proportion. Or when an engaged couple who are living for Him get to finally enjoy their wedding day and wedding night. Or when a baby is born, and the wonder and splendor of life takes that couple to new heights of love and joy. God delights to surprise His children good gifts, and no doubt He laughs when He sees how beautifully overwhelmed we are at His blessings.

In Genesis, God made Abraham wait until he and his wife were in their retirement years to make their bodies fertile. Abraham and Sarah didn’t deserve it, nor did they even believe it at first when God promised it to them. But when the baby was born, they knew God had been gracious to them, and they were filled with so much joy that they named their son “Laughter”.

Do we laugh enough? Do we let our sense of joy take over our hearts and faces often enough? Proverbs 31 says that it is a virtue to smile at the future. Are we willing to admit we're a little too concerned about the details of life’s myriad situations, both past, present, and future? We ultimately have no control over the path God gives us, yet God has said that He will make everything turn out for good because we love Him. Are we willing to take the adventure that He has for us, not with fretfulness or apprehension, but with courage, joy, and laughter?

You can tell by the time someone is an adult whether they have this mentality. Their smile is imprinted into their face muscles. They are positive and optimistic people, not because everything around them is going right, but because they know that God will do what is right and that He loves them very much.

God surely laughs often simply because of the joy of giving. That is a joy He wants us to share. He says in 2 Corinthians that He wants us to be extremely joyful givers, sharing what we have with those around us out of the overflow of our hearts. How could we not be joyful to give to His work when we see the big picture? I mean, really, think about it:
  • We didn’t even deserve to be a part of God’s plan, to be declared righteous and made worthy. We were given grace upon grace upon grace, even when we didn’t know how desperately we needed it.
  • The small sacrifices we make in life are nothing compared to the sacrifice God made for us at the Cross, and yet God chooses to praise us for our sacrifices and to say “Well done” when we’re just doing what servants should do anyway.
  • Think of the investment return! What investment on this planet is going to give a one billion percent return or more? Yet the smallest things we do in life for God’s glory, like giving a cup of cold water to someone in need, reap benefits for all eternity.
  • We’re not only reaping benefits for eternity, we’re reaping them now, because we know and believe that even our meager offerings—our two pennies or our few loaves and fishes—can be multiplied exponentially by God, right here and now. God does immensely beyond what we could ask or imagine.
  • Whether we would see benefits here or in eternity or not, we know that the reason we’re giving at all is because we’ve been set free! We know the power and penalty of sin and the lies it told us when we were slaves to it, and the darkness of the prisons it put us in. And now we’re dancing in the light! We had broken lives, and He made us new. We were once beggars, but now we are free, and showing other beggars where to find the bread. If that is not enough to put joy in your heart and in your voice, nothing is!
God’s sense of humor also extends to darker humor as well. God’s Word is full of examples where God uses irony and even harsh sarcasm to make a point. He does not hesitate to make fun of the fools who set themselves up as His enemies. It’s clear that irony will be a major motif of final judgment as God proves that He meant what He said. He not only says that we’ll “reap what we sow,” but that He will “pay us back double”. It will be ironic to no end to see those who were first become last and last become first, and those who thought they got away with their sin find that they have another think coming.

God thinks those who mock Him are so foolish that they deserve not just judgment, but sarcasm. Psalm 2 says that He laughs at them; He’s “amused at their presumption” and scoffs at them. He connects people’s sins in life with their judgment in eternity and shakes His head in wonder, saying, “Why are you so intent on dying? Are you really that foolish? Are you really that bull-headed that you will jump right off the cliff despite my warnings? Do you not see the irony of how much you act like you love yourself, yet you are actually, in view of eternity, proving that you hate yourself and a glutton for punishment?”

The Scriptures are full of sarcasm, from God’s speech to Job, to God’s mockery of the false gods of Egypt (through the plagues aimed directly at the power of those false gods), to the prophets’ speeches to the nation of Israel, to Christ’s sharp answers to religious hypocrites, to Paul’s blatant name-calling, to the ironies in the final judgment of Revelation.

We will be blown away in eternity at not just what happens there, but at the contrasts between:
  • What people did in life versus what they could have chosen
  • The obviousness that we can’t get away with sin to the silliness of how much we tried to
  • How much the afflicted will be comforted in eternity versus how much the afflicters will be discomforted
God turns human reality on its head in the face of divine, ultimate reality, and the contrast is not just striking; it’s downright hilarious. It’s not that God takes any delight in the death of the wicked. God isn’t laughing with glee; He’s laughing at the foolishness. He cried over them for thousands of years, begging them to turn from their sin, and now, as they shake their fists at Him, He is done crying over them; He gives them what they asked for, and laughs at their hard hearts and bizarre choices. If you are inclined to be so sweet that you can't appreciate God's sense of sarcasm, you've misunderstood God. Let's not try to be more holy or loving than God; His holiness and love don't preclude sarcasm and an appreciation of the ironies of time and eternity.

When you add it all up, it’s clear that for many reasons, God laughs. Some reasons are glad, and some are sad. But it is ultimate reality: the divine sense of joy and the divine sense of humor has ample room for laughter of all kinds. If you can’t smile at the beauty of life, if you can’t laugh at life and even at yourself sometimes, if you can’t chuckle at the ironies of life and eternity, and if you can’t occasionally enjoy the same kind of sarcasm God does, then you’re missing out on some of the most obvious, colorful, and fun aspects of who God is. So make some jokes. Don’t be afraid of using a little sarcasm (God isn’t afraid to)! Laugh a little! Laugh a lot! God does, and so should we.

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