IVP - Strangely Dim - Discipleship of the Wit

October 17, 2003

Discipleship of the Wit

by Dave Zimmerman

Sometimes I’m so funny that I feel guilty about it. Other times I’m so unfunny that I feel the need to be forgiven.

I take humor seriously, perhaps too seriously. For example, how can I be funny without being mean-spirited? Is there a greater purpose to an off-hand humorous remark, or am I wasting my breath when I go for a quick laugh? Do we hide our true beliefs in humor, and if so, should we confront people when they are joking around?

But humor is necessarily fast-paced, action-packed. We prize the quick-witted, who draw humor out of a comment or situation without delay. How many of us have reflected on a conversation only to come up with a potentially classic but now-useless one-liner? One character on the television show Seinfeld spent an entire episode orchestrating events so that he could use his one-liner-come-lately on his rival, only to be one-upped barely a breath mark after he finally made his play. Timing is everything to humor; there’s no time to reflect on it.

Fundamentally, humor is a means to an end. “A cheerful heart has a continual feast,” says the writer of Proverbs 15:15, and what could be wrong about a continual feast? Only gluttony, perhaps, or maybe feasting while others are being starved. Oops—it seems even a cheerful heart is an ethical matter. A morally responsible person must come to terms with how humor can be used without being abused.

What strikes you as funny? What’s so funny about these things? We need to look deeper than “such-and-such makes me laugh” to understand what’s happening to us and around us when we pursue humor. Humor is prophetic in its own way; whether we want it to or not, our humor has an impact on our community that must be measured against our own self-interest. There is a time for laughter, most certainly, but there is a time for no laughter.

Humor properly understood gives us insight into who we are and who we ought to be, and points us to a middle ground between delusional arrogance and debilitating self-deprecation. When we can identify what is silly in and around us, we can begin to address such absurdities without defensiveness and continue to grow into the person and people God made us to be. Humor also makes us laugh, by the way, which makes for a nice side-effect.

I’ll close with my wife’s favorite joke. You’ll probably groan, but you’ll also probably grin.

Q: What should you say when the Statue of Liberty sneezes?
A: God bless America!

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at October 17, 2003 2:04 PM Bookmark and Share

Comments are closed for this entry.

Get Email Updates

You'll get an email whenever a new entry is posted to Strangely Dim

Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

Subscribe to Feeds