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What Does the Bible Say About..Jokes?

What does the Bible teach about jokes?


And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. (Ephesians 5:2-7)

The word “jesting” in verse 4 refers to making jokes. However, in this context it is clearly not just any jokes, but unloving jokes or sexual jokes that are being discussed. Jokes that are hurtful or appeal to our baser instincts would be wrong.

Jokes that are used to make a point, or just for enjoyment, must not be wrong. Jesus used humor in his sermons. It doesn’t always show in English, but Paul and other writers used plays on words. In fact, significant portions of the book of Micah are puns. In the passage below note the similarity of certain Hebrew words (in brackets) to the town names they are associated with.

Declare ye[nagad] it not at Gath, weep ye not at all: in the house of Aphrah roll thyself in the dust [aphar]. Pass ye away [abar], thou inhabitant of Saphir, having thy shame naked: the inhabitant of Zaanan came not forth [yatzah] in the mourning of Bethezel [ezel]; he shall receive of you his standing. For the inhabitant of Maroth waited carefully for good: but evil came down from the LORD unto the gate of Jerusalem. O thou inhabitant of Lachish, bind the chariot to the swift beast: she is the beginning of the sin to the daughter of Zion: for the transgressions of Israel were found in thee. Therefore shalt thou give presents to Moreshethgath: the houses of Achzib shall be a lie [achzab] to the kings of Israel. Yet will I bring an heir [yarish] unto thee, O inhabitant of Mareshah: he shall come [bow] unto Adullam the glory [kabowd] of Israel. Make thee bald, and poll thee for thy delicate children; enlarge thy baldness as the eagle; for they are gone into captivity from thee. (Micah 1:10-16)

If God can tell clean jokes that harm nobody, surely we are allowed to do the same.