In his book ‘The Humor Of Christ’,[i] Elton Trueblood identifies the sarcasm, wit and humor that appear in the words of Jesus. A good example is when Jesus first refuses to heal a Gentile woman. He seems to insult her when he says; “It isn’t right to give the children’s food to the dogs.” She quips back; “Yes, but even the dogs can eat the scraps that fall from the table.”
At our first read of that encounter, we are appalled that sweet Jesus would say something so mean. It is more likely that he was cajoling and teasing her and she responded in kind. In the gospel conversations we find Jesus to be more human than we can imagine.
While most of us have a funny bone, there are limits. Sometimes a witty comment betrays an underlying tension. Humor is sometimes a mask for contempt.
We need to be mindful of humor’s edge and not use it to humiliate and abuse others. Teasing can sometimes be interpreted as disrespect. Beyond childish humor lies adult humor. Beyond that lies disrespect and contempt. As we joke we need to be sensitive to the heart of our speech. What lies within us waiting for an entertaining moment to reveal itself?
The Apostle Paul often spoke to how we should behave toward each other.