Redeeming the Use of Humor

One of the most fascinating discussions in The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis is on the topic of HUMOR. Like many activities, laughter and pleasure are neutral ground that can neither be placed completely under the umbrella of good nor evil. It all depends on the type of humor which we are discussing. Lewis distinguishes between four types – Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper, and Flippancy.

1) JOY: The first type should be a constant in the Christian life. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). Writing from prison where “fun” was scarce to say the least, Paul still uses some form of the word JOY 16 times in his brief letter to the Philippian Christians. So JOY is completely in God’s territory. Anything Satan may twist to resemble it is a cheap imitation.

2) FUN also emanates from the Creator. While in its pure form it is good and refreshing to the soul, it can also be used by Satan to divert us from Kingdom Work. Every Christian needs to perform regular check-ups of how much time, money, and effort is invested into FUN, whether for myself or my family. We need fun. But beware of overindulgence.

3) THE JOKE PROPER: The dangers of the “JOKE” are not limited to the dirty ones, although Ephesians 5:4 does strike “filthiness, silly talk, and coarse jesting” from pure Christian conduct. Lewis warns of the tendency for us to speak cruel or indecent words, which would otherwise be unacceptable, under the guise of a joke. How many curse words, racial slurs, sexual perversions, or examples of bullying are perpetuated through jokes? You don’t have to watch too much stand-up comedy or observe a school setting before noticing. And one more danger of becoming the constant “jokester” – are you building up others or just drawing attention to yourself through your use of humor?

4) FLIPPANCY: But FLIPPANCY is the most dangerous. Lewis defines flippant humor as that which makes jokes of virtue. If Satan could only get us to paint moral behavior as a hilarious and backward portrait of extremism…to mock worship services…to equate Christians with grown-ups that have imaginary friends…to drop phrases like “I felt the Spirit” in jest on the golf course…then he’d have us right where he wants us. Resemble our culture at all?            

So how do we not endorse the flippant and coarse humor of the world but still change the perception of Christians as anti-everything stiffs who barely know how to chuckle? Become a beacon of joy, virtuous fun, and good, clean, encouraging humor! Laugh! Make jokes! Wear joy on your face! But also make them notice what you don’t laugh at. You might wake them up to their own shallowness. If Christ is the redeemer of all creation, then He is certainly also the redeemer of humor.


To His Glory,


Caleb Cochran

Preaching & Outreach Minister

Rockville, MD

Photo credit: inottawa / Foter / CC BY