SBC Life Articles

The Ultimate Reversal

Upon returning from his first circus a young boy commented, "Once you've been to a circus, you'll never enjoy a prayer meeting again." Such sentiment implies that Christianity is like going to the dentist; it is good for you but it will be a miserable experience. The stereotype of a joyless, guilt-filled religion surrounds us. It is said that a priest once commented to Groucho Marx, "Groucho, I want to shake your hand for all the joy you have brought into the world." Groucho responded, "I want to shake your hand for all the joy you have taken out of the world." It is hard to be upright without being uptight. Righteousness easily spills over into self-righteousness. It has always been that way. The religious people of Jesus' day didn't think the joke about the log in their eye was very funny. A sense of humor is a matter of viewpoint, and it takes work to see around the log in our own eye, but it's worth it.

Laughter is good for you. While many doctors still consider cutting you up or filling you up with medicine, others are using jokes and other resources to stimulate laughter. Research is indicating that laughter may indeed be the best medicine. You might want to laugh a little just for the health of it. When I receive requests for speaking engagements, their most requested goal is that they want to laugh. Now, I'm not a comedian. I'm a communicator. Humor is not the end for me; it is a means to an end. I began speaking in children's church and discovered that it doesn't matter what you say if no one is listening. Humor gets people's attention.

Humor catches their attention, but it is more than just an attention getter. Humor and laughter indicate our attitude about life. There is a personal connectivity when other people laugh at the same things you do. You recognize that you are not alone. When laughing together you're not only reducing stress and lowering tension, you're also increasing receptivity to learning life's lessons.

Many jokes are riddles. The goal of a riddle is to mystify. It asks a misleading question posed as a problem to be solved or guessed. Some are pathetic. "Why is the elephant an unwelcome guest? Because he always brings his trunk along." Others are prophetic. "How can a camel get through the eye of a needle?"

Humor softens the blows of life. George Bernard Shaw said that if you are going to tell people the truth you better make them laugh, otherwise they will kill you. Many of the things we laugh about in life have strange twists — the unexpected reversal of traditional categories.

The word "laugh" appears in the Bible for the first time in one of these unexpected twists. God informs the 100-year-old Abraham that his 90-year-old wife will give birth to a son. I can imagine Abraham singing to her in his most romantic voice, "Mrs. Sarah you have a lovely walker." Can't you see Sarah trying to read the small print to see if the Mesopotamian HMO covers childbirth? No wonder she laughed. However, God had the last laugh when Isaac was born — the name actually means "he laughs." That's the kind of joke we love. It's the one that heads in one direction, then suddenly reverses, and we laugh at the unexpected.

Jesus was the ultimate Master of the unexpected — He typically did the opposite of what people anticipated. He said that the first shall be last, the proud will be humbled, and the meek shall be blessed. But the religious leaders were not laughing at His sudden reversals.

From that standpoint, every comic could look to Jesus; in fact everyone should, because He turned the world upside-down — or actually, right-side-up — two thousand years ago with His birth at Christmas, His death on Good Friday, and His resurrection on Easter. The greatest joke of all time was on death and Satan. It was unexpected — the ultimate reversal.

For us, laughter is not the opposite of seriousness; it is the synonym of hope.

I recently heard someone say, "I'm in the entertainment business. We are here to entertain people, to make them laugh and forget." It's a little different for me. I'm here to make them laugh and remember that Jesus said, "Be of good cheer."

He has, and always will have, the last laugh.

    About the Author

  • Charles Lowery