If Pastors had “Surgeon General’s Warnings” we’d put one on humor.
And then we’d immediately feel like a bunch of killjoys.
You see, I believe God is really, really funny. Humor, laughter, joy–these are all central to the best aspects of the human experience. What would life be like if we couldn’t laugh? My heart breaks for those who haven’t been able to laugh for a long time. God, please grant them relief.
Yet, there is a laughter that is toxic to the soul and to society. It’s the sneer of ridicule–particularly when it’s aimed at holy things like God and humans who bear His image.
In Psalm 1 we read: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord….”
There’s a progression in this text from walking, to standing to sitting. When we’re drawn away from God, there’s often a gradualism. It may begin by merely listening to bad advice. It continues by participating in shady activity. Finally, it results in habits–a persistent lifestyle that is contrary to the good life–directly opposed to walking with the Lord according to His word, and thereby forfeiting peace of conscience for lesser “joys.”
Notice the last phase: Mockers. Mocking is evidence of spiritual toxicity–and arrogance. Bible scholar Derek Kidner writes: “[The scoffers are] adopting the most fatal of…attitudes—for the scoffers, if not the most scandalous of sinners, are the farthest from repentance.”
Note: Mocking/Scoffing is not laughing at jokes, or even laughing at funny things that happen to other people. It’s way beyond that–to the point of arrogant degradation–sneering ridicule. It may feel great. It may even buy you friends (“company of mockers”)–that is, until the mob turns on you.
C.S. Lewis subtly points out the difference in a line in his fictional work, The Last Battle. The dwarfs in the story have gone bad. And the chief evidence is that their smiles are not merry, but sneering:
“I’m Jill,” she said….Aslan sent us.”
The Dwarfs all looked at one another with grins; sneering grins, not merry ones.”C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle, 71.