"Let there be no ... silly talk, nor levity, which are not fitting." Ephesians. 5:4 (RSV)
Excessive levity should be avoided because it inevitably results in a leakage of spiritual power.
The preacher deals with serious issues, with life
and death, with time and eternity. He may deliver a masterpiece of a
message, and yet if there is undue humor in it, people are apt to
remember the jokes and forget the rest.
Oftentimes the power of a message can be
dissipated by lighthearted conversation afterwards. A solemn Gospel
appeal may result in the hush of eternity coming over a meeting. Yet
when the people rise to leave, there is the buzz of social chatter.
People talk about the football scores or the business of the day.
Little wonder that the Holy Spirit is grieved and nothing happens for
Elders who are forever cracking jokes have little
real spiritual impact on young people who look to them for inspiration.
They might think that their wit ingratiates them with the young, but
the truth is that the latter feel a keen sense of disappointment and
A form of levity that is especially harmful is
making puns on the Bible, using passages of Scripture to get a laugh
rather than to change a life. Every time we pun on the Bible, we lower
its sense of authority in our own lives and in the lives of others.
This does not mean that a believer must be a
gloomy Gus, without a trace of humor showing. It means rather that he
should control his humor so that it will not cancel out his message.
Kierkegaard tells of the circus clown who ran
into a town to cry out that the circus tent on the outskirts was on
fire. The people listened to his cries and roared with laughter. He had
been clowning so much that he had lost his credibility.
in his study. Wherever Simeon went in the room, it seemed that Martyn
was following him with his eyes and saying, "Be earnest, be earnest;
don't trifle, don't trifle." And Simeon would reply, "Yes, I will be in
earnest; I will, I will be in earnest; I will not trifle, for souls are
perishing, and Jesus is to be glorified."