I like to think I have a good sense of humor. This may not be the case, but I prefer to hold this view nevertheless. I enjoy making people laugh, and even in prayer I find myself cracking some jokes to God. But I wonder, does He even laugh? Does God find anything that we do on earth amusing?
As men and women, we are created in God’s image and likeness, and all of our goodness flows from this facet of our being. In the purest sense, laughter is a physical outpouring of joy. We can only receive this genuine form of joy from its true source, our Creator. When we laugh, we are sharing in God’s divine goodness and manifesting the joy we find in Him.
As lower beings, animals cannot laugh because they lack the same capacity to share in God’s goodness as humans do. Even the hyena, famous for its cackle, is not struck by humorous occurrences because it cannot experience joy. But we as humans, created in God’s image, can laugh because we possess the unique ability to partake in the origin of all joy.
In his work The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis paints a picture of the afterlife. A common theme among the Spirits in Heaven is laughter; they are overflowing with the joy they have found with God, and they can hardly contain themselves. These Spirits are fuller beings because they can understand themselves in relation to and as servants of God.
One may notice the similarity between the words humor and humility. Humor is an expression of the joy we find in humility, which is a proper perception of ourselves as creatures and God as our Creator.
The virtue of humility allows us to focus on the greatness of our God and delight in our status as creatures. Humor can be an expression of this truth, and when we laugh at ourselves we can give glory to the greatness of our Creator.
Several saints have exemplified humility in using this type of self-effacing humor. As he was being burned alive, Saint Lawrence, filled with confidence in God’s saving power, is famous for having joked to his executioners, “Turn me over. I’m done on this side.”
Saint Philip Neri was known for carrying a joke book and walking around with a half-shaved beard as he ridiculed the typical emphasis placed on physical appearance. The “happy fool” Saint Simeon often used a puppet to mock himself, demonstrating the power of humor in humility.
These three saints, along with many others, have shared in God’s joy through a true recognition of their nature. In the Bible, God also displays His sense of humor in ironic scenarios, which remind the biblical figures of His power.
Two of the most famous examples of this trickery in the Old Testament are the story of Jacob as well as the tale of his sons. Jacob cleverly cheats his brother Esau out of his birthright. However, years later, Jacob somehow is duped into marrying Leah even though he had worked seven years to marry her sister Rachel (Genesis 27-29).
In the same way, Jacob’s sons sell their brother Joseph into slavery only to find him later in a position of prominence in Egypt. The brothers are chastened when they realize Joseph controls their destiny during the famine in Israel (Genesis 37-42).
In the New Testament, Saint Paul literally bores a man to death after preaching until midnight. Eutychus fell asleep during Paul’s droning and fell out the window as a result. Paul was able to resurrect the young man but only after he ceased his ramblings and turned his attention to the people present (Acts 20:7-12).
All of these stories serve to humble the characters and remind them that God always gets the last laugh. We are able to laugh at these stories because we can relate to the characters and through them witness our creaturehood and God’s divinity.
Humility enables us to lift ourselves up to God and share in his joy. As G.K. Chesterton famously quipped in his work Orthodoxy, “Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly.”
Understanding ourselves as human frees us to be confident in the love and power of God. Pride becomes an obstacle to this end and directs all of our attention down to ourselves instead of upward to Heaven. A proud man takes himself too seriously to laugh, as he fails to recognize that he is only a creature.
The humble man finds humor in his human condition because he knows the infinite wonder of his Creator. With this view, he has hope in life with our Lord after death and can mock his present status.
Using humor in the pure sense, we can share in God’s divine laughter and truly reflect the joy we receive from Him, the origin of true goodness. If we rejoice in our status as creatures, we can laugh at ourselves with God.
Hailey Vrdolyak is a senior political science and theology major who likes to snoof. To learn more about this activity, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.