Nearly two millennia ago, the Apostle Paul advised young Pastor Titus,
“In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing…gravity” (Titus 2:7).
That word “gravity” means seriousness. It refers to something that is gravely serious. That’s why Paul’s words here have led some pastors to believe that humor has no place in the pulpit. But it is my personal conviction that humor is an effective teaching tool that can be used to illustrate a point of doctrine and make it more memorable. While preaching I’ll sometimes even say, “Now you’ll remember the joke—don’t forget the point!”
It’s also my conviction that God Himself has a sense of humor, and uses it frequently in His Word. I laugh every time I read what Moses said when he gave the law to the people of Israel:
“When ye heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, (for the mountain did burn with fire,)…ye said…why should we die? for this great fire will consume us: if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, then we shall die…Go thou near, and hear all that the LORD our God shall say…” (Deuteronomy 5:23-27).
God’s people told Moses, as it were, “We find God too scary, so you go hear Him and come back and tell us what He said!” For some reason that always reminds me of when Indiana Jones was looking down into a pit of snakes, and his guide said, “Asps. Very deadly. You go first!”
Then there’s the time Samuel told Saul to destroy the Amalekites and all their livestock (I Sam. 15:1-3). Later when the prophet asked the king if he had done so, he claimed he had (v.13). To which Samuel replied, “What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” (v.14). In other words, “If you killed all the livestock, how come I still hear them?”
But my favorite funny lines are found in the book of Job. After Job finished speaking, Bildad the Shuhite—the shortest man in the Bible (You know. Shoe-height!)—said, “how long shall the words of thy mouth be like a strong wind?” (Job 8:2).
But Job could give as good as he got! After his friends pontificated awhile, he razzed them by saying, “No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you” (12:1,2). Later he told them, “O that ye would altogether hold your peace! and it should be your wisdom” (13:5). In other words, “the smartest thing for you to do would be to sit down and shut up!” When they didn’t, he told them, “Suffer me that I may speak; and after that I have spoken, mock on” (Job 21:3).
I share these smiles with you for a couple of reasons. First, because when I started out in the ministry, I was told that the Word of God is far too serious a book to use humor when teaching it. And to this day I’m asked why I like to begin my messages with a little bit of wit. Well, beside the fact that all who teach public speaking agree that that’s the best way to get an audience’s attention and get them settled down and listening, it’s because I believe God has a sense of humor. We have one, and we are made in His likeness, aren’t we?
But I also share those smiles with you to encourage you to read your Bible through from cover to cover every year using one of those “Read Your Bible Through In A year” plans. You never know what will tickle your funny bone, and you and the Lord can have a good laugh over it, as I do every year when I come upon those verses and others in my daily Bible reading.
All of this means that when Paul told Titus to show gravity in doctrine, he was reminding him that the edification of the saints is serious stuff, and that a pastor should use every tool in his tool belt to get sound doctrine across to God’s people in a memorable way—including humor. Remember, “the joy of the LORD is your strength,” not your weakness (Neh. 8:10).
To the Reader:
Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:
"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."
To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.