All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
I am not sure who Jack was, but he worked all the time and he was dull.
“Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place,” Ephesians 5 v 4
Again the word only occurs here in the New Testament, eutrapelia, joking.
Have you ever met a Christian who looks like they have never laughed in their life?
Their joy is deep not shallow like ours. It is deep joy. Beyond facial recognition into the deepest recesses of their heart. So deep that only they can see it. They are the barometers of joy. They are fellowship-busters. The ones who turn the lights off and pull the music because nothing good happens after 9pm. They are frivolous-finishers. The decorum brigade. One of my first Annual General Meetings a Church member stood up during question time and gave an opinion, “You are too frivolous Pastor.” I wasn’t actually sure what frivolous meant so it didn’t really hurt me. I hadn’t taken the module on that at Bible College. But I did realise this man wasn’t for too much of anything really.
Throughout history the Church has had appeals to lighten up. To not be so serious. Aquinas, a disciple of Aristotle said, “just as the body needs rest when it is weary, so too does the soul when it becomes overburdened.” Some people are so weighed down with burdens of their life that they really do need to laugh. They should watch the film Patch Adams! It is the true story of Hunter ‘Patch’ Adams who was so determined to become a doctor but who ventured along a different path that others hadn’t, that of using humour.
We need to become like children again and learn to dance and play with creation. A child picks up a dandelion and the adult says the truth, ‘hey you’ve not picked up a flower you’ve picked up a weed.’ And the child throws it down not realising the amazing fun-game of blowing through the dandelion and seeing the explosion of the balls of seeds in the air!
The Apostle is not against eutrapelia but against coarse or crude joking set in the sentence of immorality and impurity.
It is wit which is vulgar. Obscene.
The humour-killing fellowship will use this to gauge what is clean and what is not. In many ways they are right as we live in this world we need to be different, we need to stand out, we need to be seen as changed by Christ.
But I think this is more than a joke which has sexual overtones. In the context which Paul says Put off and Put on and which he will be saying put on thankfulness it is so much more than what kind of ‘knock-knock’ jokes you tell. It is about whether your joking is hurtful or destructive to others. It is not just innuendo but it is to ridicule someone. We should be funny but not hurtful. Wit is wonderful but has boundaries called love and grace. It does not make fun at others expense so that it hurts or embarrasses or abuses them. That is coarse, crude, not fitting for you and me.