Alan Neale

Writer • Speaker

Is God Funny – #3 Health and Humor. Sunday February 12th 2017. Trinity Church, Newport RI. The Reverend Alan Neale.

Trinity Church
Newport, RI

Is God Funny?
February 19th 2017
#3 Humor a Serious Business and a Tonic for Health
“A bold challenge to the traditional stereotype of a somber gloomy Christ”
 – Elton Trueblood

“The reason why there are not more people in going into church may well be the faces of those people going out of church.”

“The sense of humor is a primary instinct of our nature – it appears very early and very spontaneously. We never have to teach children when to laugh, only when not to laugh” – Balzac.

NB The value of perspective/in the light of eternity (sub specie aeternitatis).

Laughter in the Bible? Absolutely!

Robin Gallaher Branch  
I remember one day resolving to do arduous work in 2 Chronicles. Studiously plowing through the reigns of Solomon through Jehoshaphat, I came to 2 Chronicles 21:20 and laughed outright. The text reads, “Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. He passed away, to no one’s regret, and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings” (italics added). Being a wordsmith myself, I smiled at this bygone scribe relieved at this monarch’s death. Evidently Jehoram was not well liked. The editorial statement provides a light touch—comic relief, if you will—to the Chronicler’s usually routine kingship formula.

As I study and teach, I find I read the Bible ever more slowly, and as I do, I smile more and more frequently. I listen for its humor. My emotions span sorrow, understanding or joy as I empathize with the characters who cross its pages. I chuckle at many passages, even while acknowledging the sadness they may contain. Consequently, I believe it’s possible to read many verses, stories and even books through the lens of humor, indeed to see portions of the Bible as intended to be very funny. An appropriate response is laughter. I’ve come to this conclusion: Humor is a fundamental sub-theme in both testaments.



Spiritual – Acceptance, Surrender

Emotional/Mental – Perspective

Physical – Physiological Effects

Humor and Health

Sure, it’s fun to share a good laugh. But did you know it can actually improve your health? It’s true: laughter is strong medicine. It draws people together in ways that trigger healthy physical and emotional changes in the body. Laughter strengthens your immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress. As children, we used to laugh hundreds of times a day, but as adults life tends to be more serious and laughter more infrequent. By seeking out more opportunities for humor and laughter, though, you can improve your emotional health, strengthen your relationships, find greater happiness—and even add years to your life.

Laughter is good for your health

Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.

Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.

Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

Laughter burns calories. OK, so it’s no replacement for going to the gym, but one study found that laughing for 10 to 15 minutes a day can burn about 40 calories—which could be enough to lose three or four pounds over the course of a year.

Laughter lightens anger’s heavy load. Nothing diffuses anger and conflict faster than a shared laugh. Looking at the funny side can put problems into perspective and enable you to move on from confrontations without holding onto bitterness or resentment.

Laughter may even help you to live longer. A study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humor outlived those who don’t laugh as much. The difference was particularly notable for those battling cancer.


Proverbs 17

19 One who loves transgression loves strife;
one who builds a high threshold invites broken bones.
20 The crooked of mind do not prosper,
and the perverse of tongue fall into calamity.
21 The one who begets a fool gets trouble;
the parent of a fool has no joy.
22 A cheerful heart is a good medicine,
but a downcast spirit dries up the bone.
23 The wicked accept a concealed bribe
to pervert the ways of justice.
24 The discerning person looks to wisdom,
but the eyes of a fool to the ends of the earth.
25 Foolish children are a grief to their father
and bitterness to her who bore them.

Proverbs 15

12 Scoffers do not like to be rebuked;
they will not go to the wise.
13 A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance,
but by sorrow of heart the spirit is broken.
14 The mind of one who has understanding seeks knowledge,
but the mouths of fools feed on folly.
15 All the days of the poor are hard,
but a cheerful heart has a continual feast.
16 Better is a little with the fear of the Lord
than great treasure and trouble with it.
17 Better is a dinner of vegetables where love is
than a fatted ox and hatred with it.
18 Those who are hot-tempered stir up strife,
but those who are slow to anger calm contention.


Ecclesiastes 7

1.A good reputation is better than a fat bank account.
Your death date tells more than your birth date.
2 You learn more at a funeral than at a feast—
After all, that’s where we’ll end up. We might discover
something from it.
3 Crying is better than laughing.
It blotches the face but it scours the heart.
4 Sages invest themselves in hurt and grieving.
Fools waste their lives in fun and games.
5 You’ll get more from the rebuke of a sage
Than from the song and dance of fools.
6 The giggles of fools are like the crackling of twigs
Under the cooking pot. And like smoke.



1The quality of being amusing or comic, especially as expressed in literature or speech:
‘his tales are full of humour’
1.1 The ability to express humour or amuse other people:
‘their inimitable brand of humour’
  2A mood or state of mind:
‘her good humour vanished’
‘the clash hadn’t improved his humour’
2.1archaic [count noun] An inclination or whim:
‘and have you really burnt all your Plays to please a Humour?’
  3historical [count noun] Each of the four chief fluids of the body (blood, phlegm, yellow bile (choler), and black bile (melancholy)) that were thought to determine a person’s physical and mental qualities by the relative proportions in which they were present.


1 Comply with the wishes of (someone) in order to keep them content, however unreasonable such wishes might be:
‘she was always humouring him to prevent trouble’

1.1archaic Adapt or accommodate oneself to (something):
‘in reading this stanza we ought to humour it with a corresponding tone of voice’
out of humour. In a bad mood.


Middle English: via Old French from Latin humor moisture, from humere (see humid). The original sense was ‘bodily fluid’ (surviving in aqueous humour and vitreous humour); it was used specifically for any of the cardinal humours ( humour), whence ‘mental disposition’ (thought to be caused by the relative proportions of the humours). This led, in the 16th century, to the senses ‘mood’( humour) and ‘whim’, hence to humour someone ‘to indulge a person’s whim’. humour dates from the late 16th century.

The Magificat – A Study in Humor?

39-45 Mary didn’t waste a minute. She got up and traveled to a town in Judah in the hill country, straight to Zachariah’s house, and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang out exuberantly,
You’re so blessed among women,
and the babe in your womb, also blessed!
And why am I so blessed that
the mother of my Lord visits me?
The moment the sound of your
greeting entered my ears,
The babe in my womb
skipped like a lamb for sheer joy.
Blessed woman, who believed what God said,
believed every word would come true!
46-55 And Mary said,
I’m bursting with God-news;
I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now.
56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then went back to her own home.

Humor in the unexpected and the ‘come-uppance’ of the proud, prosperous and pompous.