So I am home from Church today sick. Very frustrating in and of itself. So what do I do? I turn on the TV and flip through the channels to learn, there is nothing on Sunday Morning. So I end up landing on Lakewood Church with Joel Osteen. I know what many of your are thinking already, that apparently my illness has made me delusional. But it was like watching a car crash. I just could not turn away.
So he was talking about laughter, yes an entire half hour Sunday morning message on laughter. So I said, I need to see where he is going with this. First he began talking about how laughter is the key to health. If we laughed we would find that we could sleep better, we would find that we would have less pain and we would find that we would get sick less. (Apparently I have not been laughing enough. You all know me, I am so terminally miserable; ). )
He goes on from here to say that if we find ourselves laughing more, that we would build our relationships. According to him laughing is one of the two foundations of a strong marriage, coupled with respect. (Unfortunately on occasion the two seem to stand in stark contrast. There are things I would love to laugh at that I am sure my wife would not find amusing.)
I watched for about 20 minutes. Now it is possible that he mentioned it while I was not watching, but not once did I hear him refer to the Bible. What did he refer to? He refer to studies to support his point. He further referred to the fact that we needed to have joy in our lives and if we are denying ourselves laughter, we are missing the joy God intended us to have in our lives.
So here I find my dilemma. I do not argue that laughter is important and simply put, enjoyable. A person who never expresses joy or happiness is heading down a dark road leading to misery and worse. But it is his apparent, proposition that by not laughing we are missing the joy. Perhaps I read to much into it, but what I was hearing was that that joy was dependent upon our laughter. He told his congregation to daily find two or three things to really laugh heartily at, as if we could bring this joy into our own lives.
How many people saw this and missed the true source of joy. Probably most, as he never said. The Bible is clear, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galations 5:22 – 23. The fruit of the spirit. It is from God alone that we find our true joy. It is not simply laughter. If this was the case, then we can close the churches and simply open more comedy clubs. Through this, the world will know joy. But laughter is not the answer. The angel declared “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people” in Luke 2:10. And what was the source of that joy “today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” In addition Nehemiah 8:10 declares, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
The source of our joy is not laughter. The source of our joy is not from within. The source of our joy is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Laughter should simply be a expression of a joy God has placed in us, and not the source of joy.
Does that mean that laughter is not to be sought after? Certainly not. I enjoy to laugh. I have watched the “infomercial” on the Worship Network for Tim Hawkins “Full Range Of Motion” video numerous times, and I find it just as funny each time. (Yes I realize that this is supposed to get me to by the video, but I’m cheap.) Some have even said that I have a very funny streak, though it may be a bit dry for some to catch.
Further, there are clear studies that do seem to point to the “healing power of laughter.” But are we using the laughter as a band-aid for what is really wrong or is it is a sign of the healing that God is working within us? Is it a sign of God’s joy.
What we do need to do is watch for dangers. First, what are we laughing at. There are things that will make us laugh that shouldn’t. The Bible clearly warns us that “there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting.” Ephesians 5:4. Yes I know some people who greatly pull this verse out of context and always keep a somber mood saying things like, “we should never have fun with anything dealing with God.” (This includes songs like “I am a C, I am a C-H. Watch out for those children’s Sunday School teachers corrupting the future generations.) This surely is not what Paul is saying. Rather we must not miss the final phrase “which are not fitting.” There are some context where any jesting would be inappropriate and there is some jesting which is never appropriate, but this is not a prohibition to expressing the joy that God has placed in us through laughter.
Second, there was a movement within the charismatic movement in the past, and still active in some places called “Holy Laughter.” The position is that God will simply strike people with such joy that they simply can not control the laughter and must burst out and role, even rolling on the floor. While I do argue that the joy we experience come from God and that laughter can be an expression of this joy, there is no biblical support for the idea of an entire movement of God, simply resulting in people laughing. Paul is very clear in 1 Corinthians 14 when he presents that while expressions of the spirit are valid within worship, there must be orderliness to it and it must be edifying to the body.
I am not going to pass judgement on Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church. I have read their doctrinal statement and it seems sound. And as I do not personnally know Mr. Osteen it would be inappropriate. But I do challenge his words. While laughter is important, it is joy that is crucial and this joy can only be found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is this joy we share with other who know Jesus “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” Philippians 2:1-2 and that we share with the world “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19 – 20.
Laughter is the best medicine? No, it is not. Laughter is medicinal, but it is the joy and hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ that is the best medicine.