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God’s hilarious word

Finding comedy in the unexpected humanity in the Bible

by Perry Engle

I have a confession to make. Sometimes I have trouble keeping a straight face when while I’m reading the Bible. I even laugh out loud once in a while (although I try not to do this in public worship). I know it sounds irreverent and even immature, but honestly, I can’t help it. Sometimes God’s word just cracks me up.

My amusement inevitably begins in Genesis, with the story of Adam and Eve standing there in the Gar-den of Eden, wearing nothing but forbidden fruit smeared all over their faces, pointing accusing fingers at each other and the snake. I’ve often wondered if God had to fight back a smile while listening to the first couple make excuses to Him as to why it really wasn’t their fault that all of this happened (Genesis 3).

I grin at Sarah’s response when she hears she’s going to have a baby after she’s “old and well advanced in years”—the understatement of all time, since she’s 90 years old (Genesis 18). God says to Sarah something to the effect of, “Are you laughing because you don’t think I can help you have a baby?” Sarah lies and says, “I didn’t laugh.” God replies, “Oh yes, you did laugh. I just heard you.” Sarah says, “I did NOT laugh.” God, “You did too.” “Did not.” “Did too. . . .”

One of my favorite funny stories is the New Testament account of Jesus healing the man born blind (John 9). The former blind guy gets hauled in to be grilled by the Pharisees, and it’s more like “Keystone Cops” than “Law & Order.” They keep pressing him for incriminating evidence against Jesus: “How did He heal you? What do you have to say about Him? Do you think He’s a sinner? Tell us one more time how He opened your eyes.” Exasperated, the former blind guy responds to the Jesus-haters with one of the great one-liners in Scripture: “Why do you keep asking me the same questions over and over again? Do you want to become His disciples, too?”

The book of Acts has a lot of great stories, but one of the best is when Paul’s sermon in Troas goes on so long, a guy named Eutychus nods off, slips out of a third-story window, and falls and breaks his neck (Acts 20). Not to be undone, Paul takes a break from preaching, lays hands on him, raises him from the dead, goes back upstairs to get something to eat, and then proceeds to keep talking until the sun comes up. I know it’s not meant to be funny, but it does comfort me to know that all the churches I know: 1) meet on the ground floor, and 2) only allow their pastors to preach for half an hour.

I want to be clear. The humor I see in the Bible has nothing to do with God, but everything to do with the characters and situations through which God chooses to work. Bumbling and fumbling, all-too-human sinners like you and me are the chosen vessels through whom God determines to transform a fallen world. And that’s not only surprising, but also at times downright amusing.

It makes me love the Bible all the more, as I chuckle my way through stories of how God lovingly and patiently works through people who are every bit as human as I am.

This article originally appeared in the spring 2009 issue of In Part magazine.
Perry Engle

Perry Engle finds a lot of humor in his role as bishop of the Midwest and Pacific Conferences of the BIC Church. He and his wife, Marta, and their three daughters live in Ontario, Calif.

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