God’s Great Gift of Humor
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. – Psalm 37:4
The Irish are known for their wit and the ability to tell a great story. It is an art that has been practiced for centuries, from the times when oral tradition was the main means for passing on knowledge and wisdom. Humor is a uniquely human gift. It is the art of seeing something “in between the lines,” the gift of surprise that can only be expressed with laughter.
Humor is at its best when it reveals something healthy, something that unmasks a hidden truth. In its best forms, it produces a release of tension and a recognition of mutual understandings. With this in mind, let me share a little Irish humor with you.
“Father Murphy walks into a pub in Donegal, and asks the first man he meets, ‘Do you want to go to heaven?’
The man said, ‘I do, Father.’
The priest said, ‘Then stand over there against the wall.’
Then the priest asked the second man, ‘Do you want to go to heaven?’
‘Certainly, Father.’ the man replied.
‘Then stand over there against the wall,’ said the priest.
Then Father Murphy walked up to O’Toole and asked, ‘Do you want to go to heaven?’
O’Toole said, ‘No, I don’t Father.’
The priest said, ‘I don’t believe this. You mean to tell me that when you die you don’t want to go to heaven?’
O’Toole said, ‘Oh, when I die, yes. I thought you were getting a group together to go right now.'”
Now, that’s funny on its surface, but it is revealing a deeper truth too, doesn’t it. O’Toole is living under the same assumption that many of us do. He thinks that death is not near, that it’s threat is still a long ways off and he can continue to live as he has, putting off the worry to put his life in order until that still distant day draws near. He is us, isn’t he. He hasn’t yet understood that death can come at any time, any moment, and we must be prepared for it at ALL TIMES.
Our lives have a God-given meaning that is unique, yet universal as well. Paul tells us in his First Letter to the Corinthians that we all are given gifts by the Spirit. Some are given the gift of wisdom, others of knowledge. Some are given deep faith and others the gift of healing. Still others are given the gift of tongues, or the interpretation of tongues. All of these come from the same Spirit and are given for purposes beyond the individual. All of these gifts are given not just for the individual’s well-being, but to be used in service of others, in service of the moral good. (1 Corinthians 12:4-11)
This little joke above, gives us a moment of healthy laughter, but it also give us an opportunity to think about something very important to the health of our eternal souls. How prepared are we for the inevitable reality of death? Do we want to go to heaven? Are we living in accord with the gifts we have been given? Do we give thanks to God for these gifts by using them as tools to improve our own lives? Do we use them for the good of others in service to God?
We answer those questions most honestly if we see that we often fall short. By keeping our eyes on God, and on the ultimate meaning of our existence, i.e. to know, to love, and to serve Him in this world, so that we can live with Him forever in the next, we will be true to ourselves, and to our unique God-given gifts. If we honor our gifts by using them in service of the good, unlike O’Toole in the joke above, we will be ready at all times to go to heaven.