*This is an excerpt from my book “Captivated Anew: Restored to Pursue Him.” It can be found on virtually any major on-line bookstore in both digital and hardcopy formats.

The most memorable presentation I ever heard took place at a speech competition. The speaker was a tall and sturdily built young man with long, curly red hair and an intense stage presence that captured attention. The man’s content and timing were impeccable; he kept the audience roaring with laughter.  

The giggles, chuckles, and bellowing delight revolved around the speaker’s personal barroom experiences as a drunken reveler. His tales were rich with the humor of falls, curses, faints, cavorting, and his history of making a fool of himself. Each story built on the previous one as the man increased the intensity of the hilarity to a crescendo. The auditorium echoed with riotous laughter as he took a long pause. 

Then … BAM!!! He slammed the podium with his fist and screamed a curse. “What are you laughing at?” he demanded, “I’m an alcoholic!” Immediately the laughter ceased. The room became utterly still; the silence deafened. As the young man returned to his seat without further comment, his point was clear: Why do people laugh at tragedy and shameful topics? Why do we laugh at sin?  

Proverbs 14:9 says, “Fools mock at sin” (NKJV). The bulk of American comedy, in all of its forms, is generally crude, mean, offensive, and sacrilegious. Certainly we question the morals of those who would speak such filth in order to accumulate wealth and popularity, but few of us bother to avoid movies and television shows in which such comedy is embraced. Jesus said: “The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander’” (Matthew 15:18-19). He also stated: “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). I’m deeply distressed that Christ-followers find amusement in things that point to the tragedy of sin—things that only highlight the sad, evil thoughts that hold so many hostage. 

In First Thessalonians 5:22 Paul says to believers, “Avoid every kind of evil.” But often believers become intrigued by the vile and base language and stories shared in modern comedy. In doing so, we become participants in the propagation of trash. I agree with few Christian slogans since I find very little substance in “bumper sticker religion,” but one catch-phrase that holds merit when it comes to whether or not a Christ-follower should find enjoyment in vulgar or sacrilegious comedy is “WWJD: What Would Jesus Do?” We should constantly ask ourselves, Would Jesus listen to and laugh at this if He were watching and listening to modern entertainment? If the answer is “no,” we are wise to find entertainment elsewhere.  

Clearly Christ condemned the evil thoughts and words that contaminate our society and taint His creation. They indicate a deeper spiritual issue: our sinful and wicked hearts. In Matthew 12:34 Christ asked, “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” On the surface, it’s easy to see the spiritual depravity of the purveyors of the kind of comedy I’ve mentioned, but to enjoy such filth is also a reflection of our sin-stained hearts. We must hold to Paul’s advice to the church as Ephesus: “There [should] be [no] obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place” (Ephesians 5:4). 

Our innate sinful nature and desire for base things over virtuous ones highlight why we so desperately need a Savior from our sin. When we peel back the layers of our human nature, we expose hearts that are radically different than the ones needed to have fellowship with Holy God. Despite the fact that both our culture and those who live in it have lost their innocence, purity, and naiveté, God still demands these virtues (See Colossians 3:8). God’s Word says, “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11). In the truest sense we can only find those things in Jesus, and so we must pursue Him.  

The Lord is certainly not against laughter; in fact, He created it.  However, let’s remember that He said, “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16) and that His ultimate standard is complete righteousness.  Second Corinthians 5:21 tells us that only in Christ will we find what we don’t have and yet what a holy God demands. That’s why pursuing Him and His way is no laughing matter.