Balanced Conversation

"Let there be no ... silly talk, nor levity, which are not fitting." Ephesians. 5:4 (RSV)

    Excessive levity should be avoided because it inevitably results in a leakage of spiritual power.

    The preacher deals with serious issues, with life and death, with time and eternity. He may deliver a masterpiece of a message, and yet if there is undue humor in it, people are apt to remember the jokes and forget the rest.

    Oftentimes the power of a message can be dissipated by lighthearted conversation afterwards. A solemn Gospel appeal may result in the hush of eternity coming over a meeting. Yet when the people rise to leave, there is the buzz of social chatter. People talk about the football scores or the business of the day. Little wonder that the Holy Spirit is grieved and nothing happens for God.

    Elders who are forever cracking jokes have little real spiritual impact on young people who look to them for inspiration. They might think that their wit ingratiates them with the young, but the truth is that the latter feel a keen sense of disappointment and disillusionment.

    A form of levity that is especially harmful is making puns on the Bible, using passages of Scripture to get a laugh rather than to change a life. Every time we pun on the Bible, we lower its sense of authority in our own lives and in the lives of others.

    This does not mean that a believer must be a gloomy Gus, without a trace of humor showing. It means rather that he should control his humor so that it will not cancel out his message.

    Kierkegaard tells of the circus clown who ran into a town to cry out that the circus tent on the outskirts was on fire. The people listened to his cries and roared with laughter. He had been clowning so much that he had lost his credibility.

    Charles Simeon kept a picture of Henry Martyn in his study. Wherever Simeon went in the room, it seemed that Martyn was following him with his eyes and saying, "Be earnest, be earnest; don't trifle, don't trifle." And Simeon would reply, "Yes, I will be in earnest; I will, I will be in earnest; I will not trifle, for souls are perishing, and Jesus is to be glorified."