Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. ~ Matthew 27:27-31
Like a maniac who shoots deadly firebrands and arrows,
so is one who deceives a neighbor
and says, “I am only joking!” ~ Proverbs 26:18-19
While the laughter of joy is in full harmony with our deeper life, the laughter of amusement should be kept apart from it. The danger is too great of thus learning to look at solemn things in a spirit of mockery, and to seek in them opportunities for exercising wit. ~ Lewis Carroll
I do not for a minute think Jesus is talking about the laughter of joy in this woe.
You know that laughter: the infectious babbling of a happy baby; the loving laughter of a couple celebrating their engagement; the excited laughter of two friends who haven't seen each other in years; the thrilled giggle of a child flying up into the sky on a swing.
Instead, this woe is for that other kind of laughter:
The glee at the mistake of another.
The ridicule of a political candidate toward someone with a disability.
The mocking by a comedian of his audience members. (one in fact in the news just recently).
The contemptuous commentary by a television host about a group of people.
The cruel scorn by a backyard bully.
Sometimes even an innocuous witty statement can end up being a barb that stings.
Laughter at anyone's expense - even our own - is not the laughter of joy. It is the laughter of derision: laughter that forgets that the target is a child of God.
We live, unfortunately, in a time where 24-hour media coverage forces an unhealthy diet of scorn and derision down our throats every day. Slowly over time, that can wear down our viewing those who are being mocked as children of God: as those who share our humanity.
Questions for thought: Were you ever the target of someone's mockery or joking? How did it feel? Have you ever said something you thought was witty at the time, but then realized it was potentially cruel? Pay attention today in the news outlets you watch or listen to. What kinds of of mocking or derision do you hear?
Pray: Ask God for the laughter of joy to bubble up in you today, and share that laughter with others.