What is Jesting in the Bible?

Jesting, or joking around, is mentioned several times in the Bible, usually with a negative connotation. As Christians, we are called to be sober-minded and avoid foolishness and crude joking. However, appropriate humor that builds others up is permissible. In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore what the Bible says about jesting and laughing, when humor is acceptable for Christians, and key takeaways for living a joy-filled life without compromise.


The Bible makes it clear that as followers of Christ, we are to take our faith seriously and live upright, holy lives. We are instructed to avoid sinful desires and influences, which would include crude joking, foolish talk, and other forms of “dark humor” that make light of immorality.

However, the Bible does not condemn laughter or humor overall. In fact, we see many examples of godly people expressing joy and gladness throughout Scripture. The key is ensuring our joking and laughter align with Biblical principles and do not dishonor God or lead others into sin.

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As we explore this topic, remember that God created laughter! He wants His children to experience true, lasting joy. The Enemy seeks to twist humor into an instrument for crude joking, mockery, gossip, and division. With wisdom and discernment, we can enjoy laughter while avoiding unwholesome jesting.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Bible warns against foolishness, coarse joking, mockery, and idle talk
  • Not all humor is wrong – laughter and joy are biblical when focused positively
  • As Christians, we are called to seasoning our speech with grace and build others up through conversation
  • Jesting must be avoided when it leads to sinful desires or influences others negatively
  • With discernment, we can enjoy godly laughter and blessing others through our words

Now, let’s explore relevant Bible passages to understand the difference between godly and ungodly jesting.

What is Jesting in the Bible?

Bible Verses on Jesting and Idle Talk

The book of Ephesians provides instructions for how Christians should live and interact with one another. In Ephesians 5:4 (NKJV), Paul writes:

“neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.”

Here, “coarse jesting” is listed alongside other sinful speech like filthiness and foolish talk. This indicates that crude humor and jokes focused on immorality are wrong for believers.

In contrast, we are encouraged to give thanks and build others up:

“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29 NKJV).

So jesting characterized by corrupt, filthy, or foolish speech is prohibited. Only speech imparting grace and edifying others is acceptable.

Proverbs 26:18-19 also condemns jesting, equating it to dangerous and immoral behavior:

“Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death, is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I was only joking!’” (NKJV)

Deceitful, manipulative humor masking darkness as “joking” is foolishness and harmful.

Overall in Scripture, jesting carrying sexual overtones, mocking others, exercising crude “dark humor”, deceitfulness, manipulation, gossip, division, or influencing others towards sin is consistently portrayed as dangerous, unwise, and inappropriate for Christians.

Bible Verses on Joy and Laughter

While certain types of jesting are wrong, the Bible encourages joy, gladness, and laughter as part of a Spirit-filled life.

In Ecclesiastes 3:4, enjoying laughter is portrayed as a gift from God Himself:

“A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance;” (NKJV)

Psalm 126:2 also connects laughter with joy:

“Then our mouth was filled with laughter, And our tongue with singing. Then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’” (NKJV)

And speaking of the blessing on those who fear the Lord, Psalm 126:5-6 says:

“Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, Bearing seed for sowing, Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, Bringing his sheaves with him.” (NKJV)

While jesting centered on foolishness or immorality is wrong, Christians have full freedom to enjoy godly laughter and humor that stems from a spirit of joy, not degradation.

In fact, displaying a cheerful demeanor and positive spirit is characterized throughout Scripture as wise, demonstrating trust in God’s sovereignty. As Proverbs 17:22 explains:

“A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones.” (NKJV)

And Philippians 4:4 instructs:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (NKJV)

Laughter, joy, and gladness are wonderful gifts if focused positively and shared in a way that honors Christ.

Examples of Sinful Jesting in the Bible

In addition to direct instructions against coarse jesting, Scripture contains several examples of inappropriate humor and foolishness that displeased the Lord.

For instance, Genesis 19 details the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah. In verse 14, Lot speaks to his sons-in-law and pleads with them to take the coming destruction seriously:

“So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who had married his daughters, and said, “Get up, get out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city!” But to his sons-in-law he seemed to be joking.” (NKJV)

Sadly, Lot’s crucial warning was taken as a joke. The men failed to heed this prophetic call to repentance, and their mocking response cost them their lives.

We also see Isaiah jokingly referred to as the “prophet of doom” for his sobering pronouncements of coming judgment. Rather than responding in repentance, the people mocked the troubling truth Isaiah shared (Isaiah 28:22).

In Jeremiah 23, the Lord harshly rebukes prophets who speak flippantly, lightheartedly proclaiming “‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart”. Deceitful “joking” again prevented proper reverence for God’s word.

And in the New Testament, Herod and his soldiers mocked and ridiculed Jesus, putting on him a flashy robe and pretending to honor him as king (Luke 23:11). Their jesting failed to recognize Christ’s true identity and authority.

Overall, Scripture contains many examples of jesting used to avoid facing sin or harsh realities. Making light of or mocking serious issues of morality and coming judgement is portrayed as deeply unwise and offensive to a holy God.

Godly Humor in the Bible

While jesting centered on foolishness or coarse talk is wrong, the Bible gives glimpses of appropriate, godly humor bringing joy and comfort.

For example, when Abraham and Sarah learned of God’s promise for them to conceive in old age, Sarah “laughed within herself” in surprised gladness, leading to the naming of their son Isaac (“he laughs”) (Genesis 17:17; Genesis 21:6).

Naomi also amusedly marveled at how God provided a “restorer of life” for her in her widowed, childless state through her daughter-in-law Ruth marrying Boaz (Ruth 4:14-15). Her humor expressed amazement at God’s blessing.

We also see Jonathan, Saul’s son and David’s dear friend, using laughter and amusement to comfort David in dark times, cementing their godly friendship (1 Samuel 18:1-4).

And in John 11:35, the shortest verse in the Bible, Jesus weeps alongside Mary and Martha at Lazarus’ tomb – then soon elicits laughter and rejoicing by resurrecting Lazarus! Christ understood appropriate times for weeping and laughter.

These examples illustrate how godly humor brings comfort, strengthens relationships, and rejoices in what God is doing. When flowing from a loving spirit and focused positively, gentle laughter can be a gift and support.

Principles for Discerning Right and Wrong Humor

When considering if a joke or humorous quip is appropriate, ask:

  • Is it edifying? Or does it degrade, insult, or mock others?
  • Does it honor Christ? Or trivialize morality, purity, and godly living?
  • Does it proceed from a spirit of joy and celebration of God’s redemption? Or make light of sin and judgment?
  • Does it build relationships and community? Or sow division and isolation?
  • Does it align with other Bible principles for righteous speech: being honest, gracious, and focused on building others up?

Humor centered on silliness or foolishness rather than immorality may not be overtly sinful, but still unwise and unprofitable. As Ephesians 5:4 explains, coarse jesting is “not fitting” for believers, even if not actively sinful.

Christians are called to a higher standard focused on eternal priorities. Our speech should reflect the hope within us, not the foolishness of the world.

With discernment and wisdom, we can enjoy appropriate biblical laughter while avoiding jesting that dishonors God or leads others astray.

Living a Joy-Filled Life

God delights in the laughter and joy of His children! As Christians, we can reflect His kingdom and point others to true gladness in the following ways:

  • Pursue joy in Christ through studying His Word, worshipping in Spirit and truth, and cultivating your relationship with Jesus. He is the source of our joy! (Psalm 16:11)
  • Cultivate thankfulness. Expressing gratitude keeps our perspective centered on God’s goodness amid daily struggles. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
  • Surround yourself with positive, uplifting people who build you up in godliness and grace, not drag you down through coarse joking. (Proverbs 13:20)
  • Limit foolish jesting and entertainment promoting immorality, which can desensitize your spirit to purity and righteousness. (Psalm 101:3)
  • Look for the humor in innocent moments – laughter itself is a gift from God! Amuse yourself with silly games or funny stories focused on positive things. (Proverbs 17:22)
  • Use clean humor to build others up, especially those struggling or discouraged. Avoid sarcasm or teasing that belittles. (Proverbs 15:13)
  • Rejoice always! Keep your hope and perspective focused on Christ and eternity. This allows you to laugh easily and gently amuse others. (Philippians 4:4)

While avoiding unwholesome jesting, Christians can live abundantly joyful lives that uplift others and bring glory to God. With wisdom and discernment, humor can be a wonderful gift enjoyed in a God-honoring manner. Will you choose laughter that spreads joy, not degradation? God’s kingdom is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit! (Romans 14:17).

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