Thoughts for the Soul

Holy Humor and Humility

Posted on: Jan 8, 2020

Many church folks don’t realize that the book of Genesis provides two creation stories. The first describes what God did on day 1, then on day 2, etc. The second story in Genesis 2 tells that the Lord God formed the human from the topsoil of the fertile land and blew life’s breath into his nostrils. The human came to life.

Thus we have the image that we humans are of the soil. We are matter. Traditional wisdom links humanity to the earth. For example, a humble person is one whose feet are planted firmly on the ground, or one who is down to earth.

The English language portrays the connection between earth and humans. The Latin word for soil or earth is humus. In English we use the word to refer to the dark organic materials in soil produced by the decomposition of vegetable and animal matter.

Other words based on the Latin humus include humor and humility. So we have this little collection of terms that relate meaningfully to each other: human, humane, humility, humor–and lots of other words derived from these. One observer suggests the word “humility” is an inch from the word “humor”–something that’s nearly vanished from our public life.

Ronald Reagan was a master of self-deprecating humor. When quizzed about take taking afternoon naps, he replied, “It’s true hard work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take the chance? I’ve left orders to be awakened at any time in case of a national emergency, even if I’m in a cabinet meeting.”

It is impossible to practice humility and not have a sense of humor. Humor is an intrinsic aspect of anyone’s humility. While humor pointed at someone can be humiliating, persons of humility have the capacity to see themselves and their lives with humor.

People who demonstrate humility are not self-centered, self-serving, self-absorbed narcissists. They are aware of the common good. They are committed to something that is greater than themselves. In our Judeo-Christian tradition, we express this with words like walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).

Jesus portrays for us the ultimate humility in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Not my will, but your will must be done.” (Luke 22:42).

The 2020 will be full of many kinds of challenges. May we respond to those challenges with humility, holy humor and the will to help other people.

–Pastor Fogal

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