“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.” (Lk 9: 51-56)

So James and John helpfully suggest destroying an entire village by “fire from heaven,” just because it denied them lodging. It is not without a sense of humor, then, that to these two brothers Christ gives the nickname “Boanerges,” i.e., “Sons of Thunder” (Mk 3:17). It’s a satirical nickname at the time it is given, when the two sons of Zebedee still had some serious “hiccups” in their religiosity, like the above-described histrionics. Calling them “Boanerges” was like nicknaming a know-it-all kid “Einstein.”

Christ, like any effective teacher, is not devoid of wit and humor. And the Bible is not a book devoid of these elements, even mentioning that God laughs (Ps 58/59:8). I can easily forget this when I read Scripture, because of course the points being made, using humor, are very serious.

But I am reminded today that a certain dose of playfulness in my nature is a God-given gift. That’s why children instinctively play; they in fact learn and grow through play, although they don’t yet sense when it’s time to stop. As adults we might have the opposite problem: not sensing when it’s time to lighten up.

So if I’m taking myself or certain situations too seriously, let me embrace the gift of approaching myself and the world with a sense of humor. I continue both to learn and grow by remembering when it’s time to lighten up.