Theologically Weak Sayings: “If You Want to Make God Laugh, Tell Him Your Plans”

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“If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”

Have you heard this aphorism?  I saw it pop up on Facebook earlier today.  It’s not one I hear that often but one I know nonetheless.  To be honest, I don’t really like it.  I think it makes some gross generalizations about God which run contrary to orthodox Christian teaching and what’s found in the Bible.  Like many pithy, Christian sounding statements, it sounds vaguely true but if you take second glance and ask yourself, “What am I smirking at?” you’ll find yourself more than a little uncomfortable.

What does it mean?  The basic notion is simple, God’s ideas are greater than the plans we make for ourselves.  Is there anything wrong this idea?  The underlying idea is sound.  God’s grandness extends beyond humanity’s limitations.  Here’s the problem:  “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans,” distorts this and other basic theological premises.

I believe God has a sense of humor.  Biblically, this idea is supported throughout the text.  I think God wants us to laugh and laugh at ourselves.  Within this statement is the implied view that God’s laughter is directed at us.   Is that right?  I don’t think God is a bully.  Does God want to laugh at us, our faults, foibles, stupidity, and sins?   Is that the kind of God we worship?  A God that laughs at us each time we think for ourselves and come up with new ideas, whether they are good or bad?  Is God a God who mocks us?  I hope not.  I don’t want to worship a mocking God who laughs at me when I’m trying to make plans; plans I often believe are in Her divine will.  In the end, they may not be but that’s where I start:  in prayer, scripture, and study with God.  Why would God laugh at that?  That hurts to think of God laughing at me.  I want no part of a bully God.

What about our plans?  Anybody remember something called “free will”?  God gave us free will to make good and bad decisions.  Why would God laugh at us for using a gift God gave us in the first place?  That makes no sense at all.  Our plans come from our creative capacities; this is the “will” we were endowed with by a creator God.  Why would God laugh at free will-the best thing God ever did?  Assertions like this undermine free will and the importance of creation itself.  They casually affirm old notions of humanity as predestined robots, puppets to be controlled by divine strings.   I don’t think God is a puppet master bully who laughs at us like a passive aggressive child.

That’s why this makes me extremely uncomfortable:  “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”  I’m not cool with this at all.

If you want to make God laugh, tell Her a funny joke or send a picture of a cat in Santa suit.  She knows your plans.  Be cool with that.

Merry Christmas,

Richard Bryant

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