“Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.”
I must admit, this is a puzzling one for me to read. I love to laugh, I laugh a lot. This is one of those statements in the Bible that we read and think “Hang on, this must mean something above and beyond the plain and simple reading, right?” God made us with the ability and expectation to enjoy our lives (Proverbs 17.22, John 10.10, 16.24, Psalm 16.11, 118.24, Philippians 4.4). So then, why is there a woe for those who laugh now?
Again in this section, the big idea is that those who are living their best life now, those who are living in indulgent comfort and luxury now, those who have their rewards now, will be sorely disappointed when Jesus comes in His Kingdom and all its glory. Very simply, if your deepest happiness and joy is found in the world now what have you got to look forward to?
As Paul wrote to the Philippians, our citizenship is in heaven – and we also eagerly await a saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…(3.20). The point Paul is making is the point that Jesus is making here too: our minds should not be focused purely on earthly things, there is more and there is better to come.
Laugh now, sure. Who doesn’t enjoy laughing and feeling good? What Jesus is saying is that to find true contentment, true joy, and true happiness in the things of the world is to forsake the true contentment, true joy, and true happiness found in the things of God. As with the other woes pronounced so far, the choice is ours. We can choose to be rich, well satisfied, and laugh now, but we are essentially choosing now over eternity.