“For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fools. This also is vanity.”
“Appetite may be satisfied, but what of conscience, and reason, and the higher aspirations of the soul? The laughter that echoes through the soul is the hollower the louder it is, and reverberates most through empty spaces.” (MacLaren, Alexander; Expositions of Holy Scripture, Esther -Ecc.)
I can remember being afield one December hunting deer under very cold weather conditions in which these conditions got the better of my aspirations of killing the imaginary trophy buck (at least it has always been imaginary for me). But in compromise I had decided to build just a small quick fire to warm myself and in hopes of not alerting the trophy I had convinced myself must surely be lurking nearby. The fire I built was made from a little dry grass and fine twigs that in the end burnt up before I could begin to feel its heat and did nothing profitable in the way of serving its projected purpose; I was still cold and my tramping around made more noise than the fire made heat.
Such is what the writer of Ecclesiastes has in view here. Thorns made little or no contribution toward heating a pot and their fire was fleeting, yet they were known to spark and crackle loudly. In essence, they left every impression that there was a contribution being made; and they stated it resoundingly, yet in truth it was hollow boasting. The writer says such is the case with the laughter of fools. The volume rises and boasts of great things but in the end when the thing is evaluated it is found that this laughter has contributed noting to the moral or spiritual good of a man. If we ask what is meant by this word; laughter here, we find it to mean: laughter, derision, sport, joking. In short this is the empty humor of nonsense.
It is this laughter that today sets enthroned on the minds of believers and non-believes alike as diversion. G. K. Chesterton observed in respect to this; “The discovery of nonsense was the greatest revelation of the nineteenth century” (Boreham, F. W.; Lover of Life: F. W. Boreham’s Tribute to His Mentor). Mindless laughter has become one of the elixirs of a society that is drunk on unconscious diversion and nonsense. Lest we should think that Christianity has remained above delusion; we need only look to such things that the Christian culture entertains itself with to find the oxymoron; “Christian Comedian.” It bodes of a confessing body that has wandered far astray from the gravity of our calling or the exercise of wisdom. Laughter may indeed be a temporary detour from reality for the sake of rest or momentary diversion from pain, but it was never a balm that carried with it a lasting contribution upon the life nor can it. The comparison the writer makes to laughter and the crackling of thorns is that they are both fleeting and contribute nothing of any eternal value. Who is it that has soothed the pain of sorrow in laughter and not returned to his pain again? It is the laughter of fools who think that it shall forever drown out the cries of the mourner or the pleadings of poverty.
Laughter has been misrepresented to be meaningful and valuable as though it should contribute something to life whereas it has been given as a temporary diversion, it was never meant to be the fountain of our joy. There is a vast crevice that separates the dry hills of laughter from the placid vitality of the mountains of joy whose roots run deep into the wells of God’s glory. It has been said that the laughter of fools is the music of those who march in the band of meaninglessness. The mirth of Christ was that He delighted to do the will of the Father.