Children: Milton Berle Versus the Bible

Jesus with Children

Milton Berle

Who here is familiar with the late Milton Berle? Born in on July 12, 1908 as Mendel Berlinger, he passed away around 15 years ago on March 27, 2002. So, contrary to what some of you might think, he was a bit before my time. 🙂

But, like another great comedian, Bob Hope, he wasn’t so far before my time that I am not familiar with his tremendous comedic talents. I especially remember him being famous for supposedly stealing other people’s jokes…but, per TIME, “in later interviews, Berle claimed that it was all a publicity hoax, that he wasn’t really a thief.”1

Regardless, “Uncle Miltie” was immensely funny…and accomplished. His official site’s “Fast Facts” section has:

Did you know…

  • He was a founding member of the Friars Club of Beverly Hills in 1947.
  • He was the first major star in television to have the nickname “Mr. Television.”
  • NBC signed him to a 30 year television contract in 1951.
  • He held the Guinness Book of World Records for greatest number of charity performances.
  • He performed in silent film, vaudeville, radio, motion pictures, and television.
  • He was a Lyricist for over 300 songs.
  • He had a collection of 5 to 6 million jokes.
  • His career lasted over 75 years.
  • He was married four times, twice to Joyce Matthews2

Why Milton Berle?

Why am I starting a sermon discussing Milton Berle? Because he was funny enough that I grabbed a couple of his books from Half Price Books back when I lived in northern California for a short while…and as I was preparing this sermon about children I thought it would be good to sneak in a couple of his comments about kids.

After reading some of them I then thought, “It would be fun to compare what he says about children to what the Bible says.”

And here we are! 🙂

We’ll see if you think that is a fun or good idea as we hop right into “Children: Milton Berle Versus the Bible.” 🙂

[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the “extras” that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]

Did God Know What He Was Doing?

The “Children” section in Milton Berle’s Private Joke File starts off with this (italics his):

I just have the feeling that when God came up with the idea of children, he wasn’t sure about it. But he didn’t have anybody to show the plans to. So we got them!3

Kids, if you didn’t catch it, Uncle Miltie just insulted you! 🙂

Of course, since we are all children…well…he zapped us all…including himself! So, don’t feel too bad. 🙂

But, is he right…was God unsure about “the idea of children”? Let’s head back to Genesis 1:26-28 to find out:

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27  So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.

Does “be fruitful and multiply” sound like a charge from a creator who wasn’t sure about the idea of children?

Especially given it is the first recorded command to humans in the Bible…right in the first chapter?

Nope…Mr. Television is wrong in this case. God knew exactly what He was doing when He came up with the idea of children.

And, if you’ve read through all 66 books you’ll notice that this command to “be fruitful and multiply” was never rescinded.

No, I am not saying that couples sin by not having children.

However, I cannot help but wonder two things:

  1. If part of the reason God created the system of children was so we would be less likely to be self-centered; instead, like Him, focusing our attention on our little creations.
  2. If our modern “career/degrees/travel/you name it” first about having children is part of the reason the “civilized” world, including its kids, are so messed up. If God put children first in our priorities, what does it say about a society that really only puts them first as a political tool to get a law passed? “It’s for the children.” If things were really for the children, the government would do a lot of things differently…and so would we.

Perhaps I am reading too much into a single, early command in Scripture…but…regardless…

God knew exactly what He was doing when He had the idea of children.

Blessing or Curse?

That same section in Milton Berle’s funny collection ends with this joke…

Wait, it has nothing to do with this sermon, but let me read the one right above it:

A small boy asked the girl next door, “Are you the opposite sex, or am I?”4

Oh, come on, that’s funny. 🙂

However, the last joke in the “Children” section is:

“How many children do you have?”

“None.”

“What do you do for aggravation?”5

And how about this joke from the “Children” section in More of the Best of Milton Berle’s Private Joke File?

Children are a great comfort in your old age, and they can help you get there faster too.6

Kids! He did it again! Uncle Miltie insulted you! Two times! 🙂

But is he right? Are you mini guys and gals just a whole bunch of aggravation? Are you a curse?

Or are you a blessing? Psalm 127:3-5 answers that:

3  Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,

the fruit of the womb a reward.

4  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior

are the children of one’s youth.

5  Blessed is the man

who fills his quiver with them!

Boys and girls, you are a heritage from the Lord. You are blessing! The more the merrier per “blessed is the man who fills his quiver with [you]”…although another one of Berle’s jokes from the second book probably has some truth in it:

A woman just had her fourteenth child and ran out of names—to call her husband.

🙂

Kids, you are a heritage from the Lord. You are a blessing!

Not convinced from just three verses in the Bible?

Do you remember the story of John the Baptist’s conception and birth? Here is a short part of the narrative in Luke; Luke 1:24-25 to be specific:

24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

And how about this from the story of Rachel, Jacob’s favorite wife, when she finally was able to have a child?:

22 Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. 23 She conceived and bore a son and said, “God has taken away my reproach.” 24 And she called his name Joseph, saying, “May the LORD add to me another son!” (Genesis 30:22-24)

Did either Elizabeth or Rachel sound depressed at being pregnant and having a child?

No!

Quite the opposite! Do you know what the word “reproach” means? Per my Mac’s dictionary it’s:

the expression of disapproval or disappointment

Not being able to have children in the Old Testament was seen as a curse from God.

Get that?

Not having children was the curse, not having them. For instance, in telling Zion the horrible things that we due to happen because of their misbehavior, Isaiah records:

24  Instead of perfume there will be rottenness;

and instead of a belt, a rope;

and instead of well-set hair, baldness;

and instead of a rich robe, a skirt of sackcloth;

and branding instead of beauty.

25  Your men shall fall by the sword

and your mighty men in battle.

26  And her gates shall lament and mourn;

empty, she shall sit on the ground.

4 And seven women shall take hold of one man in that day, saying, “We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes, only let us be called by your name; take away our reproach” (Isaiah 3:24—4:1).

Women begging to have children…because not having them is the curse.

Having them is a blessing.

Uncle Miltie was wrong.

Children are a blessing.

Kids, you are a gift from God to your parents.

Children are a blessing.

Before we move onto the third and final part of this sermon, I want to note a couple things…

First, although the Bible does indicate barrenness can be caused by God, if a couple are unable to have a baby it does not mean God is unhappy with them. If anything, a big problem the Jews right through Jesus’ day had was to think that when bad things happen it proved the sufferer had sinned and wasn’t right with God…even though the Israelites had a whole Book of Job to refute that.

We live in a world ruined by sin for thousands upon thousands upon thousands of years. Bad things happen to good people, including not being able to have the blessing of children.

Second, children being a blessing doesn’t mean they are always a blessing. When they aren’t, often it is self-afflicted punishment by parents not bringing them up correctly, not putting them first, etcetera.

And, sometimes, in that world ruined by sin, great parents end-up with a horrible kid.

But that is the exception, not the rule.

Milton Berle is wrong. The Bible is right.

Children are a blessing.

Responsibilities

So, we’ve identified two things that Uncle Miltie was wrong about. We know from the Bible:

  • God knew exactly what He was doing when He had the idea of children.
  • Children are a blessing.

For our final comparison in “Children: Milton Berle Versus the Bible,” here are a couple more jokes from the second book:

Some children learn a lot at their mother’s knee, especially when they’re bent over it!

Strike your kid every day. If you don’t know why, he does!7.

My guess is that if you were paying attention, have a sense of humor, and don’t find those two funny you have an aversion to corporal punishment, but remember we are comparing Milton Berle’s jokes to the Bible, not what today’s society has decided is right. So, please hold off an judgment until we read Proverbs 13:24 and 23:14:

24  Whoever spares the rod hates his son,

but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him (Proverbs 13:24).

14  If you strike him with the rod,

you will save his soul from Sheol (Proverbs 23:14).

Kids, if your parents do not discipline you, they do not love you.

I know that may seem strange, but it make sense.

If I tell you I love you, but as I watch you see you are about to walk in front of a car.

And I say nothing.

Do I really love you?

No. Love cares about your welfare.

And there are far worse things you could metaphorically “walk in front of” than a car. Another way to paraphrase the second proverb we read is, “If your parent disciplines you, they will save you from hell.”

As a matter of fact, God Himself uses discipline as proof that he loves us. Check out Hebrews 12:3-7:

3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

nor be weary when reproved by him.

6  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

and chastises every son whom he receives.”

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

God disciplines us because He loves us. He wants us to be with Him for eternity, not in hell.

Your parents discipline you because they love you. They want you to be with God for eternity, not in hell.

But no…I am not going to say, “Children should be spanked” as my third and final comparison between Milton Berle and the Bible.

Although, Uncle Miltie is correct in humorously identifying the benefit of discipline for boys and girls.

Biblically, it is clear biblically that discipline a parental obligation.

It is also clear that if needed, that discipline should include corporal punishment.

But there is no command in Scripture to spank our kids…and no excuse for beating them.

The whole question about discipline is just part of a larger item…and that larger item will lead to my final point…but let’s first read Deuteronomy 6:4-7 together:

4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Within the pages of Scripture the Almighty provides tons and tons of guidance, commands, and wisdom…and what are parents supposed to do?

We are to “teach them diligently to [our] children, and shall talk of them when [we] sit in [our] house, and when [we] walk by the way, and when [we] lie down, and when [we] rise.”

And discipline is just part of making sure our kids learn all that the Lord is trying to teach them through us.

Yes, children are a blessing, but they are also an obligation.

They are a gift from God that comes with a responsibility to bring them up knowing about their Heavenly Father.

And you know what, the more we do that the more of a blessing they will be. I can’t imagine there has been a single godly child who was a curse to her or his parents.

  • God knew exactly what He was doing when He had the idea of children.
  • Children are a blessing.
  • Children are an obligation.

In a short while we’ll be having a baby dedication, and I know that Augustin and Elisa truly understand all three of those points…choosing what the Bible teaches over what Milton Berle jokes. 🙂

Laugh at Uncle Miltie’s jokes.

Follow what the Bible teaches.

Train up a child in the way he should go;

even when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).

Dedication

[The sermon portion has ended…below are the notes for the dedication.]

Introduction

In today’s sermon we confirmed that children are a blessing, and as both a father and a minister, I can personally corroborate that, having been blessed by four who call me dad, and by so many others that have come through the doors of the churches the Lord has called me to preach in.

And today I am blessed by this first time I have been given the honor to dedicate a baby to the Lord.

Brothers and sisters, we are gathered here today because _____ and _____ know the Most High and know exactly how much a godsend sons and daughters are.

As we read earlier in Psalm 127:3-5:

3  Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,

the fruit of the womb a reward.

4  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior

are the children of one’s youth.

5  Blessed is the man

who fills his quiver with them!

_____, _____, and _____…and now little _____…are a heritage from the Lord.

Rewards.

Blessings.

But, as we also noted in today’s talk, they are not only a blessing, they are an obligation. I would suggest, second only to God, our primary obligation. Or as we read in Deuteronomy 6:4-7:

4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

We are to constantly teach our children what the Lord has taught us…from the moment we wake up to the time we go to sleep.

We are given biological children with the call to train them up in a way that they become adopted sons and daughters of the Most High.

Also, with us today are _____ and _____ to act as _____’s Nino and Nina…as _____’s godfather and godmother. Interestingly enough, godparents did not originate from baby dedications. The Encyclopædia Britannica online notes:

The practice of sponsorship originated not in infant baptism but in the custom that required that an adult pagan who offered himself for the rite should be accompanied by a Christian known to the bishop—a Christian who could vouch for the applicant and undertake his supervision.8

If you think about that, it’s quite an obligation to “vouch” that someone should be baptized, but _____ and _____, I would suggest that as the godparent tradition has transformed into what it is today, the obligation is bigger and more important. You could never know if someone is truly converted (only God does)…and thus could be let off the hook if someone never truly left or turned back to a life of sin.

However, the obligation you will be making to spiritually support little _____ comes with no excuses, and will require that you, like her parents _____ and _____, be willing to put _____’s interests before your own if need be.

And _____, _____, _____, and _____…it will be hard to help _____ be right with God if you aren’t right with God. She is a more than just a blessing, she is a gift lent to you that the Lord wants returned to eternal life.

One we all have the opportunity to share with her when Jesus returns.

Finally…to the church…because we are adopted into the same family of God as _____ and _____, we are also obligated to act as stewards of _____. To love her, her siblings, her parents, and her godparents.

To remember them in our prayers.

To put them ahead of our own needs as God calls us to.

But, that holy obligation comes with ample blessings…as we can already confirm from the many times _____’s magical, infectious smile has already given us more than we can give in return.

Commitments

_____ and _____:

  • Do you dedicate _____ to God?
  • Do you promise to bring _____ up as a child of God?
  • Do you promise to put _____’s needs, especially spiritual, before yours when our Lord calls you too?
  • Do you promise to provide a home with God as its head?

Damien:

  • Do you willingly accept God’s calling to be _____’s Nino?
  • Do you promise to help _____ and _____ bring _____ up as a child of God?
  • Do you promise to put _____’s needs, especially spiritual, before yours when our Lord calls you too?
  • Will you regularly pray for _____ and her parents?

Angel:

  • Do you willingly accept God’s calling to be _____’s Nina?
  • Do you promise to help your parents bring _____ up as a child of God?
  • Do you promise to put _____’s needs, especially spiritual, before yours when our Lord calls you too?
  • Will you regularly pray for _____ and your parents?

Brothers and sisters of the Strasburg Church of Christ:

  • Do you welcome _____ as part of our family?
  • Do you promise to help _____ and _____ bring _____ up as a child of God?
  • Do you promise to put _____’s needs, especially spiritual, before yours when our Lord calls you too?
  • Will you regularly pray for _____ and her parents?

The Charge

_____, _____, _____, _____, brothers and sisters, and everyone here today, I am both humbled and proud to dedicate _____ to the One who very deliberately gave us the blessing of children.

Lord, we thank you for _____ and accept our callings.

Lord, we ask that you protect her, both physically and spiritually.

Lord, we ask for wisdom and strength in raising her.

Lord, we ask for your forgiveness as we fall short in our duties to her.

Lord, we dedicate _____ to you.

_____, since the first day you came through that door you have blessed and brightened all our lives. We commit to being the Lord’s hands in your life. I personally pledge to.

We may fail, but Jesus never will.

Forgive us.

Keep your eyes on Jesus.

_____, _____, _____, _____, and the Strasburg Church of Christ, I charge you to keep the commitments you made today. _____ is a precious, fragile gift from our Creator, and He has purpose in putting her in our lives and us in hers.

To everyone here:

The LORD bless you and keep you;

25  the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;

26  the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26).

Footnotes

1Rothman, L. (2013, June 20). Patton Oswalt on the Unsavory Business of Joke Theft. Time. Retrieved from http://entertainment.time.com/2013/06/20/patton-oswalt-on-the-unsavory-business-of-joke-theft/

2Fast Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved February 25, 2017, from http://www.miltonberle.com/about/facts.html

3Berle, M. (1989). >Milton Berle’s Private Joke File. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press. Page 138.

4Berle, M. (1989). Milton Berle’s Private Joke File. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press. Page 139.

5Ibid.

6Berle, M. (1996). More of the Best of Milton Berle’s Private Joke File. Edison, NJ: Castle Books. Page 123.

9Ibid.

7Ibid.

8Godparent. (2007, January 4). Retrieved February 25, 2017, from https://www.britannica.com/topic/godparent


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Comments

  1. Thank you again for a most interesting sermon. I enjoyed every minute. Took a look and have found all of your notes and guide lines. Very well done. Thank you again, Evette

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