“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Proverbs 16:24, ESV).
There are few condiments in life that bring me as much joy as honey. If ketchup and mayonnaise ceased to exist, I would not miss them like honey. If honey bees became extinct for any reason, I would be devastated in a big way. First, the bees would be extinct, and millions of plants would be in jeopardy, which rely on them for pollination. Second, honey would cease to exist at some point. It does not matter if humans eventually learn how to make it. The bees are the experts, always have been and always will be. I use honey to sweeten my oats, my tea, my fresh fruit bowl with plain yogurt, as a spread on my toast, bagels and English muffins, and much much more. I am all about honey.
When I discover verses like the one quoted above from Proverbs, it pleases me quite a bit. I think to myself, “Someone from Old Testament times views honey the same way that I do.” In this case, it is the wisest king ever in the history of Israel and the world: King Solomon. Now, I do not think that my love of honey places me on the same level as Solomon. I believe that would be called hubris. Back to the verse, Solomon equates gracious words with honey, specifically the honeycomb, and describes these words as being sweet to one’s soul and healthy for the body. Another way to describe the effect that gracious words have upon someone are the following adjectives: encouraging, edifying, and uplifting.
From my perspective, there seems to be something both simple and profound about Proverbs 16:24. It is simple in terms of its clarity and precision in conveying the heart of the matter: edify others with my words. It is profound as it seems to emphasize the importance of being intentional as I relate to others. My words count regardless of whether they are nonsensical or loving. When I speak to friends, family, colleagues, and strangers, my words will have an impact. This means that I must learn to approach my interactions with those in my life from the standpoint of imparting spiritual life and health. Do I want to speak words that are “sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Prov. 16:24, ESV)?
At first glance, the words to Proverbs 16:24 convey absolutely nothing about social settings; however, in what other context but social ones will I interact with friends, family, colleagues, and strangers? Going one step further, it is in the midst of interacting with those in my life that teaches me how to speak gracious words that heal. This means that some interactions will be unpleasant, difficult, and stretching. Another tangential idea that relates to this has to do with doing what Proverbs says rather than merely reading it. Now, I am not saying that reading Proverbs 16:24 is a complete waste of time. If I am not submitting to the truth of this verse in my life, then how do I expect it to ever bear fruit?
To be clear, I am not raising up the doing of God’s word to the exclusion of knowing what it says. If I do not know what God’s word says, then it makes it hard to obey. I must read it and study it; however, it is also important that I yield to the Holy Spirit’s guidance in applying the truth of his word in my life. What is the point of reading and studying God’s word if there’s no fruit in my life? If I am going to apply Proverbs 16:24 to my life, then I must remain connected to others. There is no room for isolationism, or living life like a lone ranger. If I desire the ability to speak gracious words that heal, then I must submit to Christ’s church. It is among his people where I learn to speak and to walk according to the Spirit. It is in the service of others that teaches me how to apply the truth of Proverbs 16:24.