“The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips. Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” (Proverbs 16:23-24)
One of my favorite children’s series is Winnie-the-Pooh, and Poor bear is my all-time favorite character. He’s a pudgy teddy bear whose big tummy attests to his love for honey. He will do anything, and I do mean anything, to get a pot of the delicious stuff. My enjoyment of Pooh and honey motivated me to think about the picture given to us in our passage today. After all, we have spent the last five days studying that which is foolishly opposed to God. It is a relief, is it not, to spend some time considering what is judicious, persuasive, sweet and healthy?
Honey not only tastes good but has many health benefits, especially compared to cane sugar. Honey has anti-microbial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties and has been used to treat conjunctivitis, corneal injuries, coughs, immune deficiencies, lesions, high cholesterol, and oral infections. Wise King Solomon would have known about these benefits. As honey is sweet to the taste and health to the body, gracious words are pleasing to the soul and good for the body. The most gracious words in any language are the words of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which have the power to heal the soul of the effects of sin. They are the purest sweetness and the fittest health for the sinner who isn’t just sick but is spiritually dead. Not only are the gospel words rich to the sinner, but they are sweet to the Lord, as his Word does not return empty (Isaiah 55:11).
Wise hearts produce speech that persuades and supplies health and well-being to the hearers. The wise know what to say at the appropriate time and how to say it because Christ’s people have been in his school of wisdom where he has molded their hearts in compassion and empathy. As their hearts are conformed to his love, holiness, mercy, and sensitivity, our speech becomes more persuasive. Their ability to win others over to Christ is not a matter of manipulation and strategy, but one of truth and the power of the Holy Spirit working in our hearts. When they speak to those mourning the loss of a loved one they are comforted; if they talk with those who are suffering physically, there is relief. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34)
Like busy honeybees, believers draw heavenly nectar from the flowers of the gospel, creating sweet combs of blessings to offer to others. Pooh bear may not like to share his honey, but he’s just a cute stuffed animal. In the real world, God uses his children not only to gather honey but deposit it into the lives of others, generously and abundantly. Are you doing that?