My Sunday sermon this week had what I believe to be my first preaching reference to Winnie the Pooh. For my 7-year-old, that was the highlight of the sermon.
What do the world’s most famous stuffed bear and Proverbs 25:6-27, my text for the evening, have in common? They both reflect on the overconsumption of honey.
Proverbs 25:16 reads, “If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.”
Proverbs 25:27 reads, “It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.”
Now why, of all things, would Proverbs take the time to discuss how much honey you eat? And what if I told you the answer will change your life?
In the Old Testament, the land of Canaan was often described to Israel as the land “flowing with milk and honey” (see Exodus 3:8, 17, 33:3, Leviticus 20:24, Numbers 14:8, Deuteronomy 6:3, and more). The promised land would abound with the rich and full blessings of God, pictured as an abundance of honey-fountains for the people to consume.
The “honey” message was this: Redemption produces the overwhelming experience of the blessing of God.
It was true then and it’s true now. To be redeemed is to walk in the honey-filled streets of the love of God, the body of Christ, a calling in life, deep spiritual friendships, and so much more. Redemption guides us to the overflow of the unmerited blessings of God.
But what if we take the blessings, the honey, and overeat them, or misuse them? What if we, v27, use the honey of life, for our glory and not God’s? What if we overeat the honey?
Solomon guides us to evaluate our “honey-consumption” in one area: human relationships, particularly relationships with those who live “in the land” in the body of Christ.
Few places are we more tempted to misuse the honey than in human relationships. How so, you say?
It may begin harmlessly enough. You might take the honey of friends and neighbors and overeat as you spend too much time in their house (Prov. 25:17). In other words, you make the relationship about your enjoyment of their presence – i.e. your glory – and you cease to make it about service to them.
Maybe you know where you’ve done this. And begun on that self-glory road, it doesn’t get better for there.
Next thing you know, you are lying about your neighbor (Prov. 25:18) or speaking ill behind their back (Prov. 25:23). After all, if your goal is your glory and not your neighbor’s good, then speaking ill of them where helpful for you is a natural next step.
You want all the honey you can get. You aren’t so worried if the neighbor delights in the honey of God’s blessing too.
Then, it gets worse. You count on them to be available in times of need, but when they are in need, you become as dependable as a bad tooth or a slipping foot (Prov. 25:19). They can’t count on you.
When tragedy hits, you refuse to enter their grief and sadness, but instead “sing happy songs” (Prov. 25:20) as they weep. After all, if the relationship is about your glory and happiness (Prov. 25:27), why enter another’s sorrow and ruin the fun of seeking your own glory?
A particular manifestation of this cruelty comes in marriage. A wife or a husband turns the honey of the blessing of marriage into an over-pursuit of self-glory. Outcome? The spouse is sent to the corner of a housetop, unable to enjoy the honey of marriage because of the spouse’s selfishness (Prov. 25:24).
Do you see it? Relationships are the honey of life, the redemptive blessing that overflows in the community of the redeemed. But when people take the blessing and pursue it for their glory, they become, yes, like that old stuffed bear. They always need more honey, and they always land in a bee’s nest, receiving pain. Worse yet, they inflict the pain on others. They guzzle the honey jar and remove the sweetness of the kingdom of God from all around them.
Likely, you’ve experienced a relationship like this. Likely, in a relationship or two (or three, etc.), you’ve been that over-honey-eater in a relationship, ruining a blessing of God to you.
You’ve become, v25, “like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain”. You produce not blessing, but muddy, polluted fruit. Where did the honey go?
What do we do when found guilty as misusers of the honey of God’s blessing? Two answers appear in the text, given now in reverse order:
1. Proverbs 25:25: “Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.”
You need not to first improve your fountain or your honey-eating tactics. Your approaches have left you thirsty. The self-glory pursuit provides no true refreshment.
You need water from a far country. You need good news. It was this that Jesus offered to a woman at the well who had ruined so many of her relationships. Jesus said, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13). We need the water from a far country, and Jesus brings it. Drink the water of life as you come to Jesus for forgiveness and renewal!
2. Proverbs 25:21: “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.” Here we find a remarkable reorientation of life. Instead of being honey-guzzlers, who make life about our glory, we are water-givers. Even to our enemy, we take the blessings of God, not for our glory but to pour into them. The honey, the water, the blessings of redemption, are for us to give to others.
So take the water to your enemies. Take the water to your spouse. Take the water to your neighbor.
Redemption leads to the overwhelming experience of the blessing of God. You exist to use those blessings, not for your glory, but for God’s glory, and the blessing of others.
Previously, you’ve been grabbing for your glory at whatever cost. Now transformed by Jesus? You give more for God’s glory at whatever cost.