I don’t recall too many things from when I was four, but I have yet to forget the time I was introduced to the substance that would prove to be one of my favorite foods.
We didn’t watch a lot of television growing up, so when it was allowed (usually on Saturday morning), it was a pretty special thing. A family favorite of ours was Winnie the Pooh. My three siblings and I would pack onto our couch and get lost in the Hundred Acre Wood with Christopher Robin and his eclectic group of friends.
On one particular occasion, I asked my mom what Pooh Bear was continually obsessing over. He would risk life and limb for this dark yellow matter, draining the supply of all of his friends (especially poor Rabbit), and even engorging himself to the point of immobility.
My mother proceeded to invite me to the kitchen table, retrieved a small bottle out of our kitchen cabinet, and placed a little bit of Pooh’s nectar of life on a spoon for my sampling. Much like our friend stuffed with fluff, I was hooked…
To this day, my parents (and now my wife) will get me bottles of honey for various occasions. Though I don’t quite have the same dedication towards honey that Pooh displays, I think I can claim I enjoy it more than your average bear. Not surprisingly, one of my favorite passages to use in counseling (as well as my own life application) is, itself, dipped in honey…
Trampling the Honeycomb
A few years ago, while reading through Proverbs, one verse in particular stood out to me in a way it had never before. The reason it stood out to me was the seemingly irrational treatment of honey:
A person who is full tramples on a honeycomb,
but to a hungry person, any bitter thing is sweet. – Proverbs 27:7 (HCSB)
Trample on a honeycomb? What could possibly compel a person to do such a thing? I had to know what this passage was talking about—my inner Winnie the Pooh demanded it. To no surprise of mine, the resulting sweetness from delving into the Word of God produced a substance far more rewarding than honey (Psalm 19:10).
Our Satiable Appetite
When I explain this passage to a counselee, I usually do it in the form of leading questions. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll transcribe how it typically goes:
- Stefan: “What’s your favorite dessert?”
- Pooh: “Hmm… Honey, definitely honey.”
- Stefan: “Good, so imagine you have just finished a meal at your favorite buffet restaurant, and you really got your money’s worth—you are totally stuffed with fluff. While you are waddling out of the establishment, I offer you a heaping helping of my famous Australian honey vanilla pastry with genuine fresh honeycomb—would you accept my offer?”
- Pooh: “Oh, bother. I’d probably have to decline.”
- Stefan: “And why is that?”
- Pooh: “Well, I’d already had my fill of honey-themed delights and I simply could not fit another morsel in.”
So it is with the first line of Proverbs 27:7—if you are full, even the greatest of desserts will not seem appetizing to you. Place that within what I believe to be one of the intended purposes of the proverb: if you are full (I will visit what this means in a bit), even the most appealing of temptations will be readily trampled underfoot.
The Reckless Shopper
Anyone who has ever tried to stick to a budget will tell you the absolute worst time to go grocery shopping: when you’re hungry. Even our friend Pooh Bear would find himself salivating in the produce aisle if the conditions were dire enough.
The second half of verse 27 speaks to this reality: when we are hungry (i.e., not full), even that which is bitter looks as though it may have sweet and satisfying qualities about it. And the word used for “bitter” (mar) in the Hebrew lends to much more than just the taste: it speaks to the character and result of the temptation.
“Mar” is seen several times in the Old Testament. Naomi tries to change her name to it after losing her husband and sons to a bleak famine: “Call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20). Mordecai lets out a bitter (mara) cry when he hears of the plot to destroy his people in Esther 4:1. “Mar” is even analogous of judgment in several occasions (Numbers 5:23-24 & Job 3:20, to name just two).
If you need even more examples, look no further than your own history. Thinking back on particular instances of depravity you have found yourself indulging in, are they not rightly described as immensely bitter (Romans 6:21)? Yet at the time, it seemed as though it would be sweet and satisfactory. Praise the Lord there is now no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1)!
Sweet and Sticky
But what makes Proverbs 27:7 so delectable is that it doesn’t just present us with the problem and leave us to fend for ourselves. It provides us with two beautiful insights—the sticky test and the sweet solution:
- Sticky: If one finds themselves stuck in the second line of verse 27, where even bitter temptations seem as though they will satisfy, the cause is quite clear: they are hungry. This typically manifests itself in the form of wandering thoughts and wandering eyes (picture Pooh’s eyes landing on the radishes and thinking, “I could see that taking care of my sweet tooth”). When the eye or the mind sticks to (or is “enticed by” (James 1:14) bitter temptations, it’s obvious that he or she is not full.
- Sweet: The sweet solution to our sticky problem is self-evident: get full. And I think Pooh would agree with me; this is always the fun part…
In your discipleship, you have likely encountered this question: “how much should I read my Bible?” I typically counter that question with a question of my own: “how much should I eat?” The logic is quite simple: “You eat until you’re full; you read until you’re full.” Just as no two appetites are alike, so one person will differ from another in what their time in the Word is going to look like (even within that, one day will differ from another).
The Lord made us limited in our capacity. The body requires sustenance in order to stay alive—the soul is no different. This is one of the bells Jesus continually rings throughout His ministry (John 4:14, 4:34, 6:55, 7:37, 15:4-5, 19:28). I don’t know a single Christian brother or sister who does not take time to satisfy their appetite when they are hungry at least one time a day (unless they are intentionally fasting). I know a lot of them (and I can fall into this camp as well) who don’t take the time to feed their souls.
Jesus is the only One who can truly satisfy (see the passages in John referenced above). Any attempt to “get full” outside of being filled by Him proves futile. Remember when you were craving escape? How did that four-hour Netflix binge leave you feeling (Matthew 11:28-30)? How about when you were longing for comfort—did that sixth chocolate chip cookie do the trick (1 Peter 5:7)? Insert whichever (godly) desire you gravitate towards—Jesus is the satisfier of our souls (John 6:26-35), and He never leaves us noxiously distended.
Jesus tells Satan in Matthew 4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Additionally, in John 4, Jesus says to His disciples, “I have food to eat that you do not know about… My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” A steady diet will consist of the consumption and application of the Word of God. Read, pray, serve, fast, worship, give, memorize, teach, ruminate, sing, evangelize, etc., and teach others to do the same.
Be increasingly satisfied in your loving relationship with Jesus. Nothing can fill us or our counselees apart from Him. Don’t get me wrong, honey is a pretty incredible gift from the Lord. But “how sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103)