By Irvin Himmel
Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones (Prov. 16:24).
Which had you rather hear, harsh words or kind words? Angry words or gentle words? Cutting words or soothing words? Grating words or pleasant words?
Pleasant Words Are Not Always Best
There are times when piercing words give more health to the soul than sweet words could give. It is not always the sweet-tasting medicine that heals.
The prophets in the Old Testament were inspired by the Spirit to utter strong words of rebuke in numerous situations. The people were so hardened in sin that pleasant words could not be expected to prick their conscience and jar them to admission of guilt.
Isaiah chided the people in his time for wanting to hear smooth, sweet words, even if they were lies. God declared through His prophet, “This is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord: which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits” (Isa. 30:9,10).
The words of Amos were not pleasant when he announced the doom of the Northern Kingdom. He disclosed that God hated and despised their feast days and solemn assemblies due to their lack of justice and righteousness. “Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the Lord. . .” (Amos 5:21-27).
Hosea’s words were not pleasant. He candidly pointed out the sins of the people, and as the spokesman for Jehovah announced, “For Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and buildeth temples; and Judah hath multiplied fenced cities: but I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour the palaces thereof” (Hos. 8:14).
Jeremiah’s words to Judah were far from pleasant. He warned that the Babylonians, like a fierce lion, were coming to destroy and devour. “The lion is come up from the thicket, and the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way; he is gone forth from his place to make thy land desolate; and thy cities shall be laid waste, without an inhabitant” (Jer. 4:7).
The words of Jesus spoken to the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23 were not pleasant. What a stinging rebuke was this one: “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (v. 33)
Paul’s words to Elymas the sorcerer were not sweet and smooth. Read Acts 13:10.
We should “never gloss over a situation with glib words” (Arthur E. Cundall). Some in Jeremiah’s time were saying, “Peace, peace,” but there was no peace (Jer. 8:11). It is wrong to whitewash sin with honey sweet words. As much as we prefer pleasant words, there is a time and place for piercing, penetrating, strong words of rebuke and warning.
Occasions For Pleasant Words
There are numerous occasions when pleasant words are as “health to the bones.”
(1) In time of sickness. There are some people that I would not want near me in time of illness. They constantly complain, sing the blues, talk of how badly they feel and how rotten the world is, and generally spread despair. When we visit the sick we need to be cheerful and speak pleasant words.
(2) When one has fallen. The fellow who has fallen through weakness does not need to be kicked and belittled. He is already wounded and needs words to lift him up. Our words can either heal or add to his injured condition.
(3) On occasions of grief. “It is not necessary to speak sad words to the sad in order to prove our sympathy. It should be our aim to lighten the load of their sorrow” (W. F. Adeney).
(4) When burdens are heavy. Job’s friends visited him when he was deeply burdened with severe losses. They added to his load by arguing over something that they did not understand. He said to them, “miserable comforters are ye all” (Job 16:2).
(5) In teaching youth. “The gloom of some people has repelled the young. . . . All who are themselves bright and happy should know that there is greater gladness for them in Christ. The preacher of the gospel belies his message when he proclaims it like a funeral dirge” (Adeney).
(6) In ordinary conversations. Pleasant words reflect a glad heart. In our normal conversations with others we should be pleasant, not obnoxious. Good words make glad hearts (Prov. 12:25). The person who uses a sharp tongue to constantly cut others down will soon find himself friendless.
If you prefer to hear pleasant words, make it your preference to speak pleasant words.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 16, p. 494
August 21, 1986