Wisdom literature has much to say about the appropriateness and importance of our words. Using concise and elegant language, Solomon extols the value of choosing our words wisely:
In the original Hebrew, the adjective translated as “pleasant” here means “gracious, delightful, friendly.” When Solomon wrote this maxim, he did not have words of flattery in mind, but helpful communication that seeks to meet the listener’s need, such as supportive counsel of a godly friend. Pleasant words offer encouragement, comfort, and strength. They are as delightful and desirable as honey from a honeycomb. They uplift and nourish the soul and restore health to a person’s body. Many other proverbs directly link mind, soul, and spiritual health to the well-being of our physical bodies (Proverbs 3:8; 12:4; 14:30; 15:30; 17:22).
Solomon remarks, “It is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time!” (Proverbs 15:23, NLT). Elsewhere, he emphasizes the importance of good counsel like so: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11, ESV). In Proverbs 19:10, God’s Word is described as “sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.” For anyone undergoing hardship or affliction, pleasant words are like a honeycomb because they flow with sweet nourishment, “like pure spiritual milk” (1 Peter 2:2), to feed the soul and provide healing to the body. Wise biblical teachers and counselors speak God’s truth carefully and graciously to the delight, benefit, and blessing of others.
According to Proverbs 18:21, our words have “the power of life and death.” What we say can make an impact for good or for evil, for building up or tearing down (James 3:1–8; see also Proverbs 16:27). “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be” (James 3:9–10). Throughout the Bible, “the tongue” refers to our spoken words. James stresses the difficulty of taming the tongue and channeling our speech for the good of others and for God’s glory.
Well-chosen words are like a medical prescription for healing a person’s body and soul. “Gentle words are a tree of life,” says the Teacher (Proverbs 15:4, NLT). “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,” affirms Proverbs 10:11. A wise person will use his or her words to bring healing and life to other people (Proverbs 12:18). Wholesome, godly, and pleasant words flowing from our lips like honey from a honeycomb have the power to stimulate mental, physical, and spiritual health.
If we are wise, we will seek the Lord’s help controlling our tongues. We will let our “conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt” so we can “know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6). We will choose gracious words that promote healing and life. As Paul taught the Ephesians, we will “let no corrupting talk come out of [our] mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29, ESV).
If we truly desire to speak pleasant words like a honeycomb, we must pray like King David, “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3). Our desire must be, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14, NLT).