Carry a Little Honey

In Genesis 43:11 there is a statement that made a special appeal to me. Jacob was giving his sons some instructions about what to take back to Joseph. He said, "Carry a little honey." I remember brother Marshall Keeble saying to me about 40 years ago, "You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar." I replied, "When I am preaching, I am not particularly interested in catching flies." So I continued my usual caustic way of preaching. I have little doubt that I have turned persons away from the truth, not because they hated the truth, but because of the harsh way I have presented it. I hope I never live long enough to learn how to preach the soft "mealy-mouthed" watered down doctrineless speeches that are called sermons in many places today. I also hope I do live long enough to learn what brother Fred Barton tried to impress on me when James Walter Nichols and I were debating against another team in his class. I had rather sarcastically attacked the logic of our opponents, implying that a person with enough brains to fill a peanut could present a more logical argument than they. Brother Barton said in his slow Alabama drawl, "Pierce, a person can be a Christian and a gentleman at the same time." Sarcasm and ridicule was never practiced by great debaters like Alexander Campbell and need not be practiced by any Christian.

Knowing his sons as Jacob did, he could well have meant, "Not only take a little honey in your jars. Take a little sweetness in your soul. Do not be your usual crabbed unpleasant self." Let us think of a few reasons for carrying a little honey.

First, do it for your own sake. It is not enough to be good. Most of us know those who are morally good, but very disagreeable. They have strength of character, but not beauty of soul. They are religious, but lack attractiveness and cheerfulness.

It is true that the joy, peace and tranquility of a Christian is not the same as the giddy gladness of a child at a county fair. Nor is our tranquility the same as the deadness of concern of those who may get their tranquility from a pill. But a person who is a chronic complainer, a dispenser of disillusionment, a purveyor of pessimism needs to examine the boat in which he is crossing the sea of life and see if perhaps he has sprung a leak.

We admit that there is enough to make a person sour, somber, cynical, bitter and sad if we dwell on the ingratitude, misunderstanding, misrepresentation, failure and hypocrisy of many preachers and others in the brotherhood. Yet often, the greatest problem is our own attitude, not the objective situation. The two shoe salesmen who went to Africa to see if they could sell shoes is an illustration of that. The first one said, "Bring me home. Nobody wear shoes where I am." The other sent the urgent message, "Send me 2000 pair of shoes immediately. Nobody wears shoes where I am."

Jesus knows better than any of us the dark clouds and shadows of life. He was a "Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." He felt loneliness that none of us have yet felt, deserted by men and forsaken of God. He was misunderstood, mocked, mistreated and murdered by His enemies. Yet he said, "My peace I leave with you." James said, "Count it all joy when ye fall into divers testings" (James 1:2). This is not only a command, but gives enabling power to "carry a little honey."

We need to do it not only for our own sakes, but for the sake of others. Since there are so many things in life that bring disappointment, discouragement and despair, many need our help and encouragement. They need the "honey" of encouragement. Hebrews 12:12 says, "Lift up the hands that hang down and the feeble knees." Paul says in Galatians 6:2, "Bear ye one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ."

Although I think it the business of a preacher of the gospel to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, I have spent a large part of my preaching doing the latter. If I had a chance to start over, I think I would try to move a little closer to the former. That does not mean I would fail to rebuke sin. It does mean that I would be a little more conscious of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God."

I would try to carry a little honey of encouragement and appreciation. There are so many faults in my brethren that I felt it necessary to "Reprove, rebuke and exhort" much of the time. I still do, but I have discovered that one can do that and still intersperse heavily with, "Thank you. You have done a great job" when the situation calls for it. One does not have to lie, play politics nor condone sin in order to do that.

There would be a great deal more wonderful things done and fewer problems of all kinds if we could carry a little honey in the home. By some strange quirk, many of us show less appreciation, courtesy and magnanimity in the home than we do anywhere in life. As I have grown older, I have wondered why I have been so sparing in my expression of praise and adoration for my wife. She is far sweeter, kinder, more thoughtful and considerate than almost anyone I know; certainly more than I am. It is practically impossible for anyone to know her and not love her. Yet some perverse spirit has caused me to reply to her question, "Do you love me?" with "A little, I guess." If she comes out with a dress that enhances her natural beauty so it almost takes my breath away and asks, "How do you like it?" I may have replied many times, "Not too bad."

That she has lived with me and loved me with consistency and constantly is a marvel of the ages. She has carried a little honey in the home, in church and social relationships as she recognizes good, encourages any effort that is right, shows appreciation and praise for even small things.

How does one learn to do this? Acts 4:13 gives a clue. "They took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus." Those who are born with a sunny disposition may not need to have credit for being sweet, but those of us who may have a tendency to gripe, complain and find fault may have to work at it harder. But we can do it as we live closer to the Lord. The more we really let the life of Christ be manifest in our mortal flesh (2 Cor. 4:11) the more we will carry a little honey.

T. Pierce Brown

Published in The Old Paths Archive