Words can certainly taste good: “How sweet are your words to my taste,” David wrote – “sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103), but words don’t always taste sweet at all. Recently, I couldn’t help hearing a parent berating her child in a store, for what appeared to be a very minor thing. It wasn’t just the words that were used, but also the tone and the obvious effect on the child and on others in the store - which was something like tasting a mouthful of vinegar.
That is something Job discovered when he was subjected to the negative, doubting and finally judgmental words of the “friends” who supposedly came to comfort him. Notice what Job says in this regard after tasting a few helpings of his friends' words: “Does not the ear test words as the palate tastes food?” (Job 12:11). Job is confirming what most of us come to know as we go through life – a person’s words can truly have a good effect on us, or they can be something that leaves the equivalent of a bad taste in our mouths.
It is something we all should consider. Bad "tasting" words don’t just include curses and profanity, they can be any words that pull down or discourage others. We may not mean them that way, but unless we think about the effects of our words, we may not realize what they are doing. On the other hand, restrained and carefully chosen words can help those who need guidance or encouragement. The proverb that tells us “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11) really makes this point. The original Hebrew may actually mean “apricots” rather than apples, but the specific fruit hardly matters (unless you greatly prefer one over the other!).
When our words build up and encourage rather than just convey raw facts – or worse yet, pull down those around us – then they might indeed be said to taste like honey or sweet, ripe fruit. It’s something to remember. Next time you are tempted to say something negative or critical, think about the fact that the words we use have a “taste” that affects others by building them up or pulling them down. Only you can decide what the taste will be - whether your words will encourage or discourage, whether they will have the taste of vinegar or the taste of honey.