“If you find honey, eat only what you need; otherwise, you will get sick from it and vomit”
“Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house; otherwise, he’ll get sick of you and hate you”
One of the things I like about Wisdom Literature is its attention to the ordinary. This was the profession of the sage, to observe the day to day, the ordinary, and write down his observations.. This is also the profession of a pastor. As Eugene Peterson puts it, it is the nature of pastoral life to be attentive, immersed in, and appreciative of the everyday texture of people’s lives…to be at home in the ordinary universe. Who wants to interface with someone who has no time for small talk?
The writer of Proverbs made lots of time for small talk, for things ordinary, for this is where he lived, and where we live. Here the sage makes a simple, but needed observation of something familiar, mundane, commonplace. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Eating honey is a good thing (24:13). More than satisfy the palate, honey is an antioxidant and an antiseptic, an aid for everything from tissue healing to indigestion (just read benefits-of-honey.com for “eye-popping” testimonies!). But too much of its sweetness, its healing properties, and it can be repulsive and damaging to one’s health. Keep dipping into it, and you might hose the place.
He then applies this principle in the next line to relationships. Having a neighbor is a good thing. There is some benefit in stepping into one’s life, sharing mutual interests, and knowing that this someone will watch your place when you are gone. But there is that line you cross, and friendship curdles into intrusion. No matter how special, how needed we may think of our presence, overfamiliarity has a way of breeding contempt.
Gaining wisdom is gaining the skill of living. Without it, we would not discern moderation. We would not recognize boundaries, limits, and space. We would not get it, that things that are good can become bad. Spices are great, until they overwhelm the food. Water is necessary, until it rots the roots. My dog Brea, running in circles and licking my face when I come home, is good–to a point. So the next time someone tells you, “You’re too much!”, make sure it is a compliment.