“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.”
Pr. 27:9 (NIV)
“How many slams in an old screen door? Depends how loud you shut it. How many slices in a bread? Depends how thin you cut it. How much good inside a day? Depends how good you live ’em. How much love inside a friend? Depends how much you give ’em.”
This Shel Silverstein quote echoes an important aspect of friendship: giving.
In friendship, we can give love, support, help, a listening ear, and wise counsel. Solomon describes how beautiful wise counsel is to a friend by comparing it to sweet perfume.
What is your favorite scent? Maybe it’s freshly baked apple pie, newly cut grass, chimney smoke on a cold evening, Chanel No. 5, the top of a baby’s just-washed head, gardenias, steak sizzling on a grill, new car smell? Consider your very favorite scent and how it makes you feel. That is how our wise counsel feels to our friends with whom we share it.
In the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) Pr. 27:9 says, “Oil and incense bring joy to the heart, and the sweetness of a friend is better than self-counsel.” The wording of this translation gives us another perspective on this verse: advice from a friend is better than our own self-counsel. Often, when we try to solve our problems on our own, the solutions we come up with aren’t always the best ones, since we may only be seeing one side of an issue or trying to justify something that we know is wrong. The counsel from an objective party, like a friend, is safer. This idea is found in several proverbs:
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (Pr. 12:15, ESV).
“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed” (Pr. 15:22, ESV).
“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Pr. 11:14, ESV).
“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (Pr. 19:20-21, ESV).
Wise counsel from a friend is important! It is like a life-giving oil that refreshes our souls. In the Psalms, David mentions the beauty of being anointed with oil:
Psalm 23:5: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” (NIV)
Psalm 141:5: “Let the righteous man strike me; let his rebuke be an act of loving devotion. It is oil for my head; let me not refuse it. For my prayer is ever against the deeds of the wicked.” (NIV)
So, as you consider the worries of today, remember to seek guidance from the Lord and from godly friends. Accept the sweet fragrance of their wise counsel and be the fragrance of Christ to those around you as well!