It's sweet, sticky, nutritionally dense, and a staple food of modern Western and indigenous hunter-gatherer cuisine alike.
Author Cara Giazmo describes how Hadza, raw-game eating, persistence-hunting warriors will not only forsake an animal hunt if they stumble across a beehive full of honey, and opt to harvest the precious honey instead, but when wanting to find honey, “they shout and whistle a special tune. If a “honeyguide bird” is around, it’ll fly into the camp, chattering and fanning out its feathers. The Hadza, now on the hunt, chase it, grabbing their axes and torches and shouting “Wait!” They follow the honeyguide until it lands near its payload spot, pinpoint the correct tree, smoke out the bees, hack it open, and free the sweet combs from the nest. The honeyguide stays and watches.”
Even enthusiastic nose-to-tail, purely meat-eating disciples of the carnivore diet have largely adopted honey as an “acceptable” animal-food based addition to their relatively strict nutritional regimen.
So, what's not to love?
The Problem With Honey
Recently, I was reading the book Happiness by Randy Alcorn. When speaking of honey, Randy says,
“Consider this fatherly advice given in an ancient culture without refined sugar, in which nature's greatest treat was honey, “”My son, eat honey because it is good, And the honeycomb which is sweet to your taste.” The father doesn't want his son to say away from honey because he might love honey more than God. If we're thinking biblically, we realize that God created bees to make honey not only for them but for us. He designed our taste buds to enjoy the sweetness of honey – it's a gift to the people he loves. To enjoy that gift is to enjoy the God who gives it to us. Could someone turn honey into a god? Of course. This proverb warns, “If you find honey, eat just enough – too much of it, and you will vomit (Proverbs 25:16, NIV). Enough honey makes us happy. Too much honey makes us sick. The father's advice to his son requires no explanation as to how it relates to God because that was self-evident to the original audience. The Hebrew worldview saw creation as the expression of the Creator's mind and heart. Therefore, to be happy with honey was to be happy with God's abundant gifts. And people's happiness with God's abundant gifts, they knew, made God happy too.”
So naturally, after reading this part of Randy's book, I've been thinking a bit about honey.
Before I address the potential problem with honey, I'll first start here…
…God loves honey. He loves the stuff, sticky-sugary-syrupy and thick and creamy, all at the same time.
He also loves fat. Fat dripping with salty, savory greasy goodness.
And milk. Buttery, frothing, sweet milk, fresh milk.
Wine? You bet God adores a fine aged Bordeaux and a bold California cab accompanied by a moist slice of sourdough bread dipped in spicy, aromatic olive oil or salted and slathered in fresh blueberry preserves!
As a matter of fact, the richness and value of food and drink is all over Bible…
Proverbs 24:13 gives sage advice from a father to a son, “My son, eat honey because it is good, And the honeycomb which is sweet to your taste.”
The Song of Solomon 5:1 weaves honey, milk, spices, and wine into one of the greatest love poems of all time: “I have come to my garden, my sister, my bride; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice. I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk. Eat, O friends, and drink; drink freely, O beloved.”
In Deuteronomy 31:20, God blesses the Israelites as he, “brought them to the land flowing with milk and honey, of which I swore to their fathers…”
And Deuteronomy 32:13-14 reveals a similar blessing, with fruit, honey, oil curds, milk, fat, wheat, and wine all woven in:
“He made him ride in the heights of the earth,
That he might eat the produce of the fields;
He made him draw honey from the rock,
And oil from the flinty rock;
Curds from the cattle, and milk of the flock,
With fat of lambs;
And rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats,
With the choicest wheat;
And you drank wine, the blood of the grapes.”
Nehemiah 9:25-26 describes how the Israelites “…took strong cities, and a fat land, and possessed houses full of all goods, wells digged, vineyards, and oliveyards, and fruit trees in abundance: so they did eat, and were filled, and became fat, and delighted themselves in thy great goodness.”
Lest you wonder whether corn chips, polenta slathered with meatballs and cheese, a pint of beer, and a handful of salted almonds also fall under God's love and blessing, consider the words of James 1:17, which tells us that “Every good gift is from God”, and as I discuss in greater detail here, in John 3:1, we learn that “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
So yes, that means that an Almighty God formed and fashioned the cacao tree, the cannabis plant, the chickpea, and the catfish—and all this marvelous bounty is ours to enjoy in all of its intricacy, beauty, and tastiness—and even for its medicinal uses (1 Timothy 5:23, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.”).
This, of course, includes honey.
Yet Proverbs 25:16 warns, “Have you found honey? Eat only as much as you need, Lest you be filled with it and vomit.” and Proverbs 27:7, “The soul that is full loathes honey, but to a hungry soul, any bitter thing is sweet.”
The principle behind wise King Solomon’s advice in these verses is that over-indulgence, even of good things created and given to us by God, will surely make us sick. That's right: that same precious honey can quickly become poison in the hands of a fool or a glutton. And yes, you can consider honey to be a metaphor for any good thing from God that we wrongly abuse.
So, you may want to dwell upon a few questions, lest your hedonistic enjoyment of our magical planet has become too imbalanced. Some of these questions may hit home, and some may not. But read them nonetheless:
Is your love of ribeye steak and a fine wine depleting your ability to be able to give at least 10% of your income to the poor and needy?
Is your need for a bit of weed at the end of the day to de-stress, relax, or sleep gradually pulling you away from lovemaking, deep reading, prayer, journaling, meditation, or any of the other spiritually enhancing and productive activities that occur even in the absence of the need for nighttime “business work?”
Is your regularly scheduled craving for, and subsequent indulgence in, dark chocolate-covered almonds and raw blueberry cheesecake an addiction to the dopamine-enhancing effects of sweet things and sugar that, twenty years from now, will leave you wracked with diabetes and unable to make maximum impact with your life on this planet?
Is your constant, casual dining on commercially raised meat and snacking on bags of GMO soy crisps, Subway sandwiches, and Cheetos slowly destroying—via animal abuse, monocropping, pollution, and poison—the lovely Earth you've been blessed with and carry the responsibility to nourish and tend?
Is your eighteenth Ayahuasca retreat creating a dependence upon reaping all your insight from a leaf and a vine rather than upon the promises, direction, wisdom, and word of a God who can speak profoundly to you even when you're not high?
Are you unable to feel as though you can fully function cognitively without coffee? Or a soda? Or an energy drink? Or a nootropic? Or a smart drug?
Choose anything in your life that is a habit, enjoyment, staple, pleasure, pastime, or even necessity. Any of those “honeys” of life—even non-food items like cars, homes, money, golf, exercising, or even other people. If you cannot look at that object and say, as Anthony DeMello so eloquently describes in his book “Awareness,”
“I really do not need you to be happy. I’m only deluding myself in the belief that without you I will not be happy. But I really don’t need you for my happiness; I can be happy without you. You are not my happiness, you are not my joy.”
…then you risk that your blessing from God has become your God.
And that's the problem with honey.
So yeah, eat honey, but not too much, and remember that ultimately, honey doesn't make you truly happy, in a deep, lasting sense of the word.
Enjoy an occasional nice steakhouse evening, but pay attention to your checkbook balance and make sure there's plenty of blessings to go around for others.
Smoke weed if you like, but not if it makes you lazy, gluttonous, or unable to do the very best job you can with everything God has placed upon your plate.
Eat your cake, but also eat mindfully, go for walks, lift heavy things, and sweat and get cold regularly.
Partake in plant medicine (my perspective on that is here), but only as a supplement to meditation and prayer founded on a holy and disciplined life, and not as an addiction or escape.
Drink wine if you can drink responsibly, but also think of the others around you, and whether they may stumble, and not be able to stop at two glasses or perhaps have a past history of abuse or trauma related to alcohol.
Savor your morning cup of coffee, whiff of tobacco, or boom-bang energy drink, but every once in a while stop stimulating yourself entirely just to make sure you haven't created a dependence.
You get the idea.
Ultimately, in my opinion (and perhaps this is fresh on my mind because I'm both doing a 5 day juice fast and smack-dab in the middle of one of the best books on a spiritual approach to fasting that I've ever read, titled A Hunger For God by John Piper), if you do find yourself attached to any or all of the above, then a healthy dose of fasting can not only remind you of how much of a blessing that item is from God, but also allow you to forfeit any value or trust you may be placing upon that item to instead restore your value and trust in God alone.
As Piper says in the book, “Fasting is a periodic – and sometimes decisive – declaration that we would rather feast at God's table in the kingdom of heaven than feed on the finest delicacies of this word.” Amen. Eat honey, but not too much. Honey doesn't make you truly happy. God does.
So how about you? Is there sweet honey you've been blessed with? If so, do you enjoy it, or do you idolize it? Do you agree that all that God created is good and for our enjoyment? Disagree? Leave your questions, thoughts, and comments below. I read them all.