A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver (Prov. 25:11)
Comfort me with apples (Song of Solomon 2:5b)
A Word Fitly Spoken
A word fitly spoken: An observation, caution, reproof, or advice, that comes at the right time.
Is like apples of gold in pictures of silver: Beautiful and refreshing to the hearer. “It is like the refreshing orange or beautiful citron served up in open work or filigree baskets, made of silver. The Asiatics excel in filigree silver work. I have seen much of it, and it is exquisitely beautiful. The silver wire by which it is done they form into the appearance of numerous flowers; and though these wires are soldered everywhere at their junctions with each other, yet this is done with such delicacy and skill as to be scarcely perceptible. I have seen animals formed on this filigree work, with all their limbs, and every joint in its natural play. Fruit-baskets are made also in this way, and are exquisitely fine.
The wise man seems to have this kind of work particularly in view; and the contrast of the golden yellow fruit in the exquisitely wrought silver basket, which may be all termed picture work, has a fine and pleasing effect upon the eye, as the contained fruit has upon the palate at an entertainment in a sultry climate. So the word spoken judiciously and opportunely is as much in its place, as the golden apples in the silver baskets” (Clarke, III:774).
While there is some disagreement among Hebrew scholars as to whether this fruit is the apple as we know it or perhaps some other citrus fruit, I can visualize a silver, woven basket full of beautiful golden delicious apples! How lovely. How appetizing. How difficult to resist. When perfectly ripe, they are sweet and delightful to the tastebuds.
How sweet is it when we obey the scriptural admonition: Let your speech at all times be gracious (pleasant and winsome, seasoned [as it were] with salt…(Col. 4:6, Amp). A man has joy in making an apt answer, and a word spoken at the right moment, how good it is! (Prov. 15:23). These words are to be sincere (which means “without wax). They are not a basketful of artificial fruit put out only for show, but are genuinely meant to build up and comfort the other person. In today’s American culture, it is not popular to affirm others, but those who are positive and affirming are usually the ones who get the attention and rewards from their superiors. This often creates tension with peers who are negative sayers and become irritated and angry upon seeing the favor granted to the positive speaking individuals. They begin to tear them down—trying to bring them down to their level. They ostracize them from their group. They begin to speak all manner of evil against them falsely.
At this point, many people succumb to the pressure and join the murmurers and complainers to gain their acceptance rather than be persecuted by them. We see this often in the school classroom. Students who should be “A” students will do poorly on an exam to gain approval of classmates by proving they also fail sometimes. Students who have a profession of faith in Jesus Christ and know what is morally right and wrong get involved in immoral conduct to prove they are just “human” like everyone else. We also see it in the workplace. Employees who should be eligible for salary increases, promotions and awards instead become part of an attack force that demeans and contradicts the authority of those in management roles. They are undermining their own success. Why does this happen? It’s really very simple: they lack understanding.
Students who wish to get the scholarships and admission to prestigious colleges and universities will have a vision for themselves, get focused on that goal, and study to show themselves approved regardless what their classmates say or do to them. Those who wish to receive the favor and benefits of those who have power over them will do everything they can to make their superiors successful regardless of the consequences that come from their cohorts. In a video series entitled, Where there’s a will, there’s an A, students are given keys to making good grades in school or college. Some suggestions are: to sit in the front row of the class, make eye contact with the teacher, and take notes. If you will observe carefully, for the most part these are the students who succeed. Those who sit in the back of the class, criticize, find the class boring, take no notes, are the ones with the low grades—and the bad attitudes toward the class. They make fun of the students who sit in the front and call them names. This “persecution” comes to those who put forth the effort to excel—and it comes from those who put forth little or no effort.
Jesus put it like this: Blessed and happy and enviably fortunate and spiritually prosperous [that is, in the state in which one enjoys and finds satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of his outward conditions], are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake [for being and doing right}, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed…are you when people revile you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things against you falsely on My account. Be glad and supremely joyful, for your reward in heaven is great [strong and intense], for in this same way people persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matt. 5:10-12, Amp).
Most of the time we hear these words of Jesus and apply them only to missionaries or evangelists as they labor among unchurched people. But Jesus was applying this “blessed” truth to the everyday lives of His disciples—you and me! When it is not popular to speak out in favor of a person or principle and you do it anyway because it’s right, you are BLESSED of God even though co-workers may curse you. When others concoct stories about you and pass them on as truth, don’t try to defend yourself. Just say, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t understand what they are doing.” In reality, they are making your reward GREAT. Do not give in to the pressure of others who ridicule and scorn you for doing right and/or doing your job excellently.
Receive any praise with a simple “Thank you” and later that day give that praise back to your Heavenly Father as an “evening sacrifice.” Don’t do things for the purpose of being recognized and honored and praised by men (Matt. 6:2), but do them because it is the right thing to do. An apple polisher knows exactly what to say, works extra hard, and goes above and beyond the call of duty! It is your responsibility to make yourself likeable and valuable.
Apple Polisher Awards
A little research produces a number of organizations that have the right connotation for “apple polisher.” They have events to honor those persons who have made a difference in the lives of others. Members share their memories and give thanks to these outstanding mentors. Many groups give certificates and other awards to the Apple Polisher of the Year. While some are spoofs, the great majority reflect a serious understanding of the need for and outstanding contribution of Apple Polishers in the success of their corporate endeavors.
Paul wrote to the Philippians: Approve things that are excellent that you may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God (Phil. 1:10-11). Negative people have many other names they call people who choose to be complimentary, positive, affirming, and helpful. Most are not clean enough to print. Their negative comments are spewed forth to cover up their own lack of industry and determination. They are jealous and wish to make the lives of others unhappy and unsuccessful. You will not fall prey to this tactic if you cling to the fact that you are the apple of God’s eye (Deut. 32:10).
Apple of his Eye
The “apple” is the pupil of one’s eye. “A cherished person or object. In old English the eye’s pupil was known as the apple because it was thought to be spherical and solid. Since the pupil is a crucial and indispensable portion of the eye, it serves as a symbol of something cherished. An example in the Coverdale Bible of 1535 (Zechariah 2:8) is: Who so toucheth you, shall touch the apple of his own eye. The expression also appears in Deuteronomy 32:10 as part of a song spoken by Moses: He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. A second reference says: “That which one holds dearest, as in “You’re the apple of my eye.” One phrase from the Bible (Deut. 32:10), says the Lord kept Israel ‘as the apple of his eye.’ ‘Pupillam,’ or pupil, is actually the Latin for the ‘apple’ of the phrase, but English translation of the Bible used ‘apple’ because this was the early word for the pupil of the eye, which was thought to be a solid apple-shaped body. Because it is so essential to sight, the eye’s apple, or pupil, is to be cherished and protected and “the apple of one’s eye” came to mean anything extremely precious. The literal translation of the Hebrew phrase, incidentally, is “You are as the little man in the eye” (one’s own reflection in the pupil of another’s eye). (www.shu.ac.uk/web-admin/phrases/bulletin_board/6/messages/927.html).
Not only must you seek to serve, honor, and lift up the Lord, but also to serve, honor and lift up others: an absent principle in our day and time when people are looking out for themselves more and more and are willing to step on anyone in the way even if it causes loss of a job.
Do you know that apples are one of nature’s most nutritious fruits? Apples contain a good amount of vitamins A and C, an important compound that may help keep your cholesterol low, and are chock full of a fiber called pectin. Studies have shown eating this type of fiber may reduce cholesterol as well as play a role in the prevention of certain cancers. In any case, biting into a juicy, sweet apple is a treat for all the senses! Yet we miss the very opportunity that can bring such sweetness into our life because we don’t want to be accused of being an “apple polisher.” We are more interested in seeking the approval of others than of God.
I lived in Michigan for 30 years. There, fall’s arrival means it’s APPLE harvest time. There are multiple varieties available: McIntosh, Cortland, Macoun, Baldwin, Honeycrisp, Honeygold, Horalson, Regent, Fireside, Braeburn, Fuji, Gala and more. Cultivated for at least 3,000 years, apple varieties now number well into the thousands. So it is with the people in your life—there is such a variety. All are different, and all are candidates for “polishing.” You may prefer one over the other so far as taste (personality?) is concerned, but each one is special and deserves your utmost care.
In addition to being nutritious and delicious, apples hide a secret power. The secret power is a gas called ethylene which is emitted by every variety of apples. Ethylene quickens ripening in fruits that come in contact with it. For example, if you place an apple in a bag with unripe bananas, the bananas will ripen quicker than if bagged alone. This is a good trick to keep under your hat, and to recall when arranging a fruit bowl. Keep those apples in a separate bowl so the other fruit in your fruit bowl won’t ripen prematurely! (www.allrecipes.com/cb/kh/ada/winter/default.asp). However, if you want to mature spiritually, stay close to those apples!
Take a moment to look at a medium apple and think about what you get from it: 80 calories, 5 percent of your daily need for potassium, 20 percent of your dietary fiber, 2 percent of your vitamin A and iron and 8 percent of your vitamin C. Plus, a recent study at the University of California, Davis Medical Center found that antioxidants in apples and apple juice may reduce the damage caused by bad cholesterol and protect you against heart disease (http://www.wichitaeagle.com/features/food/apple0922.htm). From this description we understand what is meant by the classic axiom: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Just imagine how valuable this apple is—this person whom you are polishing! Your very words of comfort, kindness, and/or appreciation may be just what are needed to make them shine and prevent sickness, discouragement, and bitterness from creeping into their life. You need this practice every day. It keeps your heart soft and protects you against “hardening of the heart”.
APPLES are not only among the most popular fruit in the fresh produce department, the word itself has become a staple part of the American vocabulary. Maybe you’re the “APPLE of someone’s eye.” You can get on somebody’s good side by “being an APPLE polisher.” Clear off your desk and arrange things in “APPLE-pie order.” Avoid arguments so you won’t “upset the APPLE cart.” But if you do argue, you can disarm your opponent by calling his argument “APPLEsauce.” If you behave in an offensive manner, you are a “bad APPLE” and one “rotten APPLE spoils the barrel.”
In the Song of Solomon, the bride’s lover is likened to the apple tree, which provides delightful shade and sweet fruit (2:3). The apple’s fruit is sought by the lovesick bride (vs. 5), and the breath of the bride is likened to the fragrance of the apple (7:8-9).
Comfort me with apples
When the Bride in the Song of Solomon says comfort me with apples, she was lovesick and much in need of affirmation which would bring healing and cause her to rise above her circumstances. Her lover, the King, had delivered her from poverty. He had rescued her from low self-esteem and lifted her out of her pity-pit. He had staked her out and claimed her for his own placing a banner of love over her declaring that she now belonged to him and to no other. He brought her to his house and spread a banquet table before her with foods she had never before tasted. Could this all be true or was it a mere illusion? Comfort me with apples, she says, for I am lovesick.
Our Lord and Savior, King Jesus, has delivered us from the poverty of our sin and shame, rescued us from our low self-esteem and lifted us out of the pity-pit into which we had fallen. He has adopted us into His family and made us equal heirs to all the riches of His Father’s house. He has spread a banquet table before us with spiritual food to eat that will provide the energy, power, and purpose we need to be victorious in all areas of our life. Now we are asking for “apples”—we need some how to be affirmed in this new position. For that purpose, Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit who speaks to us individually and through others for our upbuilding and constructive spiritual progress and encouragement and consolation. The KJV says the purpose of prophecy is for edification, and exhortation, and comfort (1 Cor. 14:3), so it must be that even as followers of Jesus Christ, we still need some sincere “apple polishing” every now and then—not with eyeservice, as menpleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart (Eph. 6:6). Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus (Col. 3:17).
The Motive and the Result
The motive for proving all things excellent, doing all things well, encouraging and complimenting others, is to be from the sincerity of our hearts that they might be encouraged. The by-product of that action is often our own promotion. The motive for making your “boss” look good is that you are to be loyally subject to those in authority over you…he who resists and sets himself up against the authorities resists what God has appointed and arranged (Rom. 13:1-2). Do nothing from factional motives—through contentiousness, strife, selfishness or for unworthy ends—or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance. Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself—thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves. Let each of you esteem and look upon and be concerned for not merely his own interests, but also each for the interest of others…Do all things without grumbling and faultfinding and complaining (Phil. 2:3,4,14).
In our study of the book of Jude we found out that there are murmurers (grumblers) who complain of their lot in life, going after their own desires—controlled by their passions; their talk is boastful and arrogant, and they claim to admire men’s persons and pay people flattering compliments to gain advantage…it is these who are agitators setting up distinctions and causing divisions; merely sensual creatures—carnal, worldly-minded people—devoid of the Holy Spirit and destitute of any high spiritual life. But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith—make progress, rise like an edifice higher and higher…(Jude16:19-20, Amp).
The Game of “Top It”
It happens to you nearly every day. You make a comment about something and the other person in the conversation will begin to tell you about their experience that is far greater than yours. If you just had a surgery, they had a bigger one or their friend had a far more dangerous one. If you had a miracle, they had a bigger one. It seems consistent with human nature to want to “top” whatever experience the other person had. People who attend big churches tell people to get out of small churches because God is obviously not moving there or they would be big. People in small churches criticize the big church for being neither friendly nor sensitive to the needs of people and the moving of the Holy Spirit. This competitive spirit is mere covetousness: these people desire the attention, praise, comfort, or favor that the other ones have, and thus they feel the need to “top it” with illustrations from their own life’s experiences. Their purpose of “topping” your story is always to allow themselves to rise above you. This somehow makes them more important and more significant than you. If they don’t succeed with their stories, they will begin to criticize you and try to tear you down. Jesus said, don’t be concerned about it: If the world hates you, know it hated Me before it hated you (John 15:19). Why did they hate Him? Didn’t He do good things? Didn’t He practice the art of “apple polishing” in their lives? Didn’t he forgive them, deliver them, heal them, restore their self-respect, encourage them, love them, regardless what others said about Him or them? Yes, of course. But He didn’t join in their criticisms and complaining, or their nit picking and rule making. He did not allow them to bring Him down to their level—and they hated Him for it. He stood with the outcast: Zaccheus, the Leper, the Woman caught in adultery, the blind pauper. He went to Simon’s house and was accused of keeping company with sinners. He had favor with God but was hated by His fellowman.
About three decades ago, I was a classroom teacher when my principal approached me and asked if I would accept the position as school counselor for the next year. I agreed, but much to my chagrin some of my fellow-staff members felt they had been passed over for this position. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the by-product of enjoying favor with the boss is enemies. The animosity toward me seemed to subside after a couple of years. When I left that job to move to another state, I still enjoyed favor from the principal, but no really warm blessings from the staff. They threw a “going-away” party for me, but I think it was their celebration of my leaving rather than a “we’ll miss you” dinner. In all fairness, I must say that there were some co-workers who were genuinely supportive of me during my tenure in that position, and this eased the pain of “being favored.” The actual job was a pleasure—working with the young people in problem-solving situations opened my eyes to many injustices as well as to the character strengths and expectations of teens. I am glad that I consented to be “favored” and did not cave in to the ridicule of others.
Polish your Apples
Who are the “apples” in your life? Your husband? Then find ways to make him “shine” in his work and relationships. Your wife? Then find ways to make her “shine” in her various responsibilities. Your employer? Then find ways to make him “shine” with success in his goals. Your teacher? Then find ways to make him/her “shine” before the other students. Your pastor? Then find ways to make him “shine” in the pulpit and pew. Contribute to the “shining” of others and you will find yourself beginning to “shine” as well.
Do away with the negative connotation of “apple polisher” which comes from internal bitterness and resentment and jealousy about your success and your positive approach to authority. Become a “polisher” – never mind the snide comments from by-standers. Keep your focus. Stand alone when necessary. Develop your relationship with Jesus Christ that makes you mature and thus unaffected by murmuring and complaining around you. Let your light so shine before men that they will see YOUR GOOD WORKS and glorify your Father in Heaven—if they don’t glorify Him today, perhaps tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or next year.
Those who are watching from afar criticize it. The people who are being polished love it. The one doing the polishing—with integrity, purity of heart, and in all sincerity–receives the reward.
Someone has said: “You can count the seeds in an apple, but you cannot count the apples in a seed.” Your impact on one “apple” may resonate for many generations. Next time you are doing “good” and someone calls you an “apple polisher,” just wink and say “thank you”.
Food for Fun
|Match the food-related phrase with its meaning. ___1. Bowl of cherries ___2. Against the grain ___3. Bring home the bacon ___4. Butter up ___5. Cup of tea ___6. Egg on ___7. Gravy train ___8. Ham-handed ___9. Lay an egg __10. Piece of cake __11. Pie in the sky __12. Duck soup __13. Apple polisher __14. Salt away __15. Full of prunes
(Quiz is from http://www.mgh.org)
|How well do you know your food phrases? A. An easy job that pays well B. To earn a living C. Someone who acts nicely toward the boss to be treated better or liked D. A pleasant or easy position or situation E. Easy F. To flatter G. An unrealistic wish H. To annoy or trouble and cause anger or dislike I. Not skillful or graceful J. A simple or effortless task K. A special interest or favorite thing to do L. Foolish; not making any sense M. To urge on N. To save for the future O. To fail to engage an audience|
Food for fun answers
1. D, 2. H, 3. B, 4. F, 5. K, 6. M, 7. A, 8. I, 9. O, 10. E, 11. G, 12. J, 13. C, 14. N, 15. L