I like to sleep with a window open, no matter what time of the year, every season and in all kinds of weather. For the most part this means that I expect it to be little chilly when I get out of bed, which is okay because it helps me snap out of the fog of slumber pretty quickly.

One of the unintended consequences of my addiction to fresh air in the morning is that the other day I was jolted awake by the odor of “eau de skunk.” This is the unmistakable smell that only another skunk could love. It appears that one of those furry little black-and-white critters made a nocturnal excursion through my back yard, leaving the distinct traces of his special cologne.

Death, the worst smell we ever encounter

Given the extremely obnoxious smell of a skunk, it comes as no surprise that the same chemical compounds that are found in their noxious spray are also present in rotting flesh and feces. Another way of looking at it is, skunks smell like death and decay, so no wonder they smell terrible given those are two of the worst smells we ever encounter.

The importance of smell

Although mankind’s sense of smell is not anywhere near as sensitive as many other animals’ (i.e. it is reported bears have a sense of smell 7 times greater than a bloodhound dog), smell is still a very powerful sense that humans depend on. Without the ability to smell, food loses a lot of its appeal and is even reported to taste much less appetizing. Some think that losing the sense of smell can be trivial, when there are some cases that indicate it can cause a loss of memory and the ability to detect the presence of dangerous conditions, depression, and other negative things. Even from a spiritual standpoint, God makes a number of references to smell and draws a clear distinction between good and bad smells.

How do you smell to God?

Like a skunk or a rose, everyone has a distinct smell to his or her self. People often try to mask any foul body odor with deodorants, lotions, and perfumes. But many don’t realize that spiritually speaking, in God’s nose we all have a distinct spiritual smell. He makes it pretty clear that when people ignore Him and live wickedly, it is a foul smell, actually a stench (Pro. 13:5; Amos 5:21). Then to the contrary, when we live the way God wants us to live, doing the things He desires, He says it is a sweet smell in His nostrils (Gen. 8:21; Exod. 29:18). Below are some other examples where smell is related to spiritual realities:

Sin is often equated to things that smell bad:

– Evil spirits are sometimes referred to as “foul” spirits (meaning bad smelling) (Mark 9:25).
– Jacob says the sinful actions of his sons made him odious to the Canaanites (Gen. 34:10).
– The Israelites disobeyed God and kept manna overnight, and it rotted and stank (Exod. 16:24)
– The consequence of foolishness is harm to oneself, and is equated to stink (Ps. 38:5)
– A little sin can spoil (cause to stink) a lot of good (Ecc. 10:1)
– Sin results in death, and death always stinks. (John 11:39; Rom. 6:23)

Doing good produces a sweet smell

– Making proper sacrifices to God resulted in a sweet smell to God (Gen 8:21; Exod. 29:18)
– Prayer to God is like a fragrant incense to Him (Ps. 141:2, Rev. 5:8)
– Giving and helping is a fragrant aroma to God (Phil. 4:18).
– God uses those who accept Gospel to spread the sweet aroma of Christ (2 Cor. 2:14)
– Wisdom from a friend is like perfume and incense, and it produces joy (Prov. 27:9)
– We are to walk in love just like Christ did when he gave himself to God for us, as a fragrant offering (Eph 5:2)

Take Away Lesson:

The lesson we can learn is: if we do evil, we are the smell of death, a stench to God; or if we live righteously, we are the smell of life, a sweet and fragrant odor to God. It is our choice: do we either smell like a skunk, or a rose?