Odor or Aroma?

by Ava Pennington

My backyard finally smells good again.

For the past month, an odd odor has emanated from three trees and lingered around the outside of my house. Others across south Florida familiar with this smell have described it as a musky combination of sweet fragrance mixed with rotten eggs. Not a pleasant experience. But my neighbors and I tolerate the odor because of what we know will follow in late spring and summer.

Mangos. A bumper crop of mangos.

This annual occurrence started me thinking about odors and aromas. Scientists tell us that because of the way our brain processes scents, smells have the power to immediately trigger a detailed memory or even intense emotion.

Scents originate from a huge variety of sources. Those who study this discipline have attempted to organize them into seven primary categories:

  • Musky: for example, perfumes
  • Putrid: rotten eggs
  • Pungent: vinegar
  • Camphoraceous: mothballs
  • Ethereal: dry cleaning fluid
  • Floral: roses
  • Peppermint: candy

But what about people? I’m not referring to those whose hygiene practices are questionable. Rather, I’m thinking about the odor or aroma the Bible says we leave in various ways through our words and actions.

  • 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 (ESV) reminds us that as followers of Christ, we spread the “fragrance” of the knowledge of Jesus everywhere. But that fragrance is not always well-received. The apostle Paul goes on to note “we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”

Are you and I bold to share the gospel—the good news—of salvation with others, in the hope that it will be to them a fragrance of life?

  • Philippians 4:18 (ESV) tells us when we give of our resources to others, especially to further the work of the gospel, it’s a fragrant offering, not just to them, but also to God.

Are you and I generous in supporting and encouraging those who are doing Kingdom work?

  • Revelation 5:8 (ESV) reminds us our prayers are as fragrant incense that rises before God in heaven.

Do our prayers focus on a litany of petitions or do they rise up with the sweet fragrance of intimacy when we enter our heavenly Father’s throne room?

The musky odor of my mango trees in bloom is not odious to me because I know what it represents. May our lives transmit a sweet aroma to others in thought, word, and deed, as we represent our Savior!

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Speakers and Writers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Ava Pennington is an author, speaker, and Bible teacher. She’s also a freelance editor, a certified coach for writers and speakers, and she teaches a weekly Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class. Ava is the author of Reflections on the Names of God: 180 Devotions to Know God More Fully (Revell Books, 2022), an abridged gift book edition of the one-year devotional, Daily Reflections on the Names of God. Three devotions for each name/attribute explore who God is, and how this changes us and our relationships. Visit her at www.AvaPennington.com to learn more.

Join the conversation: What kind of fragrance do you hope to leave behind?


5 thoughts on “Odor or Aroma?

  1. A lovely devotion, Ava. I love wearing fragrances with citrus and green notes. The citrus always has a fresh feeling associated with it and reminds me of my desire to be part of Jesus’ vine bearing fruit. To be fresh from His Word by reading it and meditating upon it so I have a ready answer when needed. To be refreshened by the Holy Spirit day and night. The green notes in fragrances remind me of Psalm 1:3, living plants and “a tree planted beside streams of water that yields its fruit in season.”


  2. Ava, I didn’t know that about mangos. I love mangos. Too bad the aroma is a part of the growth. Your devotion is an important reminder and I will remember to ask, “Is this a sweet smelling choice for the Lord?”


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