Bible scholars have struggled with the “charm” here, often translated “bribe” (see also 19:6). Its use in the Old Testament tends to be negative, but not always.
While a bit confusing, I think there is a modern Middle and Far Eastern practice that can help us appreciate the concept. It’s the well-known and accepted practice of baksheesh.
Of Persian origin, the concept probably spread east and west with Moslem expansion to those regions. Think of baksheesh as a tip, tax, fee or just a charitable gift – sometimes even all at the same time!
This verse explicitly states that baksheesh (“bribe”) is “a charm to the one who gives it.” I like the translation “charm” for the literal Hebrew phrase “stone of grace.” Most baksheesh given today is a very small amount of money in response to a service provided.
But currency as we know it did not exist in Solomon’s day. So whatever their “stone of grace”/”charm” was, it probably wasn’t large or expensive. But it did represent something of value that could be appreciated by the recipient.
The second part of the verse does notsay this baksheesh will make the giver rich, famous, important or powerful! But it will open a door or provide a desired service at the moment (“he succeeds”).
I’ve baksheeshed in the Middle East for everything from toilet paper in the restroom, to a tour of an ancient Egyptian tomb, to permission to shoot a photograph!
But many of us have learned to basksheesh our way through life, as well – without actually handing out anything. A ready smile, a good word at the right time or some special attention to someone who appreciated it was all that was needed for us to “succeed” with something. I suggest we just keep the baksheesh coming!