Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 (ESV)
I had a little difficulty in choosing today’s verse. Chapter 27 is jam-packed with great information (thanks to God and King Solomon milenia ago), from not praising oneself to how to accept encouragement from others…and everything in between. But..alas!…here I am with the old adage: as iron sharpens iron…because it is so true.
Most everyone knows a dull knife can be more dangerous than a sharp one. Although it seems contradictory, a dull-edged blade can actually do more damage!
That’s because when a blade is dull, it’s harder to use. Not only does it take more force to actually cut something, but also it’s harder to control. That’s why a dull blade can slice a finger quicker than a tomato, and why people spend hundreds on a great knife.
Every knife becomes dull with use. The sharp edge rounds out, and little chips develop. Cutting will render a blade ineffective, and on its own, it will never become sharp again. That’s the first truth about sharpening iron: a knife cannot sharpen itself. Nor can something weaker than iron, sharpen iron.
Proverbs 27:17 uses a practical truth about sharpening iron, to teach a spiritual truth about our relationships with others: “You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another” (Msg).
We’ve all had the experience of friends who inspire us to be better than we are, and friends who don’t. A godly Christian friend can sharpen you in areas they are strong. For example, a wise friend can make you wiser. A loving friend can expand your capacity to love. A biblically knowledgeable friend can enhance your understanding of Scripture. Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”
When we think of sharpening a blade, or sharpening ourselves, it’s always done for a purpose. A chef doesn’t sharpen his or her knife so it looks better lying on the kitchen counter. Sharpening is done to make it more effective and efficient. If we sharpen a knife for years and never put it into use, it will eventually be sharpened down to nothing, with nothing to show for all that honing.
This is just like Christians. We are to be sharpened, and to sharpen others, in order to advance the Kingdom of God. Whether we are talking about a knife, a sword or ourselves, sharpening isn’t done for a passive activity. A blade is sharpened to accomplish a purpose. One reason Christians need sharpening is to be effective in the spiritual battle against sin surrounding us. (Ephesians 6:10-13)
Growing as a Christian is important. Choosing friends who will sharpen us is one practical way we can grow. God designed us to need each other for fellowship, and for advancing His kingdom here on earth.