Proverbs 27:17 – How Does Iron Sharpen Iron?

Proverbs 27:17 NIV

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

I am blessed to be surrounded by great, God-fearing people. For most of my life that wasn’t the case. I remember times in my walk with the Lord when having good friends was low on my priority list. This is partly due to the tough time I have making friends; the life of an introvert can be lonely. And it was during those times that I was prone to wander. I never left the church. I didn’t live a promiscuous lifestyle. I would just become, let’s say, less concerned about the things of God.

There is a connection between our spirituality and our relationships with other people. It was the English poet John Donne who rightly declared that “no man is an island.” Being a Christian requires fellowship which, according to Rev. D. G. Hargrove, is simply “sharing life together.”

One of the newfound aspects of life in Christ is unity (Ephesians 4:11-13). We were once far away from God, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13). It’s through the blood of Christ, a life surrendered in death for humanity, that we’re made “children of God through faith” (Galatians 3:26). Becoming God’s children means becoming unified as family members.

We need each other. The writer of Hebrews makes this point clear: “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13). There is something important and efficacious about believers dwelling in unity and encouraging each other. The Greek word for “encourage” in Hebrews 3:13 is παρακαλέω (parakaleō). It’s an invitation to come and be present. We are to call our brothers and sisters to come and be involved with what God is doing in and through His family.

This is undoubtedly what iron sharpening iron means. The illustration should cause us to imagine two elements being rubbed together in a way that causes a mutual sharpening. For this to work, though, the elements have to be similar in rigidity. Iron may sharpen a piece of wood, but wood doesn’t sharpen iron; wood wears away at the point of contact with metal. Therefore, there is no mutually beneficial exchange. We need people in our lives that, like iron pressed against iron, encourage our sharpening, i.e. spiritual growth.

I would like to encourage you to surround yourself with people like that – if you haven’t already. These people will stir you and keep you from stagnation. They will encourage you to draw near, both to God and His family.

There’s almost nothing more precious than a dear friend who can remind you of where you’re going and be a delightful companion while traveling the same road that leads to Jesus. Pray for God to send people like that into your life.


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