Iron Sharpens Iron
Glynnis Whitwer

“You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 (MSG)

Every cook 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 to the cook, than the food!

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 chefs 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.

Dear Lord, You are the source of all strength and goodness. Thank you for helping me to grow in faith and also for putting friends in my life who can help sharpen me. Help me to use that sharpening to advance Your Kingdom here on earth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

* Adapted from Six Habits of Highly Effective Christians (Copyright 2007 by Ampelon Publishing).

Related Resources:
6 Habits of Highly Effective Christians by Brian T. Anderson and Glynnis Whitwer

Worship: Nearing the Heart of God by Brian T. Anderson and Glynnis Whitwer

Traveling Together: Thoughts on Women, Friendship and the Journey of Faith by Karla Worley

Application Steps:
Identify one friend who has helped “sharpen” you the most in the past year. Commit to spending more time with this friend in the coming year.

Read Proverbs 27:17. For what purpose is iron sharpened?

How can Christians “sharpen” each other?

What are some ways friends can “dull” our spiritual effectiveness?

What are some characteristics you need to develop and strengthen in your life?

Identify several friends who can help you “sharpen” these characteristics.

Power Verses:
1 Peter 1:22, “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.” (NIV)

Proverbs 27:6, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (NIV)

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (NIV)

1 Thessalonians 5:14, “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (NIV)

Galatians 6:1-2, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (NIV)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. It speaks to a particular concern I have had over the past few months.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was very helpful to me also. It sure pays to choose our friends carefully. God has blessed me some very wonderful, godly friends and I praise Him for it.

Blogger Rhonda Hash said...

Thank you. This has been a concern of mine. I believe this devotion can help Christians as well as non-Christians to be wise. The people we spend time with do influence us and vice versa. I've just recently found the need to assess relationships with people at Church. It was surprising to me that I came to that conclusion but I have and the Lord will help make me wiser in my relationships because of this.

Blessings to all!

Blogger CarrieStewart said...

I hope and pray for the wisdom of God in all my relationships. I want to be positive and sometimes that is hard in a workplace. I am dealing with some choices concerning my children and hope for the wisdom of God (through friendship advice) to lead me to a good decision.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

this has truly inspired me. As i go on from day to day encouring other christians, i realize more this is what the Lord wants me to do- please to pray my strength in the Lord as i continue to let the lord use me in the small area


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