Saturday mornings are made for ironing. No, not that kind, beloved. This kind of iron, meant to smooth away our rough edges and strengthen our friendships.
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
I’ve quoted this verse for years as if I knew what I was talking about. But the truth is, I’d never met a real blacksmith and had no idea how this sharpening business works. Now I do. In thirty seconds you will too.
As iron sharpens iron,… Proverbs 27:17
The Bible tells us “iron is made sharp with iron” (NLV), a process that begins with a standard metal file and an iron blade. The iron blade is propped on a support — say, a small wooden block — and then the metal file is drawn across the edge of the blade in slow, measured strokes until a sharp, rough edge is created.
Next the “iron is whetted” (WYC) using a small amount of oil on a whetstone. Rubbing the iron blade against the oiled stone smoothes away the rough edge, leaving the blade polished and sharper still.
So far, so good? Then “in the same way that iron sharpens iron” (VOICE), heavy-duty sandpaper is cautiously smoothed along both sides of the blade. This blends the edge with the rest of the surface and makes the finished product exceedingly sharp.
Handle with care.
Sharp, pointy objects do a fine job of slicing bread for a meal or slicing the air in a sword fight. But they also can pierce our hearts and pry us open: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
In this favorite verse from Proverbs, the Hebrew word barzel means “iron tool.” When we use our words like swords, we need to follow the Spirit’s leading. Instead of cutting in two, open gently. Instead of rubbing the wrong way, polish. Instead of inflicting new wounds, smooth over the old ones.
…so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
The Hebrew word rea means not just any person but a “friend, companion, fellow, neighbor.” Someone we know well. Someone we care about and who cares about us.
Our goal as believers is to hone one another so we become sharper and more effective in our faith. People opposed to God may “sharpen their tongues like swords” (Psalm 64:3), but those of us who love Him are called to “improve each other” (NCV).
Three centuries ago Matthew Henry said, “Wise and profitable discourse sharpens men’s wits.” Still true today. Conversation — one-on-one, eye to eye — accomplishes far more than texting, tweeting, or sending e-mails.
After all, our faces talk too. Eyebrows rise with surprise or furrow with confusion. Mouths smile, frown, twist. Noses wrinkle.
The Hebrew word paneh means “face.” Literally, “friends sharpen each other’s faces” (CEB). We smooth away the rough spots, not with sandpaper, but with wisdom. We “whetteth the face” (WYC) of a friend, not with a stone, but with a timely word.
The end result is better “character” (CJB) and sharper “minds” (CEV). Friends are meant to encourage one another and cheer on one another, adding color and beauty to their lives like these stunning roses from a New Zealand garden.
Yet sometimes we have to say hard things and risk a cherished friendship for the greater good.
After I had spoken at several Women of Faith conferences, two of my platform sisters approached me backstage and told me in no uncertain terms that I was no longer to make fun of my abundant body. “Own it, Liz. Don’t trample it.”
Oh my. What I thought was entertaining, even empowering, came off as self-deprecating and little else. Ouch. Still, these women knew me, loved me, and wanted God’s best for me. However much the truth hurt, it was still the truth, and I took their wise counsel to heart.
God’s Word assures us “wounds from a friend can be trusted” (Proverbs 27:6). If your conscience has been pricked by someone who genuinely cares for you, keep this truth in mind: her words were meant to help and designed to heal. And if they were sent from God, they’ll do both.
Another friend showed me how to do life better without saying a word. I’d exchanged presents with her through many holiday seasons, always hoping she enjoyed the gifts I’d chosen especially for her.
She kindly returned the favor, sending me an equally thoughtful present, until one Christmas when all I received was a card with a note: “I gave a donation to this wonderful charity in your name.”
My first response? Humph. This isn’t a gift. It’s a tax write-off. (Sorry. That’s the sad truth of it.) I kept looking at the donor card, trying to get excited about the idea and failing miserably.
Finally the Lord opened my eyes.
Do you need yet another present, Liz? I do not.
Do impoverished families need help? They do.
Whether she did so by intent or by accident, my friend had provided the gift I needed most: fresh eyes to see my shortsightedness and a chance to follow her fine example.
Father God, thank You for all my sword-bearing friends. They open Your Word to me when I need it most, and they close my mouth when I need that too. Help me be as brave and loving as my friends are. Help me not only speak Your truth in love but also live out Your truth in deed.
This month’s post comes from the chapter “Sharp Edge, Clean Cut” in 31 Verses to Write on Your Heart. If you’ve not picked up your copy yet, as of today it’s still just $1.99 on Kindle. What a bargain, eh? Certain to disappear soon. Prefer the hardcover book? Feel free to order that instead (smile).
On Wednesday, July 25 at 5:00pm I choose five names among those who kindly commented on this post to receive an autographed copy of 31 Verses to Write on Your Heart, along with a pair of pretty coasters featuring our cover rose. Congrats to Renee’, Una, Myra, Stephanie, and Virginia.
How I love diving into God’s Word with you, month by month, book by book!
Your sister, Liz
P.S. Our next Facebook LIVE will be Wednesday, August 1 at 12:00noon EDT, as together we open a brand-new edition of Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible: Flawed Women Loved by a Flawless God, releasing Tuesday, July 24. Missed our July 1 Facebook LIVE for 31 Verses to Write on Your Heart? No worries. You can watch it here anytime.
P.P.S. I’m still feeling great and exceedingly grateful, especially since I don’t need to see my oncologist again until November. Yay! I can never thank you enough for your prayers and encouragement, and hope to hug you in person at an upcoming event!