Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | August 9, 2013

Sharpening Your Edge

“Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” | Proverbs 27:17

I have a number of old Bible commentaries in my library. I especially enjoy reading the volumes written by guys who lived in the days before television and radio and the internet. There is a quality in what these guys wrote that I find refreshing. Their words make it hard to escape the conclusion that they meditated deeply on the Scriptures in order to live wisely.

While researching Proverbs 27:17, one of my favorite passages of Scripture, I came across something in “The Preacher’s Homiletic Commentary” written by a man named Rev. W. Harris. Nothing else is included about the author other than his name. But I like what Harris had to say about the passage under consideration.

AxeThe sword that has seen much hard service must come in contact with another steel instrument to restore its edge. The ploughshare that has pushed its way through hard and stony ground must be fitted for more work by friction with a whetstone, and the axe, after it has felled many trees, must be subjected to a similar process. So the intellectual and spiritual nature of man becomes at times in need of a stimulus from without which may fitly be compared with the sharpening of iron by iron. Hard mental toil, contact with uncongenial persons and things, disappointments, and even great spiritual emotions, have a tendency to exhaust our energies and depress our spirits, and render us for a time indisposed to exertion, and perhaps incapable of it. In such a condition a look of sympathy and encouragement from one who understands us is very serviceable indeed, and has power to arouse within us fresh hope, and therefore new life for renewed action.

As Rev. W. Harris points out in his commentary on Proverbs 27:17, there are a number of things that can cause us lose our edge or become dull.

Service can cause us to lose our edge. Just as an axe or pencil must be periodically sharpened in order to continue to be useable, so must we be periodically sharpened. We cannot serve without periods of rest, refreshment, and renewal. If we try, it will surely lead us to less effective service and eventually to burn-out. Service becomes exhausting when we labor in a dulled condition.

Out text tells us that our edge can be restored by coming into contact with others. We need the feedback, encouragement, counsel, and checks and balances of others. But it is important to note that our text says “Iron sharpens iron.” In other words, iron must come into contact with iron in order to be sharpened. In the same way, we cannot be sharpened by just any individual. We can only be sharpened by certain individuals.

If you want to be sharpened mentally, you must come in contact with mentally sharp individuals. If you want to be sharpened spiritually, you must come in contact with spiritually mature individuals. If you want to be sharpened morally, you must come in contact with morally pure and upright individuals. Paul wrote about the importance of coming into contact with the right people in 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.'”

Sin can cause us to lose our edge. Sin has a corrupting effect on people. It removes the brightness from our countenance, the joy from our service, and the clarity from our vision. It can quickly dull the edge of our life and service. Our edge however, can be restored by confession and maintained by accountability.

One person can sharpen another by holding them accountable for their decisions. Proverbs 27:6 states, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” Our lives can be kept morally and spiritually sharp if we will allow another to hold us accountable and to speak the truth in love to us (Eph. 4:15, 25). We must be willing to allow others to wound us, if necessary, in order to help us keep our edge.

Setbacks can also cause us to lose our edge. As Rev. W. Harris points out in his commentary on Proverbs 27:17, “disappointments, and even great spiritual emotions, have a tendency to exhaust our energies and depress our spirits, and render us for a time indisposed to exertion, and perhaps incapable of it.” Setbacks can drain us emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Setbacks often leave us feeling listless and hopeless.

When we experience setbacks, our edge can be restored through the kind and gentle encouragement of a friend — of someone who will offer a smile or a shoulder to lean on. Again, as Rev. W. Harris points out in his commentary, “In such a condition a look of sympathy and encouragement from one who understands us is very serviceable indeed, and has power to arouse within us fresh hope, and therefore new life for renewed action.”

• From my archives. Written in November 1990.


Responses

  1. This is such a great and valuable message Omar, and I gained some refreshment just in reading it. I have a tendency to push and push – sometimes like a bull in a china shop, and you just reminded me and actually helped me to know it’s ok and wise to just step back, re-charge and be sharpened by those God has put in our lives.

    Your first paragraph here makes such a great point. I often wonder how much damage has been done to overall understanding of the word because of television, radio, and the internet. What a blessing before the advent of electricity to sit by candlelight, with no distractions and just meditate on the mysteries of God’s word.

    I’ve often said that if I could go back in time it would probably be to the period that Paul was in Rome for two years in his own rented house awaiting his trial. There must have been some amazing conversations in that house!

    God Bless

    • Thanks, Chad.

      Yes, I think one reason many of the old commentaries are so rich is because the guys that wrote them did not have the kinds of distractions that either keep them from the Word or made it too easy to find quick answers. And, I too would have loved to have been a fly on he wall during Paul’s imprisonment to witness the conversations and prayers in that room.

      Thanks for your good work with the homeless at Rhodes Park in Boise.

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