Having friends who help us become better people is a treasure. In our verse today, Solomon tells us, “Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17 NASB) When a good and helpful friend points out our failing and then helps one to overcome that failing, we benefit from their wisdom. Likewise, when we share with them, in love, some problem they need to conquer, they benefit from our help.
Sometimes though, we may have self-righteous “friends” who see it as their duty to point out our failings and then just leave us to try to figure it out all by ourselves. We feel like we’ve been cut down to size, like they are better than we are, and that we’ll always be a failure. They may have thought they were helping us, but instead, a rift was caused because they didn’t help us but were critical of us and thought they were better than us. These self-appointed “fruit inspectors” aren’t looking out for our good, they are nothing more than busybodies, trying to prove that we aren’t perfect. They interpret verses such as Proverbs 27:17 as their license to point out our faults regardless of whether it is helpful or wanted. That isn’t what our verse is talking about. Our verse is saying that a true friend may point out things we need to hear that may hurt, but they do it because they genuinely love us and want to see us succeed. They don’t just drop a bomb on us and walk away. No, they stand with us, helping us to overcome the things that need to be dealt with. They help us in our walk so that we become more of who we were created to become.
In his commentary on this verse, Albert Barnes states, “The proverb expresses the gain of mutual counsel as found in clear, well-defined thoughts. Two minds, thus acting on each other, become more acute.” (Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible)
God never intended for us to try to live life in a vacuum. We are to be in a community of like-minded people, helping each other to be who He created us to be. That’s why the writer of Hebrews encouraged, “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25 NASB 1995) Did you notice? We are to encourage one another! We are to be each other’s cheerleaders!
The relationship between friends must be positive! We are to correct lovingly. When we receive positive criticism from a friend who loves us, it is easier for us to follow because we know they genuinely care about us and want us to improve. We can take what they say as constructive criticism and know they will help us. At the same time, we are to counsel our friends in the same manner. In doing this, our relationship with each other grows stronger and we show the love of God toward each other. My husband is my biggest cheerleader! He encourages me in writing my blog and doing my Bible Journaling. He edits my blog posts, pointing out where I can say something better, and that leads to a discussion on wherever I may have gone wrong. I value his opinion because I know he has a greater grasp on Spiritual things than I do. He went to Bible college and used to be an ordained minister; therefore I respect his opinion. Sometimes, his comments may sting, but I know he has my best interest at heart and would never intentionally hurt me to my detriment.
Much like using a file to sharpen a knife or a sword, we help each other by sanding off the rough edges. We encourage, inspire, and prompt each other to do, be, and speak better than we are. Iron sharpens iron and friend sharpens friend.