As one piece of iron sharpens another, so friends keep each other sharp.
Proverbs 27: 17 Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)
Friendships are important, and this verse from Proverbs underscores this point. In the day when this Proverb was written, one iron blade was used to sharpen another blade until both became more effective tools.
Mel Walker, youth pastor at Wyoming Valley Church in Wilkes-Barre, PA, elaborates on the meaning of this verse:
“The concept of ‘iron sharpening iron’ obviously implies at least two pieces of iron. It would be impossible for one tool to become sharper without the presence of the other. Left alone, both blades would be dull and quite useless. This simple Proverb illustrates an important biblical principle. God expects us to live and serve in a community of other believers, and He desires for us to build loving and growing relationships with others.”
Although modern technology is a blessing in many ways, it does have a downside: it can cut us off from physically socializing. With the recent “stay home” requirements, isolation has increased like never before. Loneliness can be a difficult issue for many, and the number of adults living alone continues to rise.
In very clear terms, this scripture states that we need to sharpen our tools. We cannot rely upon ourselves to accomplish this task. We need others. Therefore, I would encourage you to interact with friends, even while we are encouraged to remain “socially distant.” Technology in these times is truly a blessing: phone, write, email, Zoom, FaceTime. Or, go the non-techology route, and take a distanced walk with friends. However you accomplish the goal, do something to push yourself to interact with other people.
Observers are worried that this pandemic is going to lead to an increase in mental health problems. We know that it is emotionally unhealthy to be so isolated. Don’t wait for that other person to connect with you. Reach out to them first. Remember the old AT&T ad, “Reach out and touch someone?” Well, no matter who your phone carrier is, make some calls! We all need friends to keep us sharp mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
When I was in high school, I received a poster in the mail from a Christian college with this Proverbs verse on it. This promotional poster used the more classic translation, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens the wits of another.” I put the poster up in my room to remind me about the importance of friendships. I have also learned that it is healthy to not rely on just one person for all that support. That is why they talk about creating your own “social support network.” Most likely, there is someone else out there who would like to, and possibly needs to, have a connection with you.
Proverbs 27:17 also makes me long for the day when we all will be able to gather again, in person, as a community of believers. Oh Lord, may that day quickly come!
We thank you for the relationships in our lives. Even when we are separated from one another, may we nurture those relationships. You created us as relational beings, Your children. Help us to reach out to others, strengthening the bonds of love between us. We pray this prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.