Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” Today’s reading took me back to the good ol’ days when Ryan and I were youth leaders. It’s hard to believe that chapter of our lives closed 10 years ago...Those years were filled with countless wacky games (many of which involved eating the most disgusting “food” imaginable), camps and retreats, much prayer and the blessing of investing in and watching young people grow in their faith and maturity in Christ.
Way back when, our youth group was known as “Iron Workers Union No. 2717”, echoing the words of Proverbs 27:17. God had laid this verse on Ryan’s heart and it embodied what we wanted the identity of our community to be – a place where we came together in order to make each other better, growing closer to each other and to our Savior, all to His glory. We were striving to keep each other sharp – “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another”.
Have you every tried to use a dull knife? Or maybe some sort of blade, axe or a pair of scissors that have lost their edge? They may eventually get the job done, but not without frustration, extra effort, and it’ll probably make a much bigger mess of things. In my line of work (I’m a dental hygienist), if my instruments aren’t sharp, my job becomes much harder for me and it can also make it more uncomfortable for my patients.
Or how about when your car needs new brake pads? (Speaking from a recent personal experience). Instead of a gentle push of the pedal to slow down and stop your car, you find yourself having to really lay into it, hear the grinding and squealing and pray that you’ve given yourself enough stopping distance so you don’t get to know the driver of the car in front of you much better.
When something loses its edge or gets too rough and isn’t maintained properly, it loses its effectiveness. A dull knife is still a knife and a worn out brake pad is still a brake pad – what they are doesn’t change – but they’re no longer well equipped to do what they were created to do. And this same thing is happening today in the body of Christ.
It’s soooo easy to allow ourselves to get dull. Dulled by busyness. Dulled by stress and life’s demands. Dulled by a relentless pursuit of all of the oh-so-important things in life that, when all is said in done, really don’t mean a thing. We can be dulled by complacency, thinking that we’re good enough and saved enough. Dulled by simply going through the motions. We’re still beloved children of God and saved by grace, but we’re not fully living out God’s purposes for our lives.
One of my favorite things about the gospel and the church is that we get to partner with our Creator, and one of those ways we get to participate is in keeping each other sharp. You can search all day long (and then the next day and the next and the next, ad nauseum), but you will never find a place in Scripture where it says that we as Christians are to go at it alone. “Do not forsake…gathering together” (Hebrews 10:25), “For just as the body is one and has many members…all the members of the body…are one body” (1 Cor 12:12), “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (I Cor 12:13). These three verses are just a tiny sample of what God has to say to us through his Word about the body and bride of Christ – his church.
Proverbs 27:17 echoes this same sentiment – “one person sharpens another”. We are called to be both the sharpeners and be the sharpenees (don’t think you’ll find that one in Webster’s, but I think you get what I’m saying), because we can’t do it on our own. And if we can really embrace this and fully connect, we’ll see the beauty of God’s grace, love and mercy in action and the church will be begin to multiply and will be unstoppable.
So my questions for you today are: how sharp are you? Are you actively pursuing investing in others and in turn allowing others to invest in you? Are you willing to do what it takes to fully utilize the gifts and abilities God has so generously and graciously given to you? And are you ready to be used in ways far beyond what you’ve imagined? Let is be never be said of us that we’re not the sharpest tool in the church J