real encouragement for real homeschooling moms

the “iron sharpening iron” commands

For years, the joke in my kitchen was the sad state of my kitchen knives. Being so used to working with them, I thought nothing of paring potatoes with a carving knife but anyone helping me in the kitchen just couldn’t get used to my sad tools. It wasn’t until I received a beautiful set of red-handled kitchen knives, complete with their own honing tool, that I knew what I had been missing. And that tool is amazing. A few swift strokes of the blade across its rough edges and I can chop, whittle, and dice anything!

I am fascinated by Proverbs 27:17 which reads “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another,” and perhaps most fascinated of all by the context in which it is written. Most of the 16 verses that precede it list stressful social exchanges: a man talking loudly while his neighbor sleeps, a nagging wife who cannot be stopped, a person who makes unwise financial choices with an immoral woman, boasting, anger, fury, jealousy, a man forsaking his home. And then, as though it should make everything all better, it says we sharpen each other as if we are going through the painful process of sharpening iron.

I don’t know a lot about the process of sharpening iron, but I do know a couple things. First, you must have the right tools to do the sharpening. A cotton ball is terrific for dabbing Calamine lotion on a mosquito bite, but it make a lousy tool for knife sharpening. This is the reason that I refer to some of the “one another” passages of Scripture as the “iron sharpening iron” verses, especially when put in the context of family life. As we live in families, we naturally will have conflicts. But, if we use the right tools for sharpening each other, that is, the “one another” verses, we will be able to refine each other, helping each other to be better prepared for service in God’s kingdom. I would list the “iron sharpening iron” verses as:

Instruct one another (Romans 15:14)

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19)

Admonish one another (Col. 3:16)

Encourage one another (1 Thess. 5:11)

Spur one another on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24)

Often, when we think of iron sharpening iron, we picture the painful process rather than the finished result. Admonishing, for example, produces uncomfortable thoughts; maybe it even causes us to remember times when we were admonished ourselves and it wasn’t pleasant. Or maybe the idea of instructing another person leaves you uninspired. However, in the context of the other ways we help each other grow, worshipping together, encouraging each other to do what is right and not what is wrong, to correct each other when we see each other sin or even when we see each other making foolish choices, we learn that being in an “iron sharpening iron” relationship is what God uses to make us more like Jesus.

I think the other fact I know about sharpening iron, though, is the most important one. In order to produce really sharp edges, you must use successively finer stones to get a very smooth surface. You see, the closer we are in relationship to each other, specifically as husbands and wives, the finer our tools for sharpening each other. The closeness of the relationship, the intimacy we share, knowing each other in ways no one else does, and the commitment we have made, all place us in the right position for the hand of God to use us to polish off the rough edges! As we strategically one another each other in our marriages, carefully obeying God’s word, we employ God’s chosen method to produce husbands and wives who grow, in grace, together, co-workers fit for His kingdom.

Copyright 2007



  Allison wrote @

Great post. As a new mom, this also makes me realize how well I need to know my son, to be in a close relationship with him in order to be able to sharpen each other as we grow together. Thanks for the lesson!

  thatmom wrote @

Hi Allison. I love the sweet picture of your little one on your blog! One of these days I am going to write about all the things I have learned from my children….I nearly don’t know where to start!

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