My blog is where I post things I have learned through my own personal Bible study. Join me in digging deep into the Word to find the gold hidden inside. And feel free to email me if you think there's a theological error in any of my posts or if there's a topic you want me to cover in my next post.
As Iron
2 years ago.
As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. - Proverbs 27:17

This verse from Proverbs 27 is well known to many of us. Many verses in Proverbs deal with the topic of friendship. The world we live in today is a dangerous place, no less than it was back in Solomon's day, and in choosing our friends we need to be very careful. A famous quote says "Show me your friends and I'll show you your future." Friends play a powerful role in our lives. Some friends come and go, others are lifelong friends. Each one leaves their mark on us.

The verse we are looking at is comparing friends to iron. Specifically, iron sharpening iron. Think about this for a moment. When two pieces of metal rub against each other for a period of time, what happens? The metal becomes shiny. That's one of the many purposes of steel wool, which is a type of "cloth" made of fine strips of metal that is used in polishing. Another example of this would be to look at a knife that has just been sharpened. The sharpened edge is shinier than the rest of the blade.

So let's look at the mental picture so far. We have two pieces of metal rubbing against each other and polishing each other. An exact picture of what Solomon is portraying in our verse when he references friends sharpening each other's countenances.

But what if one of the pieces of metal is rusty? What happens when it rubs against the other piece of metal? Think about it. What happens when you brush against rust on a building or a car? The rust comes off on your clothing. In our scenario the rusty metal and the normal piece of metal aren't going to be polishing each other. The good metal isn't going to polish off the rust off the rusty metal. Instead, the abrasive rust on the bad metal is going to come off on the good metal, and it will be negatively effected. If this goes on for long enough, it can cause both pieces to become nothing but two pieces of worthless rust.

How does this look when applied to the verse? What is the rusty metal? What is the good metal? How does this come into play when we're talking about friends? Good, godly friends are the good iron. Bad friends and influences are rusty iron.

What kind of "metal" are we rubbing against? What kind of friends are we associating with? Are our friends godly Christians who will polish us? Or are they bad influences that will just get us rusty? You may think you are invincible and not influenced by those around you, but that just isn't so. No matter how strong a person thinks they are, everyone is influenced by the people around them, in both big and small ways. Two pieces of metal rubbing against each other are not going to remain unchanged.

But what does this say about ourselves? If godly friends polish us, and ungodly friends make us rusty, what are we doing about ourselves to make sure we ourselves are good iron that polishes others? Proverbs 18:24a says that "A man who has friends must himself be friendly". In other words, if we want to attract good friends, we have to be a good friend ourselves.

Iron machinery cannot help but rub against other iron parts, but having good iron as opposed to rusty iron makes a big difference in the efficiency and quality of production. When two people are friends, they rub off on each other. A good friend, like Proverbs says, sharpens the countenance, and polishes it. And friends who are not good influences are going to affect us negatively.

Now this isn't to say we are to shut ourselves up and not associate with unbelivers at all. We just need to be wary and make sure our close friends--the ones who influence us the most--are "good iron". Solomon from his lofty palace saw lots of stupidity among people in choosing who to associate with. Take the youth in Proverbs 7 for example. That's why over and over again Solomon in Proverbs emphasizes the need to choose one's friends carefully.

As this post comes to a close, take a look at our verse one more time in light of what we have just covered:

As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. - Proverbs 27:17