“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” – Proverbs 27:17
I love working in my shop, but I hate dull tools. They’re dangerous and they don’t work well. So I’ve learned to sharpen tools. At first, I didn’t like sharpening very much because I wasn’t good at it. But the more I read and listened to those who have done it for a long time, and learned through practice, the better I became. Now I can produce a pretty wicked edge most of the time. And I enjoy sharpening because I know my tools will work properly.
So when I read Proverbs and see this verse, I understand the image the writer had in mind. In the same way that iron files are used to sharpen iron blades, we ‘sharpen’ one another to be capable of doing what we’re meant to do. Left to our own devices we grow dull over time because we can’t maintain our “edge”.
Think of the times you’ve been working with a close friend you really admire and trust. Did you notice how smoothly things get done when you’re on the same wavelength? One may not have the answer but the other one does. The multiplication of minds has an exponential effect on the work. Your friend may think of something that hadn’t occurred to you, or maybe you come up with a brainstorm that he or she would have never considered.
I came across this quote from Oswald Chambers this morning: “Always keep in contact with those books and those people that enlarge your horizon and make it possible for you to stretch yourself mentally.” He understood the importance of our not trying to go it alone. When the only voice we’re hearing is our own, we tend to become “dull”. It’s inevitable. We need exposure to a variety of thoughts and ideas to exercise our mind. Books are good, but living, breathing “books” are just as important. One mind rubbing up against another is like rough pieces of stone being turned into beautiful agates.
That’s why Sunday is my favorite day of the week. I get to be with my people, my spiritual family. We come together to worship and we encourage one another in the process. It hurts a little when we have to go home. We don’t see much of one another during the week because of work, distance, and life in general. I dearly love them all, but there are several that are my sharpening tools. They inspire and challenge me, make me stretch, help me become more than what I’ve been. I only hope I benefit them in the same way.
It’s distressing to hear someone say they don’t need the church, that they can worship God and be okay with him on their own. Even more so are those who ‘put in their time’ on Sunday but never invest any more of themselves than that. The church and our relationship to God were never designed to be that way. They don’t work in any other configuration than how God designed them. This from an admitted introvert who would be happy with a shack and a dog living in the woods. I would experience spiritual atrophy if not death in such an environment (I think even the dog would get tired of it after a while).
We need to listen to God- through His word, as well as prayer and meditation. And he will tell us what we need to know. But we also need each other, even those who may be more of a challenge. It’s the picture Paul gives us of the body of Christ. What one part can’t do another part can. Sometimes one part helps another function even more effectively, and in turn the whole body benefits. As Paul said, “Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
I’m not thinking particularly of accountability here, although that’s part of it. What I have in mind is really enjoying one another. Spending time together in worship, fellowship, and prayer, but also in everyday activities, sharing ourselves with each other. I love time spent working at my lathe, but I really enjoy working on a project with someone else, learning from each other, tossing out ideas, enjoying the opportunity to be joined in a common purpose. I always seem to learn more than I teach, and the joy of sharing success with someone else is almost indescribable.
If your idea of “church” is an hour on Sunday and then get on with the rest of your life you have no idea what you’re missing. The church is the body, and that body hurts when a member is missing or just barely connected to the rest of it. Ever accidentally rip off a fingernail or toenail? That’s how it feels-or should. We should welcome every opportunity to be together and ache for one another when we’re apart. This world does its best to keep us apart and distracted. Our strength is in our fellowship and encouraging each other. Get to know and love those folks you see on Sunday, and then spend time together more often than that.