I was talking with a wise friend recently about how we choose the people in our world we allow to influence us. He reminded me of the Scripture,
“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend” (Prov. 27:17). He explained how only iron (or I’d add, something even stronger than iron, like a diamond) can sharpen a blade made of iron.
If we try to sharpen a blade by banging it against wood or stone it will become duller, not sharper. And the surface the blade is hitting will probably be damaged in the process.
Those who would be teachers and influencers are admonished to be skilled workers of the word, to “rightly divide” (2 Tim 2:15). The NTE translation renders the instruction from Paul to Timothy (and by extension, to his church), we are to be “[workers] who have no need to be ashamed, who can carve out a straight path for the word of truth. “
The truth is a blade that must remain sharp if it is to carve a straight path. Jesus proclaimed that he brought a gospel that would be like a sword. It would divide those who believe it from those who reject it.
We are also familiar with how this metaphor is used in Hebrews 4:12,
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”.
If there is iron in us, and in our words, we become wise, and have wise discernment to share with others. We are able to cut a path through the foolishness of the world without being touched by it.
As we navigate the contemporary spiritual and sociopolitical landscape these days, it becomes clearer and clearer that as believers we must choose carefully who we allow to speak into our lives and influence our attitudes and actions.
The writer of Proverbs stated, “Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get into trouble” (Prov. 13:20).
As I consider these things, I realize that my social world has shrunk noticeably in the last two years. Most of us have experienced this while becoming a culture obsessed with germ warfare. Most of us have become paranoid about our physical contact with other human beings in public spaces.
I attended a church service yesterday where no one knew me, and for the first time in ages, was confronted with a dozen or so people who approached me wanting to shake my hand. It took me a moment to lay aside the conditioned response of keeping my distance.
Did I put myself at risk of getting sick, or at least exposing myself to a virus that I could carry to someone and make them sick? Perhaps. As soon as I could, I slathered hand sanitizer on my hands. But I immediately returned my attention to more interesting things, like worship and hearing the word preached.
The word was delivered by a seasoned preacher, a man wise in life and wise in the Scriptures. A man who is filled with the Spirit of wisdom. I felt myself becoming sharpened again, restored to usefulness as a sword in God’s hand.
When Pharaoh had to choose a person to lead the food program in Egypt, he chose Joseph, saying, “Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, clearly no one else is as intelligent or wise as you are” (Gen. 41:39). Pharoah acknowledged that those who hear from God are those best equipped to be successful in the things God defines as successful.
This theme is repeated throughout the Scriptures. Look at Moses, and the builders of the Tabernacle, and Gideon, and David, and Solomon, and of course, Jesus, the wisest of the wise.
If we want to be wise, we walk with the wise. How do we do this?
By walking through the pages of Scripture each day and allowing the iron of the word to sharpen us. By spending time with others who value and pursue this path of wisdom and sharpness. By taking care to surround ourselves with other men and women who carry the same iron in their souls.