Proverbs 27:17. Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
A blade by itself will only get more and more dull. It takes another blade of iron to keep a blade sharp. The same thing is true in our lives. We cannot do life alone. We will only become more and more dull, more and more disappointed, more and more selfish.
We all need a true friend.
In addition to Proverbs 27:17 this amazing chapter shares some of the greatest wisdom on true friendship:
27:2 Let another praise you and not your own mouth; someone else and not your own lips.
We need a true friend to praise us; otherwise we will have to praise ourselves. But self- praise doesn’t work. It is hard to accept praise from yourself as true, or it becomes too easy to accept praise from yourself and you begin to live outside of reality. Assessing our own gifts without an outside look, leads to an inflated or deflated view of the self.
27:5-6 Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.
We need to be sharpened not only by praise (27:2) but also by wounds. We need someone who can be honest with us and tell it to us like it is. A true spiritual friend tells the truth without flattering you. Again, they keep you grounded in reality.
27:9 Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.
We need a true spiritual friend to provide earnest counsel. The word “earnest” is the word for soul. This is counsel from their very life’s experience. A true friend isn’t just about having fun all the time. They will share their life with you, not just handing out platitudes. That is what makes a spiritual friend truly “sweet.”
27:10 Do not go to your brother’s house in the day of disaster. Better a friend nearby than a brother far away.
A true friend is always close. That person you can run to in the day of disaster.
27:14 If a man loudly blesses his friend early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse.
A true friend is not disingenuous. She doesn’t just say the right thing, she says it at the right time (not early in the morning).
27:15. A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day.
The true friend is not like the quarrelsome wife. She doesn’t just pick fights. She sharpens. She clashes with you in order to strengthen you, not weaken you. She doesn’t try to control, she tries to empower for greatness.
Look again at 27:17. Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. The word “another” here is two Hebrew words- “friend’s face.” A true friend sharpens the face of their friend.
The word face can imply intimacy, and it can refer to a person’s countenance or demeanor. In other words the clashing that is happening in 27:17 lifts the spirits of the two close friends.
I recently faced a very hard situation in ministry. I had unintentionally offended a group of people and then had to face the shame and criticism of that. Because I am not a close spiritual friend with those I offended, it was difficult to have a conversation about it. I realized that I needed to simply apologize and move on for now. Going deeper was not going to happen.
When I talked to my spiritual friend about it later that morning, he did not let me off the hook nor did he condemn me. He listened to me explain my side and yet pointed out how what I had done would be offensive. He drew out my hurt, and encouraged me because he knows my heart and knows I wasn’t trying to offend.
But most importantly he pointed me to Christ. Christ Jesus is the ultimate true spiritual friend. He always sharpens, never drips. His wounds are always faithful, never fake kisses. He is full of praise not flattery. His timing is always perfect, not loud “blessing” too early in the morning. He is a near neighbor, not a far away brother.
Jesus is the ultimate true friend who will satisfy your soul and empower you to be the true friend that he wants to see you become.