Proverbs 27:17 – Iron Sharpens Iron

Iron Sharpens Iron - Proverbs 27:17
Iron Sharpens Iron - Proverbs 27:17

Proverbs 27:17

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

You Are Proud!

Catherine’s words stung. I tried to sleep; I hoped maybe by the morning they would go away. I struggled to stop mulling over the comments she made about my selfishness and pride. I knew some of her words were true; it was just hard to accept. She had corrected me with love, yet I always thought I had it all together. As I lay there, my prayer was to ask God for wisdom and peace. It was until a few days later that I let go and made a prayer, “I am hurting Lord, but show me where I need to change, show me where Catherine is right.”

Catherine rubbed my raw feelings. Her comments brought about sparks and friction. And in the same way, whenever a brother or a sister requires a level of accountability from us, we have two choices. We can respond in a way that would build our character, or we can scoff off and ignore the words spoken. The proverb compares the sharpening of one iron to another to the accountability between one man and another. A knife is not sharpened by a cloth, gold, wood or plastic. The blade can cut these things, but they will only dull the sharpness of the knife. Sharpening the knife requires an iron or its substitutes.

Iron Sharpens

Proverbs 27:9 tells us that the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice. A good friend will make you brighter, sharper and of more use. Someone is foolish if their circle of influence has many foolish people—bad morals corrupt good manners (1 Corinthians 15:33). The advantage of two rather than one is that they sharpen and improve each other. Job was the sharpening influence among his companions. Jesus sent teachers into the field two by two for this very reason, that good friends improve a person’s character.

This proverb deals closely with the character of a man. If this proverb is true, then a wise husband will help his wife have time with amazing friends to be a better wife. The wife will do the same, knowing the husband will be better for being around good men. And parents will be proactive to promote friendships for their children with otherwise noble children.

The Words Of A Friend

As believers, we can sharpen one another by; showing love, confession and prayer, showing humility, singing together and encouraging each other through words and deeds (Philippians 2:3-4). Sharpening one another is also a brilliant method of practising Godly accountability. Real authentic accountability means allowing other people to look close enough in your life so that they may identify the specific weaknesses and problematic areas. A file takes small shavings off the knife blade to make it better. So true friends also must correct, rebuke, instruct and warn us in the Lord (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

As Christians, we must also fulfil our role to improve other people’s lives (Proverbs 10:21). Our expression of the value we have for our relationships is our willingness to sharpen them, even when it might sting or hurt. Today I value the words of Catherine, and I hope you do too.

King James Version (KJV)

“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”

New International Version (NIV)

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

“Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens the wits of another.”

New American Bible (NASB)

As iron sharpens iron, So one person sharpens another.”

English Standard Version (ESV)

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”

The Living Bible (TLB)

“A friendly discussion is as stimulating as the sparks that fly when iron strikes iron.”


This scripture is one of the most popular verses in the Bible. It can be seen on t-shirts and necklaces everywhere. We always think about how believers should sharpen each other, hold one another accountable. And that is absolutely true.

But real sharpening of iron comes with friction and sparks. How many times have you been around someone who made you realize your prayer life isn’t quite up to par? Many times for me. What about morning devotion? Yes again for me.

Sharpening others doesn’t mean walking around and telling everyone how strong our “walk” is. It doesn’t mean reciting scripture to everyone we see. It means abiding in God, and loving others. The sharpening will come from God working through you. Most of the time, you won’t even know you sharpened someone else and that is fine. Love God, Love Others. There will be friction and sparks.