The Powerful Proverbs 27:17 Meaning (iron sharpens iron)

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 

Throughout the book of Proverbs, we see incredible wisdom and insight into our lives and faith. The above verse serves as a powerful metaphor that points us to the transformative power of relationships. The Proverbs 27:17 meaning challenges us to pursue these connections so that we can sharpen one another. 

While most will look at this verse and agree with it, living it out can be challenging. The process of sharpening can be uncomfortable and many simply avoid it. But in doing so they also miss out on how God wants to grow them. 

In this blog post, we will uncover what iron sharpens iron means and how it applies to our lives today. 

The Context Of Proverbs 27:17

Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings that center around how to gain wisdom and live wisely. They cover various aspects of life, offering practical advice on morality, relationships, work, and daily living. 

Proverbs 27, in particular, warns against being arrogant and bragging. Solomon underscores the importance of friendships and the wisdom they bring. Much of the focus is on hearing the truth and taking accountability for our actions. A friend must speak the truth in love even when it’s difficult. This is how a wise person grows. 

Proverbs 27:17 continues this theme and highlights the importance of relationships and how they sharpen each other. The underlying message encourages individuals to seek out relationships that challenge and refine them, fostering personal and spiritual growth. 

Let’s take a closer look at the Proverbs 27:17 meaning. 

The Proverbs 27:17 Meaning 

While short, this proverb powerfully illustrates how friendships produce growth in our lives and faith. In it, we see a comparison of two things. To better understand the meaning of Proverbs 27:17 I’m going to break this verse into two sections. 

As Iron Sharpens Iron Meaning 

A common method for sharpening iron, and other metals, is by rubbing it against another piece of metal. Still today we use this method when a knife, or some other blade, gets dull. As the two scrape together the dull spots are removed and they become sharper. 

This isn’t a one-time process, but rather something that needs to be done regularly. A blade will become increasingly dull with use, thus becoming less and less useful. Sharpening keeps the blade operating as it is supposed to.

This opening image in Proverbs 27:17 shows the importance of being sharpened and how it should happen regularly. 

So One Person Sharpens Another Meaning 

The metaphor of iron sharpening iron is now compared with how one person sharpens another. What Proverbs 27:17 is saying is that in friendships we should “bump” into each other so that each person can be refined and sharpened. 

This means that there should be some healthy levels of conflict in our relationships. There must be times when truth is told in love. Iron can never be sharpened unless the two pieces come in contact. Similarly, we will not experience growth if we avoid this process. Christians who avoid this and never allow anything to be questioned will remain dull. 

We were designed to do life with others in part because we need this refining process; iron by itself cannot be sharpened. However, we should be careful with who we choose to enter into this process with. Throughout Proverbs, we see warnings about choosing good friends. We must choose godly people who desire the best for us and us for them. 

It is through brushing up against others that we will experience growth in our faith. It can be uncomfortable at times, but it’s only through this process we are refined. 

How Proverbs 27:17 Applies To Your Life 

The Proverbs 27:17 meaning encourages us to cultivate relationships that don’t avoid this sharpening process. It emphasizes the idea that the right interactions can refine, challenge, and ultimately improve each of us.

Let’s end by looking at two practical ways we can apply Proverbs 27:17 to our lives. 

1. Listen To The Truth Of Others 

Most of us don’t like our faults pointed out, so we avoid any conversation that does so. While that might save us from short-term embarrassment, it prohibits long-term growth. Proverbs 27:17 challenges us to surround ourselves with people who will point out the faults in our lives and hold us accountable. 

Again, this isn’t something that we should do with everyone. Look for people who are faithfully following Jesus and who are willing to say difficult things with love. If you are struggling to find these people, pray. Ask God to bring these people into your life. 

Once you have a person or two, listen to the feedback they give. Even if it’s uncomfortable we should recognize that what they are saying is for our benefit. Just as iron sharpens iron, trust spoken in love sharpens us. 

2. Tell Others The Truth In Love 

We shouldn’t just seek to be sharpened but also sharpen those around us. You can help others grow in their life and faith by telling them the truth in love. 

We often avoid giving others feedback because it can be considered rude. But in reality, the most loving thing you can do for someone you care about is tell them the truth. When we avoid these conversations we are keeping them from growing. 

When approaching these conversations it’s important to check our motives. We should only point out things in others in love and a desire for good for them. We should never condemn or belittle but offer advice and a hand up.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should just go around pointing out the faults in everyone you see. Just as you should be picky with whom you let speak into your life, the reverse is true. The closeness of your relationship should determine the depth of truth you can offer them. 

Proverbs 27:17 challenges us to both receive feedback and tell others the truth. In doing so we will experience incredible growth in our lives and faith. 

Jeffery Curtis Poor
Follow Me

Share With A Friend

DISCLOSURE: This post may contain affliliate links, meaning I get a small commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links. This is at no cost to you and helps keep Rethink up and running.
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments