Proverbs 27:17-22 Alone Is Not An Option

17 As iron sharpens iron,     so one person sharpens another.

18 The one who guards a fig tree will eat its fruit,     and whoever protects their master will be honored.

19 As water reflects the face,     so one’s life reflects the heart.[a]

20 Death and Destruction[b] are never satisfied,     and neither are human eyes.

21 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,     but people are tested by their praise.

22 Though you grind a fool in a mortar,     grinding them like grain with a pestle,     you will not remove their folly from them.

Alone Is Not An Option

We were designed to b e tested, reconstructed, and improved.  We are sinful people who tend to shy away from relationships that test us.  However, relationship with people through common trials develops the godly character that wisdom demands.  In our consumer, self-focused society, we are committed to relationships when things are easy and the rewards are many.  This is why so many romantic relationships are short term.  However, when we ultimately discover that people are different from each other and will always profoundly disagree on some key issues, we either form a new church, start a rival company, or break off a relationship.

We need to examine our beliefs and test them in the light of day.  This does not occur in isolation.  It is not good for mankind to be alone.  However, our society calls strength what the Bible would call sickness.  A life lived alone is a life taht does not incarnate Christ.  Of course, we set time apart for ‘solitude’ and prayerful devotion, but that is not the same as cultivating a life of isolation where my political views, religious views and moral views are not challenged.  If you have no close friends, it is time to make some.


  1. What sharpens a person?
  2. How are relationships with others and the development of wisdom related?
  3. What is God’s role in ‘iron sharpening iron’?
  4. Are you iron in your relationships or marshmallow?  Are you a person who speaks the truth in love or pleases people?  If you please people, how does God want to make you iron?
  5. Do you have iron friends or just those who ‘build into you’ with words you want to hear?  Who regularly challenges you?  How can you have more friends who care about you and challenge you?
  6. What do these verses teach us about raising iron kids as iron parents?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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2 Responses to Proverbs 27:17-22 Alone Is Not An Option

  1. Kelli says:

    Being able to receive the “iron” well is a huge point of maturity, I think. One that I am still consistently striving toward. Too much of our identity can be wrapped up in our performance, making it devastating to hear when your performance has fallen short. We have to accept our own fallenness and not take ourselves so seriously. God is working on all of us. We all have strengths and weaknesses. And he has given us each other to spur each other on in our areas of strength and help each other to develop in our areas that need growth.

    On another note, I love the verse, “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” Really makes you think about what your life reveals about your heart. Hmm.

    Also, Peter, can you explain the phrase, “people are tested by their praise”?

    • Plymothian says:

      ‘tested by their praise’ is tested in the sense of a crucible. A crucible reveals the true contents of a thing. Our praise tests (reveals) what is in us as it shows our heart (the well of proverbial wisdom).

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