Some Christians are just plain dull. They may be able to tell good jokes and make interesting conversation, but spiritually speaking something is lacking. They have lost their zeal and have grown weary of Christian living. Their learning about God and the Bible has reached a plateau. Their edge has become dull. Often, the problem is they have failed to see the importance of frequent fellowship and attending church services. Proverbs 27:17 says: “Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.” Just as a file can shape and sharpen tools to a fine point, frequent interaction with other Christians can shape and sharpen us into useful tools for God.
Christian examples help shape us. Paul wrote “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). The lives of Christians imitating Christ are living lessons teaching us how to be better Christians. I remember the example of my father when I was a child. We had to drive 25 miles to church one way, but we made every service including Wednesday Bible studies and devotionals. Gas prices were rising back then as well, but it didn’t matter because church was important. When he was switched to working nights, he still made every service. He came home from work around 6:30 a.m. and left for church at 8:45 a.m. (still a 25 mile drive). The importance he placed on attending services and his dedication has stuck with me and helped shape me into the Christian I am today. By observing Christian role models and frequent interaction with Christians our lives can be shaped to better serve God.
Christian conversation and discussion sharpens us. Too often, people think they know it all. Many have the attitude they do not need the church because they can do everything at home themselves. I have lost count of how many times I have studied a passage for hours. I thought I had looked at it from every angle. When I go to teach the passage, however, someone in class brings up a point or question I never considered that adds depth to the passage. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, tells us two are better than one; if one falls the other is there to help—we can make up for each other’s weakness. Alone, however, all we have is our weaknesses. By engaging in Christian conversation our knowledge of God’s Word increases.
Christian support helps us keep our edge. It can be hard to live a Christian live day in and day out when so many are rejecting God and living immorally. Otherwise, we would not have to be warned not to lose heart in doing good (Galatians 6:9). God has given us a spiritual family, however, to encourage and help us on this journey. In Hebrews 10:23-25 where we are told not to get into the habit of forsaking the assembly, the reason is because this is where we encourage and stimulate one another on to love and good deeds. Without this encouragement, Christians slowly drift away—their edge becoming duller and duller. When we interact with other Christians it helps us to maintain our edge and continue serving God.
Don’t be dull! Make sure you are taking every opportunity to interact with other Christians—Bible classes, worship services, devotionals, visiting, eating meals together, etc. Regular and continual interaction with other Christians is necessary for a good spiritual life. It will make you the best tool you can be for God. Why not make the commitment to be there every time the church meets? Then, make the commitment to bring someone else with you so you can help shape and sharpen them.
“The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, and they go down into the innermost parts of the body” (Proverbs 26:22 NASB). This is a repetition of an earlier proverb (cf. Proverbs 18:8). Unfortunately, it seems there is a human desire for gossip and rumors. People are always interested in the words of a whisperer and the secrets to be learned. They are eager to devour these dainty morsels. This desire, however, must be resisted no matter how tempting it may appear. These dainty morsels are not free, they come at the high price of another’s misery, pain, humiliation, and/or ruined reputation. In addition, such food tends to sour and cause problems within us. It worms its way into our hearts and our minds. It leads us to misjudge and harshly condemn others rather than responding to them with love and compassion as we should. It fills us with hatred and haughtiness. No bit of juicy gossip is worth the damage it does to our lives and our hearts (cf. Proverbs 4:23).
“Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife” (Proverbs 26:21 NASB). Many of the conflicts and problems in our lives come from the way we handle the events of our lives. An ember will naturally cool and die out, but you can add fuel to it and fan it into a roaring fire. Many problems and conflicts in our lives are similar. They are really no big deal, but we make them a big deal by dwelling on them and talking about what happened. The more we dwell the more angry and irritated we become. Soon, something that should have simple faded away has become a major conflict. Contentious people have become experts at this, they can make a problem by twisting innocent words out of context, strife from an odd expression on another’s face, and turn friends into enemies by misconstruing a laugh. We need to avoid being contentious and simple let these minor conflicts fade away.
“For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down” (Proverbs 26:20 NASB). We keep conflicts alive by listening to gossip and by telling it to others. Gossip is the fuel behind many contentions. Sometimes the real conflict comes not from what actually happened but the voices whispering in the ears of those involved. They hear the gossip of what so and so did to them and anger flares. Gossip keeps hurts and slights fresh and prevents any healing. Without the whispering voices people would just move on and conflicts would die out. We need to remember gossip is a vile and low form of entertainment that causes great harm to others. When we participate in it even by listening and showing interest we are contributing to this harm.
“Like a madman who throws Firebrands, arrows and death, so is the man who deceives his neighbor, and says, ‘Was I not joking?’” (Proverbs 26:18-19 NASB). It seems many people think they can go back on their word or say incredibly rude and insensitive statements and make everything right by saying “I was only joking.” Sometimes, they even proudly call themselves “ornery” which is not a good thing. They are emotional madmen hurling flaming missiles and shooting arrows without considering the consequences. People are often hurt by careless words and even when those words are truly said in jest it makes little difference to them. They might never tell you about the pain because doing so would further their embarrassment, but inwardly they are bruised and battered. Most people do not want to be joked about or ribbed and they most certainly do not want to be deceived. We must be careful about what we do and say to others (even when we are telling jokes).
“Like one who takes a dog by the ears Is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him” (Proverbs 26:17 NASB). We should not involve ourselves in matters that do not concern us. Most dogs in Biblical times were wild, not domesticated animals. Grabbing one by the ear was a good way of getting bitten. Meddling with situations that do not concern us is another way of bringing pain into our lives. It is rarely appreciated when we offer unsolicited opinions and advice. It annoys others and sometimes makes them angry as well. We need to give others space to work out their own affairs.
“The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can give a discreet answer” (Proverbs 26:16 NASB). Arrogance, laziness, and foolishness are often found together. The lazy won’t put in the time to study and know what they are talking about, nor will they put in the effort to work and gain experience. Despite this, they loudly give their opinions as facts even when it goes against the counsel of those who have studied and trained. Today, the Internet has increased this problem by giving so many easy access to a wealth of ignorance. Many consider themselves experts on a subject after having read an article or two found on the internet (and those often written by sluggards who don’t know what they are talking about). There are also subjects like religion and the Bible where people seem to feel no compulsion whatsoever to study before speaking on and opinion runs rampant. We need to put in the time to study before speaking and when we speak do so discreetly and humbly.
“The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is weary of bringing it to his mouth again” (Proverbs 26:15 NASB). Laziness is debilitating and degrading. While this is obviously an exaggeration (cf. Proverbs 19:24), reality is not far off. Some people are so lazy they require others to take care of even their most basic needs. They couldn’t survive on their own. They are only able to maintain this lifestyle because others enable them to do so. While there are those who legitimately need help, there are many who will selfishly take advantage of the compassionate and generous in order to shirk work and responsibility. We must watch out for this latter group of people and encourage them to work.
“As the door turns on its hinges, so does the sluggard on his bed” (Proverbs 26:14 NASB). Laziness will hold us back. The door and the sluggard both move but neither one of them is going anywhere. Laziness keeps the sluggard attached to his bed as surely as hinges keep a door attached to its frame. The more we give in to such behavior, the lazier we get and often depression sets in as well. Perhaps the sluggard tossing and turning on his bed indicates a troubled mind. If we are to break free, we must find the will and motivation to work even when we are tired and don’t want to do anything.
“The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion in the road! A lion is in the open square!’” (Proverbs 26:13 NASB). Laziness is maintained by a steady stream of excuses. They don’t even need to be good excuses. When we take time to examine our excuses we find that many of them are as silly as the sluggard’s excuse in this proverb (cf. Proverbs 22:13). Regardless of its strength, however, the excuse lets us feel better about ourselves and keep us from changing our ways. The solution is to stop making excuses for our laziness, get, and work.