The word “sharpen” implies a principle to life – things become dull. When used enough, that which once was sharp looses it’s sharpness. It becomes worn. This is true of tools like an axe or saw. This is true of our bodies – our muscles and our mind.
Solomon spoke of sharp and dull in Ecclesiastes 10:10. It is foolish to continue to try and chop wood with a dull axe. It will require more effort; each swing requiring more and more energy. This means the worker will work that much harder with every blow. His strength and energy will be spent quicker. His work will take longer, meaning he may not produce as much wood as before. And when we are tired and fatigued, yet we insist on continuing to work, that’s when mistakes happen. We get sloppy. We overlook the obvious. People get hurt. The work suffers.
This simple analogy represents so many of us today. We’re running on empty. With the many demands from work, home, and church, we find ourselves stretched thin. We find ourselves in burnout – unmotivated, sloppy, neglectful, short and rude in our attitude. When we continue in our roles and in our duties when we are dull everyone suffers. The work suffers. Our relationships suffer. We suffer.
In order to take care of others you have to take care of yourself. You need to make time to sharpen your axe. We see this with the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31. She was working for her family (Proverbs 31:12, 27). But to take care of her family, this woman took the time to care for herself. She made herself strong (Proverbs 31:17, 25). She made clothes for herself (Proverbs 31:22). She feared the Lord, pursued her own relationship with God (Proverbs 31:30).
We also see this in Jesus. One of the common things we see in Jesus was that He often got away by Himself (Mark 1:35; Matthew 14:13, 23). Jesus took time to be by Himself and talk with His Father. Something I find interesting is how often Jesus traveled to Bethany. He had friends there that He loved dearly (Mary, Martha, and Lazarus). Before the cross (John 12:1), and before His ascension (Luke 24:50) Jesus traveled to Bethany, perhaps to comfort, and be comforted by loved ones.
What about you? Has your axe become dull? Are you burnt out? Don’t keep plowing on ahead. It is not selfish or inconsiderate to spend time building up yourself. In order to properly care for your work and those under your care you must take care of your self. Do you remember the instruction given on airplanes? If the cabin pressure drops, the oxygen masks will drop for the passengers to use. But if you have small children, put your mask on first. You will not be able to care for others if you are struggling. What a principle! If I’m going to care for those under my charge, I need to ensure that I take care of myself. Don’t go swinging with a dull axe. Sharpen your axe, take care of yourself, get the rest and encouragement you need, then you’ll be in a greater position to care for others.
This may mean taking some time to rest – stopping the work, getting away, turning off the phone, and letting your mind and body relax. This may mean exercise – you will feel your best when your body is in shape. This may mean getting away, taking a vacation, going on a date with your mate, reading a good book, spending time with good friends you look up to who can offer good advice in your area of work (Proverbs 27:17).
The point is you need to MAKE time to sharpen your axe. Rest, renew yourself, and return refreshed and ready to get back to the work. You’ve heard it said before – work smarter, not harder. You’ll be able to do both once you are refreshed. Sharpen your axe!
by Jordan Shouse