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The Tale of Two Lumberjacks: A Meditation on Eccl. 10:10

There were two lumberjacks cutting wood. One said, “Before I start, I’m going to sharpen my blade.” The other said, “I have a lot of work to do. I don’t have time to waste.” He went straight into the forest and began chopping. The first lumberjack waited patiently while the blacksmith sharpened his axe. By the end of the day he had chopped down significantly more than the man with the dull axe.

Friend, which of these lumberjacks are you most like?

The author of Ecclesiastes reminds us, “If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed” (Eccl. 10:10). The truth presented in this passage is that dull axes don’t cut well. They require more time and energy to get the job done. 

The fact is, many of us ignore the Bible’s advice. We are doing our work with a dull blade. The point of Ecclesiastes 10:10 is clear: Wise people sharpen their edge. Sharp edges cut faster and deeper. They are more efficient and effective. Applied to our spiritual life, a sharp edge leads to fruitfulness.

According to the Bible, there are numerous ways to sharpen our spiritual edge. Maybe the best know passage is Proverbs 27:17, which tells us that “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Brothers and sisters in Christ are essential for our growth. Psalm 1 provides the most important way to be sharpened: delighting and meditating daily on God’s Word.

Meditating daily on God’s Word

Psalm 1:1-2 says, “Blessed is the man who…delights in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:3 provides three illustrations, or outcomes, of being sharpened by God’s Word. The Psalmist states that the person who delights in the Word of God and meditates on it day and night will be “like a tree firmly planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in its season,” will be like a tree whose “leaf does not wither,” and “will prosper in all that he does.”

I summarize the three outcomes using the words fruitful, strength, and prosperous. Let’s consider each briefly.

  1. Fruitful

First, you will be a fruitful person when you delight in the Word of God. God’s Word is alive and active and it refines us into Jesus’ image. We are sharpened when we spend time in God’s Word. You know when you have been around these kinds of people because they are encouraging, refreshing, and nourishing. They help us grow. Their words are life giving. Their life is a model of Christian character. Spending time with them awakens, restores, and even convicts us. If you spend time in God’s Word, you will yield fruit. May there be more fruitful people!

  1. Strong

Second, you will be a strong person if you delight and meditate on God’s Word day and night. The Psalmist says, “Your leaf will not wither.” Leaves wither because of a lack of water. When there is a drought, if a tree is not planted by a stream, it will wither and possibly die. At a minimum, a tree without water will not produce fruit. Your leaf will remain evergreen, in spite of heat and drought, if you meditate on God’s Word daily. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you can sharpen your skills, increase your abilities, or develop your gifts and talents through your own effort. Transformation is the work of God, which is why change happens when we spend time in God’s Word. The Spirit of God works through the Word of God to transform us. If you draw your strength from God in His Word, then difficult seasons will not limit your fruit bearing capacity because your roots will run deep. May we find our strength and nourishment from God in His Word.

  1. Prosperous

The Psalmist tells us that “whatever he does, he prospers.” The prosperity Gospel uses this verse to suggest that if we do certain things, our marriage will be healthy, our business will produce great profits, and life will be good. This passage is not God’s version of habits for highly effective people. Psalm 1:4-5 makes a reference to eternity and says that wicked people will be blown away like chaff and unable to stand in judgment. God’s view of prosperity is an eternal view, not a materialistic view. While there may be prosperity in this life, God’s true measuring stick is what happens at the judgment and what lasts for eternity. The Psalmist tells us that the words and deeds of the wicked will be swept away. They are like chaff. They may have accumulated much wealth and fame, but from an eternal perspective their accomplishments are not considered prosperous. These people will stand before Jesus in judgment and learn that they wasted their life. On the other hand, those who delight in God’s Word will flourish and the fruit they bear will make a difference eternally. 

Abraham Lincoln once said, “If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.” If you want to build a home, strengthen a marriage, restore a relationship, or make an eternal impact then sharpen your spiritual edge by spending time in God’s Word. 

Christian, if you are not spending time daily in God’s Word, then you are like the first lumberjack who gets up, goes about his business, and heads straight to the woods with a dull axe. We tell ourselves that we are busy and that we have a lot of work to do. While we punch a few things off our to-do list quickly, in the long run, our spiritual impact will be limited and suffer.

I’m impact hungry and my guess is that you are as well. No one wants to waste his or her life. I want to make a difference in my home and in this world for Christ. Ecclesiastes reminds us that before we start chopping, our edge needs sharpening. That happens as we spend time in God’s Word. May you sharpen your axe today.