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Skim away the dross

Take away the dross from the silver, and there comes out a vessel for the smith. Proverbs 25:4

I was reading Proverbs 25 recently and paused on verse 4: “Take away the dross from the silver, and there comes out a vessel for the smith.” I asked the Lord to remove any dross that might be present in my life…and then I got nervous for a couple of reasons.

First, dross is made up of impurities —non-silver particles that mar the value of silver. In my life, dross is anything I’m involved with or putting up with that’s not pleasing to the Lord—and I realized that I may have more dross tucked away than I bargained for! Was I really prepared for all the minor—and major—overhauls this dross-removal prayer may have initiated?

Second, the way in which those impurities are removed from silver is to super-heat the metal until it is molten hot. Only then can the dross be skimmed off the top.  Did I really want to undergo the fiery crucible indicated by this verse to remove soulish impurities from my life?

I read further in the Proverb as I pondered this, and I noticed several instructions and warnings. And it dawned on me—many of these were dross-removing instructions! If I followed them, the dross would skim right off. And as for the warnings—they were perfect dross-identifiers. I didn’t need to undergo fiery trials to remove the dross from my life—I merely needed to heed the Word.

I found the warnings—dross-identifiers—extremely helpful and eye-opening. Here are some:

Do not reveal the secret of another (vs. 9). Don’t open the door to trouble by telling someone’s secret to others. If you are a secret-blabber, you need to get busy with dross-skimming.

Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of his gifts falsely (vs. 14). If you try to build yourself up in the eyes of others by stretching the truth about your gifts, talents, abilities, or accomplishments, you have some dross to get rid of.

Like a club and a sword and a sharp arrow is a man who bears false witness against his neighbor (vs. 18). If you lie about someone…or stretch the truth to make them look worse than they are, you’ve got dross. You can’t be a pure vessel until it’s dealt with. This means you need to repent of it and ask for forgiveness from God. In turn, He will likely tell you to apologize to the one you lied to AND the one you lied about.

Like a bad tooth and an unsteady foot is confidence in a faithless man in time of trouble (vs. 19). Follow through with your commitments to others…including those who have no ability to enhance your resume. When you are untrustworthy or unfaithful to your word, you have some undealt with dross marring the purity of your integrity.

Like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar on soda is he who sings songs to a troubled heart (vs. 20). As well-intended as your cheery songs may be, someone who is going through difficulties may view your upbeat treatment as a curse rather than a blessing. “Well, I just don’t want them to go around in the dumps,” you may say; but if you’re not sensitive to the Holy Spirit in the situation, you may find that your “ministry” is more self-serving than it is other-serving. If others tend to wince at your upbeat input when they are going through troubles, make sure that what you’re offering isn’t just a bit of dross you’ve pulled out as a bandage so you don’t have to deal more directly with their pain. This isn’t an easy impurity to identify in ourselves, but it’s certainly a hindrance to Christ-directed ministry.

Like a trampled spring and a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked (vs. 26). One type of impurity comes in the form of the fear of man. When you and I give way before the wicked—when we recognize wicked actions or attitudes overtaking boundaries set by God and do or say nothing about it—we have become like a trampled spring and a polluted well. How can we offer the pure water of life when we yield to the standards of wickedness set up to bring those we want to help into bondage? Are we willing to take a stand when it is unpopular to do so? Lord, help us.

It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glory to search out one’s own glory (vs. 27). When you search out your own glory, you tend to turn conversations back to yourself, your accomplishments, your blessings, and how God’s used you. Another verse takes it further: Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips (Proverbs 27:2). If you find yourself turning every get together into a showcase of how great (wise, spiritual, insightful, gifted, giving, ad nauseam) you are, chances are good that you’ve got some dross-skimming to do.

Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his own spirit (vs. 28). We all get annoyed at times. We all feel disappointed every now and then. Many of us have gone through a season or two in our lives when nothing goes right and storm clouds seem to hang over our souls. But if we lose utter control in the face of these things, we become like a city without protective walls. The good news is this: Even our own bad responses to trials can be treated as dross to be skimmed off and thrown away. Here’s how: Through all the messes, aggravations, disappointments, rejections and dashed dreams, you know there is an anchor. You know there is a Rock. You know there is a tower to which you can run and be safe. And knowing this—focusing on this—will bring stability to you when annoyances, disappointments, rejection, loss, or dashed dreams loom large. When your life seems to be going nowhere fast—or utterly falling apart—and you feel like you’re about to lose control, prepare to skim that dross by just saying to God, “I have no idea how You’ll fix this, but I know You are my anchor and my rock. I choose to run to You instead of losing control of my behavior or my mind right now. In You I find safety, relief, and comfort.” As you fix your attention on His ability and loving care, stability will start guarding your heart and will direct you in the way of peace.

The take away is clear: You don’t have to go through a gut-wrenching trial to remove the dross from the silver. All that’s required is for you to allow God to teach you from His Word, granting Him permission to meddle in your life, attitudes, and behaviors. He’ll show you the dross if you’re willing to see it, and He’ll lead you in the simplicity of skimming it off, once and for all.

If you wait for the fiery trials of life before you deal with issues, you are not only short-changing your growth, but you are also a fiery trial waiting to happen! Skim the impurities away nowas you become aware of them—and you will find you’ve become a vessel for the smith!


Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. 2 Timothy 2:21