Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.
A broken tooth or a foot out of joint is painful, dysfunctional, and irritating. You cannot chew or walk as you should. Running is out of the question! Trusting an unfaithful person when you really need him is just as painful, dysfunctional, and irritating. Do you have faithful friends? Are you a faithful friend? Do you know how to identify and keep them?
Here is a proverb with hidden lessons. The simile, a stated comparison by the word “like,” compares the pain and trouble of an unfaithful person to a broken tooth or a foot out of joint. The lessons are implied, without being expressly declared, for proverbs are dark or obscure sayings of the wise needing interpretation (Pr 1:8; John 16:29).
Faithful men are hard to find, even though many men will say they are faithful (Pr 20:6; Ps 12:1). Fair weather friends and men with little integrity, fearful hearts, and selfish interests are the norm. True friends are born for adversity, and they will never disappoint you in time of trouble, but they are very hard to find and keep (Pr 17:17; 18:24; 27:10).
There are three issues in this proverb that lead to seven lessons. There are unfaithful men, who do not fulfill their duties. There are times of trouble, when all men have their character put to the test. And there are those who imprudently put their confidence in an unfaithful man. The combination results in disappointment, failure, and trouble.
What are the seven lessons? (1) Unfaithful men cause pain and trouble. (2) They ruin the efforts and reputations of those trusting them. (3) They should be avoided as much as possible. (4) Times of trouble prove whether a man is faithful or not. (5) Wise men only put their confidence in faithful men. (6) Faithful men are identified by the fear of the Lord. (7) Are you a faithful man fearing the Lord and worthy of the confidence of others?
The fear of the Lord is the criterion by which to find faithful men. These are the kind of men God told Moses and David would make good rulers (Ex 18:21; II Sam 23:3). And Jehoshaphat appointed such men to be judges (II Chron 19:5-10). A man that fears God will do what is right, without regard for popularity, payoffs, or personal advantage.
The Bible describes unfaithful men. Job’s three friends were miserable comforters (Job 16:1-5), and his wife was worse (Job 2:9). David could not trust his nephew Joab or his sons. Jesus was betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, and forsaken by all His disciples. Aaron compromised horribly, while Moses was in the mount of God (Ex 32:1-6,21-28), and John Mark deserted Paul on his first evangelistic trip (Acts 13:13; 15:36-41).
True friends are a great blessing, and they gloriously fulfill their role in times of trouble (Pr 17:17; Eccl 4:9-12). Any society of men is only as great as its weakest link. Therefore, confidence of a group should never be put in an unfaithful man. Only the very qualified should ever be made leaders, teachers, or rulers (I Tim 3:1-13). The greatness of a man or a society of men depends on avoiding confidence in unfaithful men.
Wise men study the book of Proverbs and learn to discern faithful men, fools, scorners, and enemies. They take efforts to avoid fools that will cause them grief and let them down in time of trouble (Pr 9:6; 13:20; 14:7; Ps 101:3-8). They choose as friends only those that fear God and keep His commandments (Ps 101:6; 119:63,79,115; Titus 1:8).
Are you a faithful man yourself? Do you keep all your commitments? Are you always early to appointments? Do you avoid exaggeration? Do you fulfill your duties no matter how hard or expensive they might be? Is your word as good as gold? Do you finish tasks, even when you lose focus and pleasure in them? Are you there to help, when a friend needs you, even if they do not ask? Do you shy away from problems that will take work?
Do you pay bills on time? Do you communicate as soon as you know you cannot keep an obligation? Do you remember the little things you agreed to do? Do you make notes, if you have a weak memory or busy life? Is faithfulness more important to you than friendliness? If you are a talker, do you keep yourself from promises you cannot or will not keep? Do you do every job the right way and finish it to the satisfaction of others?
The church of Jesus Christ should provide your most faithful friends, for there you find those who fear the Lord, keep His commandments, and make choices by the Spirit. The bond is not mere friendship or family, but the blood of Christ. There you find those you can trust, and who will serve your best interests (Eph 4:16; I Thes 5:14; Heb 3:12-13).
There is only one truly faithful friend for any man or woman – the Lord Himself! He is a very present help in trouble (Ps 46:1). “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up” (Ps 27:10). “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16). “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man” (Ps 118:8).