“Trusting in a treacherous man in time of trouble is like a bad tooth or a foot that slips.”
There are three elements in this proverb:
- Unfaithful people who cannot be trusted when adversity strikes.
- Times of trouble when character and trustworthiness are put to the test.
- Foolish people who unwisely put their confidence in untrustworthy people in times of trouble.
The combination results in disappointment and disaster. An already difficult situation is made worse.
To make its point, the proverb use the analogy of poorly functioning body parts. When trouble arises, an unreliable or unfaithful person is like a poorly functioning part of the body. Just as a bad tooth will let you down and hurt when you are trying to eat, or an unstable foot makes you unsteady when you walk, so also will a treacherous person betray you in a time of trouble. The comparison challenges you to think about the character of your associates and evaluate whether they will help or hurt when you run into difficult or challenging situations.
A broken tooth or a foot out of joint is painful, dysfunctional, and irritating. Trusting an unfaithful person when you really need him/her 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?
Faithful people are hard to find, even though many will say they are faithful (Proverbs 20:6; Psalm 12:1). Fair weather friends and people with little integrity, fearful hearts, and selfish interests are common. True friends are born for adversity, and they will never disappoint you in time of trouble. However, they are hard to find and keep (Proverbs 17:17; 18:24; 27:10).
The fear of the Lord is the criterion by which to find faithful people. These are the kind of men God told Moses and David would make good rulers (Exodus 18:21; II Samuel 23:3). Jehoshaphat appointed such men to be judges (2 Chronicles 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 people. 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 and denied by Peter. Aaron compromised horribly while Moses was on the mount of God (Exodus 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 are faithful in times of trouble (Proverbs 17:17; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). Wise people study the book of Proverbs and learn to discern who are faithful friends and who are pseudo-friends. They have the discipline to avoid fools that will cause them grief and let them down in time of trouble (Proverbs 9:6; 13:20; 14:7). They choose as friends those who fear God and keep his commandments (Psalm 101:6; 119:63,79,115; Titus 1:8).
Choose your friends wisely, and be a faithful friend to the friends you choose.