“Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint” (Proverbs 25:19).
Maybe we have had a broken tooth or a strained ankle in the past, so we know just how painful it can be. Solomon, with a bit of humour, describes what an unfaithful person can be like in a community of believers. One broken tooth can make the whole set useless. Walking with a sprained foot hinders our progress. So an unfaithful person is no blessing or support to a church.
The comparison between a painful tooth or joint and an undependable person is very apt, for he or she can be a ‘pain in the neck’ to those who desire to go on with the Lord and see the church grow. An unfaithful person cannot be relied upon in times of trouble but in fact often add to the difficulties. What help are they going to be to us in the future when Christians are persecuted for their faith? How could we depend upon them to assist us? It would be sheer madness to put confidence in an undependable person. If we do, we are asking for trouble. Isaiah describes this as leaning on a “broken reed” only to find that it pierces the hand (Isaiah 36:6).
As individual members of the church, our duty and obligation is not primarily towards the pastor or others but to God. “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Romans 12:5). So if we are unfaithful to the church, we are in reality unfaithful to God, for it is He to whom we must give an account of our lives. Faithful service to His cause is an obligation rather than personal choice. Those called to the ministry find that there is no middle ground between faithfulness and unfaithfulness. That diligence in service is not just a requirement for pastors or preachers though. “And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:11-12).
The mention of the need of faithfulness makes us realise that God has called us to obedience and steadfastness. If we are not faithful in our calling, then we as useful as a broken tooth or a twisted ankle. In the Old Testament a priest must not be “brokenfooted, or brokenhanded” (Leviticus 21:19). God declared such blemishes unacceptable in the one serving Him. Solomon uses the same thought to describe an unfaithful person. Maybe this is another level of understanding that helps us see Paul’s exhortation in Romans 12:1-2; “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
We live in an age when believers hardly think through the issues relating to faithfulness in service. On the contrary, the norm has become to think of self and one’s place in the world. This modern approach to Christian living would be foreign to the first century church. Their desire was not to deviate from the truths of God’s word. They wanted to be holy in their every day lives. They knew that faithful service was required to be acceptable to God, for indeed it was His will. Nowadays, instead of following Christ, countless believers are copying the lives of the unregenerate, and unbelievably they think they can get away with it. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:7-10).
So have we truly presented ourselves to God as a living sacrifice? Are we committed in service to Him and His church? If not, we are as useful as a broken tooth or a sprained foot. To be faithful we must not deviate from serving God to accommodate the flesh. Every thought, word and deed must be crucified. You expect the pastor to be in church on Sunday instead of having a day out in the sunshine, so you ought to be there too. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is” (Hebrews 10:25).
Our aim must is to be faithful in every aspect of our lives. This includes the part we play within the church. We let the fellowship down through being unfaithful and absent. This in turn causes the faithful ones to have no confidence in us. Since every member makes the church what it is, unfaithfulness produces a weak and limping church. Surely none of want to be the ‘broken tooth’ or ‘twisted ankle’ member of the body of Christ! Let us not only aim at but determine to be faithful in service. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).