If you have ever had a broken tooth, an abscess, or a truly miserable toothache, you know how miserable that one tiny tooth can make your entire body! It gets to throbbing, and the nerve pain just doesn't seem to let up. The tiny tooth begins to affect how you think, respond, and even what you will allow into your body. You begin to chew on one side, eat softer foods, avoid hot or cold, or even avoid eating all together. One tooth - so much influence! In most circumstances, you bite into something and never expect to experience any discomfort at all. You place your confidence in your teeth working as they should - especially when you are hungry and want a good meal! What if all of a sudden, without warning, one tooth became unreliable? Not only would you be caught off-guard by it, but you might even feel a little cheated because you were counting on those teeth being there to aid you in your time of hunger!
Putting confidence in an unreliable person in times of trouble is like chewing with a broken tooth or walking on a lame foot. (Proverbs 25:19 NLT)
It isn't your tooth that betrayed you, it is likely the bacteria which invaded a small crack in your enamel, or the lack of attention your paid to taking care of that tiny crevice which harbored all kinds of decaying germs. When I was a little girl, dentists came to our elementary school armed with toothbrushes, toothpaste, and little red sugar tablets. After we all brushed with our shiny new toothbrushes, we were to chew up our little sugar pills. We then marched up to a mirror and the dentist revealed how "unreliable" our brushing had been in destroying all the "germy" places in our mouths. The red tablets would adhere to the plaque or film left behind and it allowed us to see all the spots we missed. The purpose - to get us to pay attention to our teeth!
Our writer wants us to consider how "unreliable" our confidence may be when we place it in someone not "vested" in our positive outcomes in life. My teeth are not particularly interested in how well I take care of them, but I am very interested in how well they take care of ME! So, my inattention to the details costs me - sometimes with a little pain, at others with the need for a lot more dental work, pain, and expense than I might want! Being reliant upon an untrustworthy or unreliable person is like counting on your teeth to be the ones reminding you to take care of them regularly! There is just no real motivator for the unreliable friend to ensure a positive outcome for you - they are really not "vested" in your life.
It is hard to depend on another - especially when dependence requires you taking the first step to rely upon their trustworthiness. Trust must be established - it is foolish to just put yourself out there and hope the other individual will be there to catch you. Trust comes over time. When times of trouble come, I want someone who has been there alongside me and proven themselves trustworthy, don't you? When my kids were growing up, I used to tell them (and still do occasionally) - friends can be of a couple different types, with some being just "fair weather" and others "tested and true". The fair weather ones are there for the "good stuff" you get to do together and what they can "take" from the relationship. The tested and true ones are there when the good AND the bad happens, not really focused on what they can "take" as much as what they can "give" into the relationship.
We need to be the type of friend who is there, regardless of what advantages we get out of a relationship. We are not there for the "take", but the "give". When we become this type of friend to another, trust me, God will bring that type of friendship in return into our lives. It may not be easy at first to figure out who we can rely upon and those we really cannot put much stock in, but in time, the relationship is put to the test. When the test reveals the reliability of the relationship - hold onto it, cultivate it, and let it grow! You will be truly blessed to have such a companion in this life. Just sayin!