The prophet Jeremiah lived during a tumultuous time in the history of Israel. The kingdom was facing threats from powerful foreign empires and experiencing a spiritual decline marked by idolatry and social injustice. In this context, Jeremiah repeatedly called the people to turn away from sin and false gods and return to the Lord. One of his constant themes was that placing trust in human beings and human resources, rather than God, will ultimately lead to curse and ruin.
In Jeremiah 17:5, the prophet declares: “Thus says the LORD: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD.'” This verse succinctly states the spiritual danger of relying on human beings rather than God. When we put our ultimate trust in people, we are inevitably disappointed, because all humans are fallible and finite in their wisdom, power, and goodness. Trusting in human resources also reflects a heart that has turned away from God, the only sure and faithful object of hope. As Jeremiah states, those who turn from the Lord end up under a curse rather than a blessing.
There are several important reasons why trusting in man brings a curse:
- Humans are imperfect – They make mistakes, fail, disappoint, and even intentionally betray at times. Putting full confidence in any human being often leads to hurt and disillusionment (Ps. 118:8-9).
- Humans are limited – Even the wisest and most capable person has limited knowledge, strength, and ability to meet all of our needs. Ultimate trust belongs to God alone (Ps. 146:3-4).
- Humans die – Even the most powerful human helpers cannot give eternal aid. Trusting in mortals leaves us empty when they pass away (Ps. 49:6-9).
- Pride – When we overly trust in human wisdom or power, we begin to feel self-sufficient and proud, which alienates us from God (Prov. 3:5-7).
- Idolatry – Trusting in man puts humans in the place of God in our lives. It reflects the idolatry of worshipping the creature rather than the Creator (Jer. 2:11-13).
- Self-deception – Trusting in man often means trusting in our own wisdom and abilities to direct our lives. This is deceptive pride (Prov. 28:26).
- Frustration – Man will always let us down ultimately. Even the best human help still leaves us lacking what only God can provide (Isaiah 31:1-3).
In contrast to the curse of trusting in man, Jeremiah goes on in 17:7-8 to describe the blessing that comes to the one who trusts in the Lord. The person who trusts in God is described as a “tree planted by water” that remains strong even in drought. While human confidence always fails, hope in the Lord will never disappoint. God will give strength, stability, and genuine prosperity.
As New Testament believers, we can be thankful that Jesus Christ perfectly embodied the kind of faithful trust in God that Jeremiah commended. Christ relied fully on the Father during His earthly ministry, even to the point of death on the cross (Luke 23:46). When we put our faith in Christ as Savior and Lord, we do not ultimately put our trust in a mere human, but rather in the very Son of God (John 3:16-18). He is the one mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5).
However, Jeremiah’s warning remains valid today. While we trust in Christ, we must guard against transferring our functional trust and dependence to other people or human resources. As sinful people, we are prone to rely on our own abilities and strength, seek security in money and possessions, and crave the approval and direction of influential people. But Scripture calls us to find our strength, identity, security, and purpose in God alone through faith in Christ. We honor God by relying on His grace rather than trusting in our own wisdom and resources (Jer. 9:23-24).
In summary, the person who trusts in man is cursed because all human beings are untrustworthy objects of faith. When we rely on limited, imperfect, mortal creatures rather than the eternal, almighty Creator, we set ourselves up for disappointment and damage. True blessing only comes when we repent of misplaced trust and rely completely on the all-sufficient grace of God, fully revealed in Jesus Christ.
Key Bible Passages on Trusting in Man vs. Trusting in God
Here are some other key Bible verses that speak to the dangers of trusting in man and the blessings of trusting in the Lord:
Psalm 118:8-9 – It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.
Isaiah 2:22 – Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?
Proverbs 29:25 – The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.
Psalm 60:11 – Give us aid against the foe, for vain is the salvation of man!
Psalm 108:12 – Oh grant us help against the foe, for vain is the salvation of man!
Isaiah 31:1 – Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!
Psalm 62:5-8 – For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.
Psalm 20:7 – Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
Psalm 33:16-17 – The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue.
Psalm 9:19-20 – Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail; let the nations be judged before you! Put them in fear, O Lord! Let the nations know that they are but men!
These and many other passages remind us that human beings are never adequate objects of ultimate trust. While people can provide forms of temporary help or relief, our faith and hope must be rooted in the eternal, sovereign God who alone can fully save and deliver according to His perfect will and timing.
Examples of the Curse of Trusting in Man
The Bible contains many examples of people who experienced the curse Jeremiah warned about when they trusted in humans rather than God:
- Saul – Israel’s first king allowed fear of people to drive him to disobey God’s commands. This brought God’s curse on his kingship (1 Sam. 15).
- Kings of Israel – The rulers who trusted in foreign nations rather than the Lord brought destruction on the kingdom (2 Kings 16; Isaiah 30-31).
- Rich fool – Jesus told a parable of a man who trusted in his abundant crops and wealth, only to die and face judgment before God (Luke 12:13-21).
- Peter – When Peter relied confidently on his own zeal and abilities, he ended up denying Christ. He had to be restored and trust Christ alone (Luke 22:54-62).
- Israelites in the wilderness – When the people complained and put their hope in Egypt instead of God, they experienced His judgment (Numbers 11).
- Asa – A good king of Judah, Asa relied on human help from Syria rather than the Lord when threatened by Israel’s army. This brought war and hardship as a result (2 Chronicles 16).
Each example demonstrates how seeking security in human beings and resources brings frustration, disappointment, judgment, and pain. Only faith in God results in true help and blessing.
The Blessing of Trusting in the Lord
In contrast to the curse of trusting in man, there are abundant blessings promised for those who put their complete hope and reliance in God alone. For example:
- Guidance and direction for life (Prov. 3:5-6).
- Freedom from fear and anxiety (Ps. 112:7-8).
- Strength in times of hardship (Isa. 40:31).
- Provision of needs (Matt. 6:25-34).
- Confidence to face the future (Jer. 17:7-8).
- A resilient faith that endures (Isa. 26:3-4).
- Security of resting in God’s hands (Ps. 16:1).
- Receiving God’s favor and mercy (Ps. 32:10)
These blessings come to us because God alone is a sure and steadfast object of hope. He has supreme wisdom, infinite power, endless mercy, and perfect faithfulness to fulfill all His good promises. When we trust the Lord, even through difficult trials, He draws near to sustain and uphold us by His grace.
How to Avoid the Curse By Trusting in God
In light of the danger of trusting in man and the blessings of trusting in God, how can believers today avoid this curse and walk in God’s blessings? Here are some key steps:
- Repent of any misplaced trust – Confess ways you have relied on your own wisdom or other people rather than God.
- Commit to seek the Lord first – In all decisions and daily life, look to Him before human guidance (Matt. 6:33).
- Rely on God’s Word and Spirit – Let them guide you beyond all worldly advice. (Ps. 119:105; Rom. 8:14)
- Cultivate intimacy with Christ – Spend time daily in prayer, Scripture, and worship to know Him. (Phil. 3:8-10)
- Obey in faith – Step out to follow God’s commands relying on His power. (Jam. 1:22-25)
- Give Christ lordship – Surrender all of life to His leadership and control. (Luke 9:23-24)
- Renew your mind – Reject the world’s viewpoint through God’s truth. (Rom. 12:2)
- Wait on the Lord – Persevere seeking Him, trusting in His timing and ways. (Isa. 40:31)
As we walk closely with Jesus Christ, in humble reliance on the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, He will direct our steps and deepen our trust in the living God. Our confidence will rest securely in who He is and what He has faithfully promised (Isa. 26:4). Although human beings still fail us, God remains an anchor for our souls when we put our hope and trust in Him (Heb. 6:19).