Question: "Why is the man who trusts in man cursed (Jeremiah 17:5)?"
Answer: One of Jeremiah’s persistent themes is contrasting those who trust in human resources and those who put their confidence in the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:5–8, ESV).
“The man who trusts in man” is the person who rejects God and relies on his own strength and ingenuity or who looks to other people for help and rescue. Such a person is cursed with a dried-up, empty life. He is destined to experience hardship, distress, and eventual death. Conversely, the person who trusts in the Lord is richly blessed. This individual thrives, grows, and prospers, even in the heat of challenging circumstances.
In Jeremiah’s day, the nation’s leaders were trusting in man—their political allies—and leaning on “the arm of the flesh” (2 Chronicles 32:8). Borrowing from the wisdom in Psalm 1:3–4, Jeremiah likens those who trust in God to flourishing, well-watered trees. His warning not to trust in human resources echoes Psalm 146:3: “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.” Judah’s unbelief and rejection of the Lord would turn their lives and their land into a desert wasteland, but faith and trust in God would establish them as a firmly planted, thriving woodland.
Complete dependence on God was essential to Israel’s covenant agreement with Yahweh (Deuteronomy 28:1–68; Psalm 20:7; Proverbs 3:5–6; Isaiah 31:1). God had promised blessings for those who trusted and obeyed Him and curses for those who rejected and disobeyed Him. But the Jewish people and their leaders were known for turning their hearts away from the Lord and trusting in man (Isaiah 2:22; 30:1). Time and time again, Israel’s self-reliance and trust in man had ended in disaster (Numbers 14:40–45; Hosea 8:1–14; Amos 6:8).
God alone is worthy of our trust (Psalm 28:7; 56:4; 91:1–16; 118:8). Fearing people is “a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety” (Proverbs 29:25, NLT). It’s impossible to safely navigate the issues of this life relying on our own resources. For this reason, Solomon advised, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones” (Proverbs 3:5–8, NLT).
In the matter of our eternal salvation, God rewards faith. Those who trust in the Lord are blessed with His salvation, but those who trust in man are cursed and destined to miss eternity in heaven (Isaiah 43:11; Acts 4:12). There is absolutely no room for trusting in man in God’s plan of salvation (Psalm 60:11; 108:12; John 15:5; Romans 6:23). If we misplace our dependency—trusting in self or other people—we forfeit the extraordinary relationship God has planned for us with Him (Isaiah 40:31; Romans 3:27; Ephesians 1:3; 2:8–9).
When God created us, He designed us to live in intimate, trusting fellowship with Him (John 3:16–17; Matthew 11:28–30; 1 Corinthians 1:9). True believers are “planted in Christ.” He is our fountain of “living water” springing up to eternal life (John 4:10–14). Our relationship with Jesus involves total, lifelong reliance on Him to meet our needs (Psalm 23; Philippians 4:19).
The man who trusts in man is cursed because relying on human power or one’s own resources will result in negative consequences in this life and eventually eternal death (Proverbs 14:12). But those who trust in the Lord are blessed all their days with His love, care, peace, protection, guidance, provision, and the exceedingly great hope of eternal life (Isaiah 43:2; 26:3; Nahum 1:7; Psalm 28:7; 1 Peter 1:3–12).