Should you put your trust in men? We often hear people talking about being trustworthy, of building trust, of making sure you hire people or have people in key positions that you can trust, but should we be trusting in man? Certainly not for salvation! But what about other things? Should husbands and wives trust each other? Should churches trust their leaders? When and if we should trust someone is something I have thought about a lot lately. If we place too much trust in men, and those men let us down, it can be very devastating and lead to bitterness, anger, depression, and fear. We count on certain people to be reliable, to have our backs, to do what is right. Sometimes those people we trust the most, fail us the most, sin against us, hurt us, and then we ask, “Should I have put my trust in them?” “Should I ever trust anyone again?” If we are supposed to place some trust in other people, how much trust is too much?
There is an interesting text at the end at the end of the second chapter of John's gospel that reads:
“Now when He [Jesus] was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” (Jn. 2:23–25)
Notice that even though men were believing in Jesus, He was not entrusting himself to them. Why? The end of vs. 25 tells us, "because he knew what was in man." What is in man? A sinful, deceitful, and incurably wicked heart (Jer. 17:9) that often goes astray (Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Psa. 58:3; Rom. 3:10-18). This side of heaven, all men have treacherous hearts. And though we receive “new hearts” at conversion, hearts that long for God, that can understand the truth with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, and desire to glorify God, they are still sin-cursed hearts. They are not “new” as in completely different, without sin. They are “new” in that they have new God-given capacities to love and obey God that they never had before. The Word of God can reprogram our hearts, but even after a lifetime of reprogramming, our hearts are still sin-cursed hearts.
What this means is that we are all capable of committing great evil. The Bible, as well as history, is replete with examples of sins that godly Christians have fallen into, having been lead astray by their deceitful hearts. The Bible is quite clear about the folly of placing our trust in men whose hearts are treacherous. Consider the texts below:
“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.” (Ps 118:8–9)
“Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Ps 146:3)
“He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered.” (Pr 28:26)
“Thus says the LORD, “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the LORD. “For he will be like a bush in the desert and will not see when prosperity comes, but will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, a land of salt without inhabitant.” (Je 17:5–6)
It is obvious that we shouldn't trust men for what God alone can supply e.g., salvation, sanctification, protection, provision, perfect reliability, faithfulness, etc. Yes, there are faithful, reliable, trustworthy people that we can place some trust in, but only a trust that is willing to accept them as who they are, mere men with sin-cursed hearts, that at any moment may commit great evil. We can trust others knowing they may fail us, sin against us, betray us, and do us great harm. We should never expect them to be perfectly trustworthy.
Look at your own heart. Is there evil in your heart? Do you ever have unholy lusts, coveting, anger, bitterness, vengeance, selfishness, and a host of other wicked thoughts (Mk. 7:21-23)? I know the answer, “Yes!” Do you live every moment of every day loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength? I know the answer to that question too, “No!” Even though the Bible tells us that God’s grace is sufficient (Jn. 1:16; II Cor. 9:8), that the Word of God is sufficient (II Tim. 3:16-17; II Pet. 1:3-4), that there is always a way of escape so we never have to sin (I Cor. 10:13), we sin every day to one degree or another (I Jn. 1:8-10). We are what theologians like to call, “totally depraved.” Total depravity does not mean we are as wicked as we can be, but what it does mean is that sin and the curse have affected every part or the totality of our being.
Even the godliest people sin. Abraham, out of fear, lied about Sarah and let another man take her as his wife—twice (Gen 12:10-13; 20:2)! Moses, who the Scriptures describe as the most humble man on the face of the earth, in a fit of anger and pride, disobeyed the Lord and struck the rock twice as if he was bringing forth the water from the rock by his own might and power (Num. 12:3; 20:9-12). David, a man after God’s own heart, the sweet psalmist of Israel, lied, deceived, committed adultery, and murder (II Sam. 11). The leader among the Apostles, Peter, fell into hypocrisy and legalism (Gal. 2:11-14). Paul laments the fact that he lives in a sin-cursed body and has a sin-cursed heart in Rom. 7:14-25. He says the things he desires to do for the Lord he often does not do, but ends up doing the very things he hates. In other words, the Apostle Paul couldn’t help it; he kept on sinning.
The examples given above are just a small sampling to prove the point that even the godly are at any given time, moments away from committing great evil. If we went outside the pages of Scripture the examples of godly men and women who have sinned greatly could not be counted. We must keep this in mind as we trust one another. As we trust other sinners, we must realize that we all have sin-cursed hearts, and we are at any given moment on the verge of committing great evil against one another. Knowing our propensity to sin should make us humble and dependent upon the Lord.
When people fail us, and they will, just as we will fail others, we must keep things in biblical perspective. Sin-cursed mankind is only partially reliable and trustworthy. The police, government, our spouses, pastors, doctors, etc., are only partially reliable. We don’t want those we trust the most to sin against us, but if they do we only need to look at our own sin-cursed hearts to understand why. This is why the Bible condemns putting an absolute or complete trust in human beings. It is folly to do so for sooner or later they may let us down and sin against us, even in horrible ways.
It is true that the more we trust people, the greater opportunity we give them to hurt us. However if we need perfect faithfulness, reliability, and trustworthiness, God is the only one who can meet up to those exacting standards. For salvation, for sanctification, for hope for the future, perfect protection, answers to our prayers, and peace, we can only place that ultimate kind of trust in a God who never fails.
“The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.” (Dt 32:4)
“O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; for You have worked wonders, plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.” (Is 25:1)
Arthur A. Luther had it right when he wrote:
Earthly friends may prove untrue, doubts and fears assail; One still loves and cares for you, one who will not fail.
Tho’ the sky be dark and drear, fierce and strong the gale, just remember He is near, and He will not fail.
In life’s dark and bitter hour love will still prevail. Trust His everlasting pow’r—Jesus will not fail.
Jesus never fails; heav’n and earth may pass away, but Jesus never fails.
 Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996), 215.