Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel had a song they sang called I am a Rock. The song is about a man who has been hurt in a relationship and decides he is no longer going to allow himself to be hurt again. Most of us have probably had the experience of being let down by another person. Sometimes these events cause really deep pain. And we can be tempted to take the same route as the character in Paul Simon’s song. We can close ourselves off from everyone.
So perhaps we can understand the message in today’s first reading. “Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings.” Is it that Jeremiah is suggesting we should all be like the character in Paul Simon’s song? No. So what is it that Jeremiah is trying to tell us by suggesting the man who trusts in human beings is cursed?
What Jeremiah is suggesting is that if we think we can live a fulfilling life by only trusting in human beings, we will be let down. And if we think about relationships, there is only one relationship we can have that will never let us down, and that is our relationship with God. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD.”
Now it is the case we can trust both in God and in others. But which relationship proves more trustworthy? Which relationship is more primary? For that is the ultimate point Jeremiah is making. When our primary trust is placed in our relationship with God, then indeed we are blessed. And from that trusting relationship comes the rest of our relationships. When the order of our relationships is grounded in our relationship with Jesus, then indeed our relationships are in the right order.
It is also the case that when we are first concerned with trusting God, then we find ourselves able to withstand the loss of a relationship or a betrayal by a friend. While it is not the case they no longer hurt, it can be the case that we find ourselves equipped with God’s grace in a way that helps us to know how to move on in life. Moreover, when we center our desire for relationships with God, we are also able to discern those relationships that lead to holiness and salvation.
Trusting only in humans and the things of this world describes perfectly how it is possible for one human being to ignore another. If we are only concerned about this world, then we are no better than the man who walks past Lazarus every day and ignores his needs. It is only when we turn our eyes toward heaven, to seek the things that are above that we can see the things God wants to give us.
And those blessings do not come from a fickle God. It is not the case ever that God teases us with his love. It is not the case that God loves us today, but then taunts us tomorrow. No, we can know that in our lives God is trustworthy and reliable. God is the source of all our blessings. Even when it appears God is asking something difficult of us, because of his love we can be certain that God knows good will come from the decision we make to follow him. But this type of trust demands that we have faith. Without faith, Lazarus is a poor beggar who simply makes me feel guilty or is out to steal my money. But with faith, Lazarus becomes the invitation God gives me to experience the gifts of a person made in the image and likeness of God. Trusting only in ourselves or in other humans leaves us ultimately alone and that is a special type of suffering. Trusting in God means we never find ourselves alone.