James agrees. In James 1:13-14, he says, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God can’t be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed”.
There then seems some confusion. Let’s look at the Greek word peirasmos used for this word temptation. It can mean “enticement to sin” or it can mean “test” or “trial”. Today, the word temptation often refers to an enticement to sin. That is what James is referring to in 1:13-14. However, James uses it in the latter sense also. In James 1:2-3, he says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
Tests or trials can also tempt us to sin. When we are in a painful circumstance, we doubt God’s goodness. When we are tested by persecution, abuse, or misunderstanding from others, we can be tempted to grow bitter and resentful.
Can God lead us into a place where we are enticed to sin? Absolutely. Look at the story of Jesus when He encounters Satan in the wilderness. Satan set up three temptations to entice Jesus, though of course he was unsuccessful. Matthew 4:1 tells us as plain as day. “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” The Spirit obviously didn’t put Jesus into a situation to cause Him to sin. But evidently, whether in the sense of trial or enticement to sin, God can use these situations for His glory and for our good. Here are a few ways that He can do this:
First, the Bible tells us that God can use temptation to reveal what is in our hearts. Temptation is a test of character. God tested Abraham with His command to sacrifice his son Isaac. (Genesis 22:1-14). Abraham resisted the temptation to disobey. God commended him, and gave him a great promise in vs 15-18)
Second, David was tempted by the sight of Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11. Unfortunately, he played out his temptation and committed adultery and murder. David failed the test with tragic consequences, but he later learned important lessons about his own sinfulness.
Third, King Saul was tempted several times and failed. (1 Samuel 13:1-15, 22,28) These temptations revealed Saul’s character to be deeply stained with selfishness. Unfortunately, he was not repentant. God used Saul’s life to show His nation God’s justice and wisdom in judging Saul and removing him from the throne.
Fourth, every time we say “no” to temptation, our commitment to God and our ability to resist evil is strengthened. 1 Timothy 4:7 says, “Train yourself to be godly”. This compares the process of physical training to spiritual training. Physical muscles grow with exercise, and the muscle of your “will” is strengthened by exercise in doing right.
Fifth, God allows temptation so that we can provide an example for others and a witness of God’s grace. Job is a great example. Though Satan brought adversity on Job in the hope that he would defy God to His face (Job 1:9-11), Job resisted temptation. Instead, he provided all of us a role model of how to deal with suffering. That’s where the phrase, “he had the patience of Job” comes from.
So all of these potentially good things about temptation are fine. But then we are left with the glaring question:
If such testing can be for our good, then why would Jesus have us pray to escape it?
We’ll discuss that next week!