What is the difference between temptation and testing? Can a test also be a temptation? Can a temptation also be a test? How can a test become an avenue for spiritual growth? How can a temptation to sin become an avenue for spiritual growth? Does God lead us into testing? Does God lead us into temptation?
“And lead us not into temptation” (Matthew 6:13a). Does this imply He does? Does it also mean He will keep us from temptation if we ask? Why would He deliberately lead His children into temptation? So what is the answer: Yes, No and Maybe. It all depends on how you define “lead” and “temptation.” Theologians and scholars have debated these words since Jesus first said them.
The Greek word translated “temptation” has two basic meanings. It is a neutral term, but can mean something positive or something negative. It can refer to something that brings good results, and then it is translated “trial” or “testing.” God can use a difficult situation to stretch our faith and cause us to grow closer to Him. Or it can refer to something seduces or lures someone to sin, and then it is translated “temptation.” So it can refer to a difficult test or a solicitation to sin.
Sometimes it is used both ways in the same passage. James 1:12 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers when you face trials of many kinds.” This is the same word Jesus uses in the Lord’s Prayer. James goes on to tell them to rejoice when this happens because God uses it for good in life (James 1:2-12). God is saying that trials and difficulties are used to produce spiritual maturity in us.
However in James 1:13 the same word is used in a very different way. “When you are tempted to do evil no one should say ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.” This clearly is referring to solicitation to evil and stands that God does not entice or lure anyone to sin. God will not do that. Sometimes we may feel ‘forced’ by circumstances to sin, but that is our choice and never God’s forcing us. We still have a choice as to how we will respond. God never, never, never sets up to fail. He is holy and he is love.
So the answer to our question is clear – God in no way is responsible for our sin. The blame is all ours. When we pray “Lead us not into temptation” we are not implying that He would put us in a position where we have no choice but to sin. We cannot blame God in any way for our sin. It is ours alone.
Take a few moments to think about your sin. Do you somehow lessen your responsibility by putting blame on others or circumstances? That is implicating God for you are saying He allowed these things to pressure you into sin. Take full, total, complete responsibility for your own sin. Confess it. Remove it. Ask for His help in having victory over it.
(Written by Jerry Schmoyer, 2014. You can find more of his writings at http://www.christiantrainingonline.org/. If you have questions or suggestions feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org)