The Bible’s Contradiction-Free Take on Temptation

Is there a contradiction in the Bible when it comes to temptation?

Generally, people think of Job when they think of God allowing someone to be tempted. After all, God actually gave permission to Satan to tempt Job (Job 1:11-12). Even if it was Satan who carried it out, God’s permission was the initial source of the temptation.

Then you also have:

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

The italicized section implies God will let you be tempted; it’ll just be of the “bearable” variety. ;)

The contradiction comes when you read:

James 1:13 (NIV)
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;

Translation: God does not tempt anyone.

So what’s the scoop?

The contradiction can be cleared up pretty easily by understanding the different uses of the word “tempt.”

Specifically, we’re going to look at the different forms of the Greek word peirazo. All Bible references below are based on the word peirazo.

The Bad Kind of Tempt (Peirazo)

  • to test maliciously (Matthew 22:18; John 8:6)
  • to lead away from God (Matthew 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 3:5)

These definitions are all in line with the general connotation of the word tempt. It is an an enticement towards sin/evil and away from the good stuff of God. It’s the perfect description and why Satan is called “the tempter.”

However, in the Bible there is also another form of the word.

The Good Kind of Tempt (Peirazo)

  • “testing” or “proving by testing,” to determine the depth and integrity of one’s commitment to God (Hebrews 11:17 cf. Genesis 22:1)

The easiest differentiation here is that the word “tempt” would be better replaced with “test” or “trial.” Namely, a test or trial designed by God is for your own benefit.

They are good things. ;)

For example . . .

James 1:2 (NIV)
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,

The italicized word “trials” is peirasmos which is based off the root word periazo. Later on in that verse it goes on to talk about how these trials bring you to a point of maturity. This is the God-kind of tempt (peirazo).

So it’s important to understand that God does not tempt us towards evil or sin. He will tempt (i.e. test, try) us in order to make us better disciples of Jesus.

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Comments

  1. Kelli White says

    Hey Alex,
    What’s happenin dude? Long time no talk. :) I enjoyed your little post…thanks for putting it on Facebook!

    I think you’re right…people do get pretty confused by temptation and why God would allow it! Understanding why ANY sin is in the world is all found in Genesis when it did. God gave Adam and Eve and all of us, including Satan, free will.

    I think it’s important to believe in James 1:13. It says that God never tempts man. Whether we use the temptation for the GOOD reasons you mentioned..or the BAD reasons…he never tempts (peirazo) us. The devil tempts (peirazo) in every use of peirazo in the Bible. In your example of Matthew 4:1-11, Jesus was led by the Spirit to be tempted BY THE DEVIL. The Spirit allowed for it to happen but the tempting was done by the devil.

    In Deuteronomy 8:2; Deuteronomy 13:3….the word “tempt” isn’t used in the KJV. It’s not the word “peirazo”…it’s “nacah”. These are the only examples you give of God doing the tempting and it uses a different word. And the translations don’t use “tempt” either…they use “prove” and “test.” Probably for that very reason…so it isn’t confused with the tempting that Satan gives us. Even when we “glory in tribulations”, “count in joy to fall into divers temptations”….we are counting it joy because we know that God did NOT do that to us. James tells us that God does not do that. But it still brings us joy because we know that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us…including overcoming temptations cast upon us by Satan.

    It wasn’t in God’s plan for us to be tempted, but with the fall of man in the garden came God’s allowance of temptations. I believe whether good or bad comes from our trials…it breaks His heart that we have to endure them.

    Let’s heed to the advice of James and NEVER say that we are tempted of God. But when we are tempted by Satan, let’s rejoice in it and lean on God to help us overcome.

  2. Kelli White says

    Ha! I’m definitely no Bible scholar in the world’s view of the “scholar.” But I guess I am in the sense that I study the Bible. =P

    I actually read the article that you linked…only after I posted my comment. I think that James 1:2 is referring to the temptations that Satan puts before us…because it is the same word used as places where we know that Satan is doing the tempting. But even if it is just talking about the trials that come to us because of living as a Christian….I still would not be willing to say that it is God that is tempting us or God that is testing us. Our trials and tests come from Satan and the humans that Satan works through. God allows these things to happen and we have hope because of His promises! Praise God!! =D

    Also interesting I thought…the Old Testament is the only place that has scriptures that say that God did the testing. Perhaps he deals with us differently today since we have the promises of Jesus! ??

    I ought to go through and read more of your posts…looks like you stay pretty busy with this blogging stuff! :)

  3. Alex Tran says

    Alright Kelli, way to sharpen my Bible study sword. I updated the post with verses that actually use the word periazo.

    Thanks!

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