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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