The bible says that God does not tempt anyone (see James 1:13). Yet, Jesus includes “lead us not into temptation” when teaching His disciples how to pray to God (see Matthew 6:9 – 13). So what then is Jesus saying? Is He saying that God allows us to undergo temptation…or leads us into temptation? While it is certainly implied in The Lord’s Prayer, the proof can be found in the gospel of Matthew where it states:
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” – Matthew 4:1
Jesus being specifically led into the wilderness to be tempted tells us that God (the Holy Spirit) does allow us to be tempted. It sounds crazy until we take a look at what the temptation that God allows looks like.
First, the temptation did not occur till Jesus was well prepared. See, Jesus had just undergone spiritual calisthenics (fasting) and so was buff and ready to swat away any temptations the devil would levy against Him. Likewise, God does not allow us to be tempted without readying us and giving us the tools to handle the temptations that come our way. So does that then mean that God allows us to be tempted to test our spiritual maturity and our readiness to handle what He has for us? Absolutely! Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted to gauge His level of readiness for the ministry to which God called Him. We know this because the temptation occurred before He ever started preaching.
“From that time, Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”” – Matthew 4:17
Jesus passed the test in the wilderness and so moved on to the ministry which eventually led to salvation for all humanity and His glorification.
Light-bulb moment: Many are called but few are indeed chosen because we keep failing the test that God levies on us to see if we are ready. In the process, we miss out on the glory (honor, distinction, prosperity) that God wants to shower on us.
Thus, while all temptation comes from Satan, God allows us to be led into some temptations to test our readiness for His goodness.
Second, the temptation that God allows will not be more than we can withstand.
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13
Therefore, God makes a way out for the temptations He allows through His grace; we just need to follow it. When Jesus foiled Satan’s plan, the angels ministered to Him, and He left the wilderness. He was ready!
Temptation we allow
But now, there are those temptations into which we lead ourselves. These are not of God and these are no good for us. This is what happened in the garden! What I have always wondered is this: Why of all the places to hang-out in the garden were Adam and Eve anywhere close to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; why were they hanging about the forbidden fruit in the first place?
Just like Adam and Eve, we tend to willingly put ourselves in situations God would not have us be a part, all the while using every reason, excuse, and rationale to justify our behavior. To illustrate this, imagine a recovering alcoholic who deliberately steps into a wine bar to get away from the rain outside. When asked why he stepped into the bar, the excuse is instant – to get away from the rain. When asked why not choose an adjacent store, again the justification is instant – the bar was the closest. All the while, Satan is laughing all the way to the bank to deposit a “slip” into the account of the man who ended up having a few too many harmless “samples” from which he ought to have stayed away.
For the man described, the act of going into the bar iteself was an act of disobedience because the man did not abstain from every appearance of evil (see 1 Thessalonians 5:22) – for the bar was his evil. He was disobedient to the word of God, and so it was not God that led him to be tempted…he led himself. In this situation, we are simply reliant on God’s mercy to pull us through.
In summary, we have to be prepared to swat away the devil by keeping ourselves battle ready through renewing our minds, our fasting, and our prayer. We also have to make sure we are being obedient and so do not lead ourselves into temptation.
When we do the above, we find that what the bible says holds true:
“…he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him” – 1 John 5:18
Food for thought: If you look too long at the apple, you will eventually take a bite.