The Journal of Biblical Accuracy

Temptation: does God test us with evil? (PDF) PDF version

Temptation: does God test us with evil?

Starting with this article, I would like to deal with temptation, its sources and the way to face it. By temptation here I mean the traps and plots that have, in one way or another as purpose to uproot somebody from the faith or to render him “inactive”, fruitless. The trials therefore to which this article refers are plots against the faith. These are not tests done with good intentions, to check and improve the one that receives the test, like the tests the teachers give to their pupils and the parents to their children. In contrast, the temptations, the trials we are referring to in this article are traps whose purpose is the destruction of the one that falls in them.

Why do I say the above? Because there are many that throw into the same bucket all (bad intentioned and good intentioned) trials and they attribute all of them, without any distinction, to God! Thus, according to this view: did somebody have a car accident? The Lord tries him! Is somebody persecuted for his faith? The Lord tries him. Did somebody fell into a trap because of his fleshly desires? Again the Lord tries him and put this in his way! This view is entirely unbiblical and therefore unacceptable. It has also resulted in defaming the One who “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16) and in blaming Him for any trial and temptation that may come across our path. Who really wants to have a relationship with such a supposedly contradictory God, who, on the one hand, gives His Son for the people and on the other He tempts with various evil things the very same people whom He supposedly so much loves? But contradictory and bizarre are these views and not God, as He is revealed in the Bible, which very clearly tells us:

James 1:13
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.

How many does God tempt with evil? What does the Bible, His Word, tells us? NO ONE!

Does God test His people? Yes but not with evil. Instead He tests us as a teacher tests his pupils and as a parent his children. See for example the following test of Jesus to Philip, one of the 12:

“Then Jesus lifted up his eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” But this he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.”

Jesus didn’t ask Philip because he didn’t know the answer. Instead he asked him to test him through this question. The Greek word translated as “test” here is the same Greek word that almost everywhere else is translated as “tempt”. But obviously this was not a temptation as such. Instead it was a test like a teacher, as Jesus is, would give to his disciples. He would ask them something, not necessarily because he doesn’t know the answer but because he wants to find out whether they know it! It is a test that is done with good intentions and not a trial whose purpose is to harm. Such tests, parent to child and teacher to pupil type of tests are the tests that God gives to us. By the way, as it is obvious from the answers, Philip and Andrew didn’t pass the test.

Anastasios Kioulachoglou