Does God Tempt Us?
By Fin Sheridan
It’s the final part of our Lord’s Prayer mini-series! We’ve been going through the prayer that Jesus teaches in Matthew 6. We started with the audacious encouragement to call God our Father. Then we looked at what it means to ask for God’s will to be done. After that, we walked through the section asking God for his provision. Finally we got all inspired with 8 quotes about forgiveness.
The final part of the prayer ends like this: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” It’s a confusing thought: does God tempt us? If yes, then that presents some questions about who God is! If no, then why does Jesus say it?
James 1:13 says this: ‘When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.’ It doesn’t really get clearer than that: temptation does not come from God. In Jesus’ own example of temptation in the desert, it is very clearly the devil that comes to tempt him. We can be confident that God is not the source of temptation; he only beckons us to righteousness, never wrongdoing.
“As we pray “lead us not into temptation”, we are asking for God to show us and lead us on that ‘way out’.”
So what does Jesus mean by this part of the prayer? Well, the Christian life is a life of following. Throughout Scripture, from Moses to Isaiah, out of Egypt and away from Babylon, God is portrayed as the one who leads his people. As much as he leads us towards something (for example, the ‘paths of righteousness’ in Psalm 23), that means he is also leading us away from something – the ‘way that leads unto death’ in Proverbs 14:12.
By praying “lead us not into temptation”, we aren’t asking God to not tempt us; we are simply asking him to lead us away from an destination of temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 provides further insight into this, where Paul writes: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it.”
As we pray “lead us not into temptation”, we are asking for God to show us and lead us on that ‘way out’. We’re submitting ourselves to his leadership, his lordship and asking for his guidance. What’s the result of this prayer? We are delivered from evil. Just as he has always led his people and delivered them out, he delivers us from temptation, trials and leads us into a full and glorious new life in Jesus.