The trials and tribulations of life are hard. Bad people, bad luck, and bad economy are always pushing us down. Some people make mistakes that cost them dearly. What if God placed all the bad things directly himself? Is it possible that we tempted by God? Does God tempt us, test, or put us on trial? The short answer is that God does put tests into our lives to see how we will react.
3 These are the nations: the five lords of the Philistines and all the Canaanites and the Sidonians and the Hivites who lived on Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal-hermon as far as Lebo-hamath. 4 They were for the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the Lord, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses. Judges 3:3-4 ESV
Will You Prove Faithful?
The nations around Israel were idol worshiping nations. They did not respect God or the laws that God would have people live by. These nations practiced temple prostitution and child sacrifice. In no way should they have been a cultural fit with anyone that was seeking after God.
Yet here they are living as neighbors and God says they were a test. The word “testing” in Hebrew is נָסָה (nāsâ) and it means to try or prove something. We find the same Hebrew word in the trial of Abraham and Isaac. God was testing Abraham’s faithfulness.
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” Genesis 22:1-2 ESV
God places tests in our lives. We can even claim that we are tempted by God. It is straight forward and understandable. Except there is a problem with this plain understanding because if we fast forward to the New Testament James the half brother of Jesus contradicts the testing that God put in place for the nation of Israel.
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1:13-15 ESV
If we look at the word Greek word “tempted” compared to the Hebrew word “tested” we will see that they mean basically the same thing. James uses the Greek πειράζω (peirazō) and it means test if something can be done.
Looking elsewhere we find this same Greek word used to describe Satan himself when he came to Jesus in the wilderness.
3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Matthew 4:3 ESV
Do we have a contradiction? Is the Bible contradicting itself? James tells us not to blame God by saying that he tempts us. Yes the Old Testament clearly states that God left the Nations around Israel to test them to see if they would follow his commands. Here are two views that help to clear up the conflict.
Trials vs Temptations
Foy Valentine in his commentary breaks up what James wanted to communicate into two parts external trials vs internal temptations (Layman’s Bible Book Commentary on James p72). What he means by a trail in this case would be some outside force that makes you act or choose a path. War, sickness, bad people in your life. We must contend with trails. Trials however is not what James is talking about when he says that God will not tempt us.
Internal temptations is what James wants us to think about. He makes this clear in the next verse. James is talking about lust, greed, lies, and the like which lead to sin and ”sin when it is fully grown brings forth death”.
Don’t Blame God for Your Actions
William Barclay in his commentary on James brings out the text clearly. Barclay brings up the purpose for James addressing this topic and that is the desire of people to excuse their sins because someone or something else made them do it. (Letters of James and Peter, 52). Barclay’s example is when Adam blamed Eve and God for his eating the fruit and Eve blamed Satan. The same is true today we sinners are always looking to blame out own sinful actions on someone else. James wants to cut this idea off at the knees by stating clearly that God is not the author of my sins. Those come directly from my evil heart and the lusts of my flesh.
Take Ownership and Repent
What then can we reconcile? Are people tempted by God? The answer is “no” any temptation comes directly from our own desires. Sin is he fuel of our rebellion. Does God put us into a sinful world where our sinful desires could run free to harm and destroy everyone around us? The answer is “yes” because while we live in this world the Tempter, Satan, is working to corrupt our lives just like he did to Eve in the Garden of Eden.
19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Romans 9:19-20 ESV
Dear reader God has made us in his image and he has given us a way out of our trials and temptations in this life. That path of reconciliation to undo the power of the tempter is found in Jesus who lived his life without giving in and without sin. Accept ownership of your desires, repent of those, and turn to Jesus.
Thanks for reading. I pray this was helpful to your devotional time. Please click the like button or leave a comment!