What Is Temptation?
By Warren Mueller –
Have you ever wondered about the temptation of Jesus by the devil in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-10)? The Bible says God does not tempt anyone and cannot be tempted (James 1:13). Furthermore, Jesus was tempted “in every way just as we are—yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Since Jesus is both God and human, how can these verses be reconciled?
Webster’s Dictionary defines tempt as to test or to try to persuade, induce, entice, allure, especially to something sensuously pleasurable or immoral; to provoke. The Greek word peirazo used in the previous verses means to test, entice, examine, prove or test. In both of these definitions, there is the dual sense of a trial and enticement to do evil. Jesus fasted for forty days in the wilderness before the devil tempted him three times. The first time, the devil enticed him to turn rocks into bread which appealed to his hunger. The second time, the devil tried to use Scripture to trick Jesus and so tested his knowledge of the word. The third time, the devil offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if he would worship the devil which was a spiritual attack to short cut God’s plan of redemption. The devil tempted Jesus physically, mentally and spiritually to put his needs first instead of choosing the path set before him by God the Father. Thus, the actual underlying temptation was whether Jesus would assert his will or be obedient to that of his Father. This is the essence of the trial aspect of the temptation.
The enticement to do evil involved: 1) appeasing the flesh in replacing his hunger pains with the pleasure of food (and a full stomach); 2) appealing to his mind to assert himself as king by commanding angels to save him from a fall; and 3) worshipping the devil in exchange for being king of the world would be an enticement to short cut God’s plan of redemption and avoid the cross (i.e. spiritual separation from the Father as sin bearer).
This explains how Jesus could be tempted or tested yet without sin. In other words, he was tested but not persuaded to sin. Jesus said and did what the Father commanded (John 5:19). Thus, I believe that Jesus could recognize temptation as soon as he was confronted with it because he had a higher view. When we are tempted, we tend to focus on the pleasure (immediate gratification) to be had and rationalize what we know is wrong. Temptation tends to narrow our view in that we think mainly of ourselves. James says that our desire to do evil leads us to sin which results in death (James 1: 14-15). Therefore, temptation is a trial or test that has some enticement for self-gratification. Temptation begins as a test that has some appealing aspect that if entertained and acted on, results in sin. Temptation in and of itself is not evil but it ends in sin when we choose immediate pleasure despite the consequences and choose self rather than God. Jesus was tempted or tested but he did not allow the temptation to progress to sin.
Lord Jesus please help us to see you in everything we think, say and do so that we will not focus on ourselves and our desires. Help us to run the race of life with our eyes fixed on you and always ask, “What would Jesus do and how can I please you?”