A gracEmail subscriber in Alabama asks why Jesus taught his disciples to pray that God “lead us not into temptation” (Matt. 6:13) yet the Epistle of James says that God “does not tempt anyone” (Jas. 1:13).
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Jesus points us to God’s sovereignty — all that happens is under God’s control even though he does not cause everything that occurs. James points us to God’s character and purpose. God does not entice anyone to evil. God does not wish for people to do evil, and it gives him no pleasure when someone does what is wrong.
Satan is the tempter of humans, but he cannot act beyond the boundaries God imposes on him. We see this dramatically illustrated in the story of Job (Job 2). Jesus himself was “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matt. 4:1). The devil was behaving according to his own character (enticing Jesus to sin) and God was acting in keeping with his (perfecting Jesus as our sinless yet sympathetic Savior).
We ask God to keep us from evil’s enticement and he often does so. He never allows us to be tempted beyond our capacity if we rely on his power, and when we face temptation he always provides a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13). God permits us to be tempted to strengthen our character and he uses it to that end (Jas. 1:2-4). Yet God, who gives only good gifts, is never rightly blamed for our sin. We are responsible for our own bad choices, which he can both forgive and use to his glory and for our eventual good (Jas. 1:12-16).