Q&A: Good Temptation?

Good Temptation?

Question

How do you understand this part of the Lord's Prayer: "And do not lead us into temptation" (Matt. 6:13). If temptation is for good and we grow resisting it, then why avoid it ? If not, then why is God doing it?

Answer

As I understand the passage, Jesus is teaching us to pray that God not allow the devil to tempt us (as he did Jesus in Matt. 4). The phrase "but deliver us from the evil one" makes this interpretation more appealing to me than some others, as does the earlier context of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness.

Temptation itself is an evil thing, and God does not himself tempt us to do evil (James 1:13). Rather, God is in the business of protecting his people from evil (cf. 1 Cor. 10:13).

God is able to use the evil things in this world, like temptation, for our good (Rom. 8:28; James 1:2-4), and James even tells us to rejoice when evil befalls us because it builds our character. But neither James nor any other biblical writer tells us to rejoice over the temptation itself or over any other form of evil. Rather, James encourages us to rejoice over the benefits and good that God will bring even from the evil temptation.

Because temptation is evil, it is right to pray for deliverance and protection from it. Temptation is good to avoid because it is evil -- even though we trust God to use even evil for our good. But God is also able to use good for our good. Because the Bible encourages us to seek God's blessings, it makes good sense that we should prefer that God do good for us through his blessings rather than through the evil actions of others.

The first part of the Lord's Prayer asks God to bring his kingdom -- and deliverance from temptation and evil is a blessing of the kingdom which we hope to receive in full. The petition not to be led into temptation is a petition for a specific kingdom blessing, made in the context of a prayer for kingdom blessings.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.