Question: "What does the Bible say about temptation?"
Answer: Scripture has a great deal to say about temptation, which is enticement to sin against God. God is not the one who tempts us, as He cannot do anything evil, and He does not desire anyone to sin (James 1:13; 1 John 2:16). But God can allow us to be tempted and tested to help us grow (James 1:3). Temptation comes from our own sinful desires (James 1:14) and from Satan, who seeks our ruin (Genesis 3:1–4; 1 Peter 5:8). Because humans have a sin nature inherited from Adam, temptation is an inevitable part of existence in this world.
There are numerous examples of people in the Bible being tempted:
• Adam and Eve. God had specifically told Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16–17). Eve was tempted by the serpent, who invited her to question God’s instructions, contradicted God’s warning, and told her that eating the fruit would make her “like God” (Genesis 3:1–5). Eve believed the lies, and her own desires took over as she saw the fruit was “pleasing to the eye” (verse 6). Despite the Lord’s command, Eve partook of the forbidden fruit and gave some to Adam, who also ate.
• Joseph. While serving in Potiphar’s house in Egypt, Joseph was tempted to commit adultery through the urging of Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:6–7). He had opportunity and a willing partner, and the temptation was present “day after day” (verse 10). Instead of giving in to the temptation, Joseph fled from the situation (verse 12).
• David. While his men were away at war, King David saw a beautiful woman named Bathsheba bathing, and he was tempted to fulfill his lust (2 Samuel 11:1–4). David succumbed to the temptation, and, because of his adultery, Bathsheba became pregnant. David had her husband killed to attempt to cover up his sin (2 Samuel 11:5, 16–17).
• Peter. Although boastful of his loyalty, Peter caved in to temptation and denied that he knew Jesus (Matthew 26:69–75). The fear of man overcame the fear of God in Peter’s heart. Jesus had previously warned of Satan’s plan to tempt Peter, but He also spoke of Peter’s reinstatement (Luke 22:31–32).
It is not a sin to be tempted. Jesus was tempted by the devil during His forty days in the desert (Matthew 4:1–11). Although He never sinned, Jesus’ temptation shows that He can empathize with us when we undergo temptation (Hebrews 4:15). Additionally, Jesus is the second Adam: He succeeded where the first Adam failed (1 Corinthians 15:21–22, 45–47).
Temptation to sin can be very strong, but God has promised us a way out: “No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, CSB). Our flesh and sinful natures make it easy to give in to temptation when it comes our way, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can withstand. As we submit to God (James 4:7) and put on the armor of God, Christians can resist the devil’s schemes and attempts at temptation (Ephesians 6:10–18). As we win the battle over temptation, our faith grows stronger.
Temptation can and will happen to everyone, but the Christian has a choice: give in to the temptation to sin or resist the urge to sin through God’s strength. It is wise for Christians to understand their weaknesses and avoid situations that they know could entice them to sin (see 1 Timothy 6:8–9 and 1 Corinthians 7:4–5). Praying for God’s help when tempted and being armed with Scripture against the devil’s attacks are ways to guard ourselves during times of temptation (Luke 11:4; Ephesians 6:17).