Tester is not a name or title that one normally associates with God. Everyone is familiar with the more common names for God such as: Creator, Defender, Deliverer, Healer, Helper, Redeemer, Ruler, Sanctifier, Savior, and Teacher; but never Tester. Likewise, we never hear of God being called a Designer even though God created man using His own likeness1 as a blueprint or design if you will. And isn’t it correct to say that God, in fact, first designed the classes2 upon which all other living things were instantiated, that is, brought into existence? Clearly, we can see that design was an integral part of the creation process. In the same way, we never hear of God being called a tester even though we can find evidence of God testing His creation throughout the Bible.
In the natural world, we would consider it irresponsible, and in some cases criminal, for companies to release untested products on the market. Would you be willing to take any kind of drug that hadn’t passed clinical trials? Likewise, would anyone want to travel in an airliner that hadn’t been previously subjected to all the rigors of flight testing? The answer is a resounding no! In the software world, we consider untested software as “not ready for prime time.” Likewise, in the spiritual realm, since God is perfect in all His ways,3 4 He will always test His servants before sending them out into the world to perform the work they are being called to do.
I’m sure there are some readers who will object to my assertion that God is a tester based on James 1:13. However, I intend to show that there is a key difference between the notion of a temptation and a test; even though, at first glance, they appear to be the same thing. Now, let’s try to understand what James is really saying by examining verse 1:13 in context:
12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.
14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.5
In verse 12, James describes how a person is to respond when he or she finds themselves in the middle of a trial and that is to persist. The word “trial” is derived from the Greek word peirasmos (Greek NASB Number: 3986) and is defined as: an experiment, a trial, or temptation. On the other hand, in verse 14, James tells us that the proper response to temptation is to resist. Interestingly, in verse 13, the word “tempted” has a very similar definition which is: to make proof of, to attempt, test, or tempt; and is derived from the Greek word peirazô (Greek NASB Number: 3985). It appears from the definitions that trial and temptation are somehow two sides of the same coin. That statement would be true if we were to remove the moral dimension from the verses. But clearly, James makes a distinction in how a person is to respond; either to endure or escape. To further illustrate, I’d like to draw an analogy from the world of software testing.
Put simply, a software tester compares the behavior of a software application or system to its specification. A test consists of sending test data or stimuli to the system (input). The system manipulates the data according to its internal programming (processing). The test passes or fails based on expected results (output). Of course, good testers use both valid and invalid data in building their test suites. Testers refer to tests that contain valid data as “sunny day” tests and tests that contain invalid data as “negative” tests. The difference between the two types of tests is in how the system handles each type of input. It’s expected that the system accept and process the valid input and produce the expected results. For invalid input, it’s expected that the system reject the input and not perform any processing. (Technically, the system should display an error message and/or write an entry to an exception log.) Software testers would never say they were tempting the system to behave in an unexpected way, they would merely say they were performing a negative test.
People are not software. While software is tested by comparing its programming to a specification; people are tested or evaluated based on what they have been taught.6 Whereas software needs some sort of external stimuli, temptation originates from within a person not from without as James points out in verse 14. Software is amoral, but man has the sin nature.
In summary, a test is something a person has to endure or work through, as in our sunny day scenario; and a temptation is something a person is to avoid or escape from, as in our negative scenario. While the purpose of a spiritual test is to confirm proper behavior in the person being tested; the purpose of a temptation is to entice or lure a person into performing improper or unlawful behavior.
Since we now see that God does not tempt anyone; what role, if any, does He have in our temptations? As illustrated in the following verses, He is actively involved:
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.7
‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]8
God places limits on our temptations and He also provides help for those being tempted.9 Here we can see the theme of rejecting or escaping from temptation. However, until the way of escape is provided, the person tempted needs to endure the temptation and not to succumb to it. I propose the following paraphrase of the second clause in 1 Corinthians 10:13, in modern English usage, which may help illustrate the meaning of the verse:
…since God is faithful and will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can stand, Even so, you need to deal with it until He reveals a way for you to break loose.
As God imposes limits on our temptations, He also leads us away from temptation as Jesus prayed during the Sermon on the Mount.10 The implication in Matthew 6:13 is that while God does lead people out of temptation; He can also allow them to be lead into temptation.11 12
The important point to remember is that to partake in the temptation is to succumb to evil.13
Test or temptation? It depends on the objective; either to prove obedience or to entice to sin. God doesn’t tempt but He does test. Man is fully capable of sin in and of himself. Now, can God also use our temptations as a test? Stay tuned. I’ll attempt to answer this question in Part 2.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Greek-Hebrew dictionary references are from The New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2013 Gerard Sczepura