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Would an all loving God lead us into temptation?


Question & Answer

Q: By John
Would an all loving God lead us into temptation? If not, why does the Lord’s Prayer ask our Heavenly Father not to lead us into temptation?

A: By Rev. Brandan Robertson

Dear John,

My answer to this is quite simple. The answer is “No, a loving God would not lead us into temptation.” Temptation, in my vernacular, as the urge to do something that would bring harm to ourselves or others, or at the very least, pull us off of the path towards wholeness. The New Testament is pretty clear on this theology. James 1:3 explicitly states “And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else.” So, clearly this was a question for early Christians that the author of the Epistle of James felt the need to address clearly.

Throughout much of Christian history, there has been debate around what Jesus meant when he prayed “lead us not into temptation.” In recent history, Pope Francis even declared that this was a faulty translation of the Lord’s Prayer, suggesting that the correct verbiage would be more like “do not let us fall into temptation.” While this is a stretch when we examine the Greek, we must remember that Jesus first spoke the words of the Lord’s prayer in Aramaic, and the Greek is but a secondhand translation of that. So it is likely that the phrase “lead us not into temptation” that we have come to know as the Lord’s Prayer is a faulty translation.

At the end of the day, it is important for us to acknowledge that human beings have been given freedom of will, and that we have choices over what we do with our lives. Our choices have consequences for good and bad, and we alone are responsible for the results of our actions. Far too often, religious individuals have sought to justify their wicked behavior by declaring that it was God who led them to do whatever it is they’ve done. And just as often, when negative consequences result of immoral actions, people are prone to shake their fists at the sky in anger. Both postures represent an immature, and I believe, unhealthy spirituality.

We are responsible for our actions and the consequences thereof. When we pray the words that we’ve come to know as the Lord’s Prayer, perhaps it would be more helpful for us to think of them as an internal affirmation of our resolve to resist doing evil, rather than a plea for God to somehow constrain our will to keep us from doing wrong.

“May I keep myself from temptation, and be delivered from evil.” 

This wording seems to more accurately reflect a mature, responsible Christian spirituality.

~ Rev. Brandan Robertson

This Q&A was originally published on Progressing Spirit – As a member of this online community, you’ll receive insightful weekly essays, access to all of the essay archives (including all of Bishop John Shelby Spong), and answers to your questions in our free weekly Q&A. Click here to see free sample essays.

About the Author
Rev. Brandan Robertson is a noted spiritual thought-leader, contemplative activist, and commentator, working at the intersections of spirituality, sexuality, and social renewal and the author of Nomad: A Spirituality For Travelling Light and writes regularly for Patheos, Beliefnet, and The Huffington Post. He has published countless articles in respected outlets such as TIME, NBC, The Washington Post, Religion News Service, and Dallas Morning News. As sought out commentator of faith, culture, and public life, he is a regular contributor to national media outlets and has been interviewed by outlets such as MSNBC, NPR, SiriusXM, TIME Magazine, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Associated Press.

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