Tempted or Tested?

Christians, remember the old song, “tempted and tried we’re oft made to wonder, why it should be thus all the day long… “

Tempted and tried? Tempted or tried? Which is it? Is temptation the same as testing? Is one a subset of the other? Do we really receive both, and from whom?

We have to look at Brother James’ words, of course:

(NASB, James 1:2, 12-14) “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials… blessed is a man who perseveres under trial… 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. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.”

The translators surely must have had a difficult time in this chapter. All the words I have placed in bold type come from the same Greek word family. peirazo is the verb, peirasmos the noun. The idea is to make proof, to test, and even to “tempt” but not necessarily as we use that word today, to induce to something evil.

The King James Version and several others, heroically stayed with the same English word throughout. The word, “temptation”. Modern translations became interpretations, suggesting two different meanings from the one Greek word.

Here is a case where I prefer the consistency of the KJV. Would James be changing his meaning if it did not fit his theology? I think not. I do wish, though, that the translators would have gone with the primary meaning of peirazo, the “making proof ” concept.

I wonder if it is possible, after all the quibbling about which word is best, for us to see the parent meaning of what is going on in all the Biblical texts regarding testing/tempting. Stand back. Look at the ultimate result. God, sometimes on His own, and sometimes using the devil, is getting His people to answer a basic question of obedience.

We think of temptation as someone asking us to do something we know is wrong. Will we obey God or our fallen flesh?

We think of testing as Someone asking us to do what we know is right but seems difficult to impossible to perform. Will we obey God or our fallen flesh?

Same result from that same word. Peirazo covers the whole idea. An exam. A test. To be passed or failed.