What does it mean that God cannot be tempted (James 1:13)?
James 1:13–14 says: "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God,' for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire." The phrase "God cannot be tempted" means that God cannot be tempted by doing evil.
God is all good. He is perfect, and His character is infallible. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Evil is that which is opposed to God's nature. There is nothing in God or external to God that would cause Him to want Him to do evil. He cannot be tempted. God is omniscient (all-knowing). Evil is often deceptive in nature and, to humans, can seem to offer something good (Genesis 3:1–13; John 8:44). But God will never fall for the lies of evil. Since God is completely opposed to evil and unable to be deceived, He will never tempt us to do evil—to do so would be out of line with His character.
Earlier in the chapter, James writes that we should count it all joy when we experience trials and the testing of our faith, because they develop perseverance in us, making us mature believers (James 1:2–4; see also 1 Peter 1:6–7). While our faith will be tested, that does not mean that the temptation we have to sin comes from God. Trials can be used to refine us, but the temptation to sin comes from within our own sin nature which we were born with, an aftermath of the fall. We are each tempted by our own desires.
Our sinful nature draws us in the direction of sin. When we are born again, we receive the indwelling Holy Spirit. We are made a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). That new nature and the Holy Spirit in us pull us to walk in God's ways. We experience a struggle between our sin nature and this new nature, but we can overcome. As we mature in this new nature within us and allow the Holy Spirit to transform us, we more frequently say "no" to the temptation of sin and instead walk in righteousness (Galatians 5; Philippians 2:12–13).
We have a Savior who was tempted as we are and overcame (Hebrews 2:18). He sympathizes with us and helps us overcome. He also offers us mercy and grace (Hebrews 4:14–16). He has already paid the penalty for our sin, and He helps us no longer live in sin (1 John 1:8–10; 1 John 3:4–10; John 15:1–17; John 16:33). The Holy Spirit is the power we have to walk with Christ as overcomers (Galatians 5:16).
God does not tempt us to sin. Rather, He gives us the power to resist temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13; James 4:7–10). More than that, God can never be tempted by evil. This truth gives us great confidence. God will never act contrary to His nature. We know His character is loving, gracious, merciful, and just (Exodus 34:6–7; 1 Peter 1:3–9; Jude 1:24–25). God will always do what is right. Unlike humans, God cannot be tempted, bribed, or deceived into doing evil. God is sovereign over the universe; what a comfort to know that our world is in His good hands.
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