Is it a sin to be tempted? Is temptation sinful?

It is not a sin to be tempted. How do we know this? Simply put, we know it is not a sin to be tempted because Jesus was tempted and yet He is without sin (Luke 4:1–13; Hebrews 4:15). Therefore, it cannot be a sin to be tempted.

It is to our benefit that Jesus was tempted. Having taken on human flesh and experienced temptation Himself (even greater than we can imagine, Luke 22:39–46), Jesus can identify and empathize with the sufferings and trials of our own temptations (Hebrews 2:17–18). In Jesus Christ we have a high priest who was tempted as we are and who will provide strength, support, and assistance to us in our fight to resist temptation (Hebrews 4:16; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Peter 2:9).

Even though it is not a sin to be tempted, it is a sin to give in to temptation, to knowingly walk into the way of temptation, and to tempt others (James 1:14–15; Psalm 1:1; Mark 9:42). Temptation comes to us through the three enemies of the Christian life—the world, the flesh, and the Devil.

Although we are not called to remove ourselves from the world, we are called to be alert, wise, and innocent (John 17:15; 1 Peter 5:8; Matthew 10:16). We are not to make provision or opportunity for our sinful desires to be aroused (Romans 13:14). We ought not deliberately place ourselves in situations which we know are traps and stumbling blocks set up for our besetting sins (Hebrews 12:1). Although we cannot entirely prevent sinful desires or thoughts from arising in our hearts and minds, we are called, not to entertain them or mull them over, but to resist them and put them to death (Romans 8:13). Part of our sanctification includes the mortification of our old sin nature.

Likewise, we cannot keep Satan from tempting us but we can be alert and prayerful, confident in the knowledge that Satan and his demons can do no more than God allows (James 4:7). Satan is a dangerous ancient serpent but like a dangerous dog his activities are limited by his Master (Job 2:6). Nevertheless, we ought not put God to the test by inviting demonic temptation. Finally, we must be careful not to tempt others, especially in areas where we know they are weak (1 Corinthians 8:12).

In conclusion, although being tempted in and of itself is not a sin, inviting temptation and tempting others is a sin. Temptation is a doorway to sin; we ought not loiter at its entrance nor entice others to do so either (Proverbs 23:19–35) for temptation can and often does lead to sin. Instead of playing with fire, may we have the mind of Christ who encouraged an extreme aversion toward sin and that which would cause us to sin (Matthew 5:29–30).

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