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Is Temptation a Sin?

Each of us have our own struggles and ways we stumble most often, but is it true that temptation is a sin?

This question came up in my Life Group the other week and it is a very important topic to discuss. Does sin start the moment we are tempted?

The profound biblical answer is temptation is not a sin.

Scripture is quite clear that none of us are perfect (See Romans 3:10 & Romans 3:23). But if someone was perfect, would they ever be faced with temptation? Fortunately we don’t have to guess; we have our answer in Jesus Christ.

Check out the following account found in Matthew

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

– Matthew 4:1

Let’s look at this verse. Not only was Jesus tempted, but he was led by the Spirit to place He would be tempted. If temptation was a sin, not only would Jesus have been guilty of sin, but so would the Holy Spirit for leading Jesus to a place where temptation would happen.

Now let’s be sure to not confuse this; the Holy Spirit did not tempt Jesus to sin (See James 1:13), rather the Holy Spirit allowed Jesus to be tempted. This difference, no matter how subtle it can seem to us, matters.

Why did God want Jesus to be tempted in the first place?

The best answer comes from the scriptures itself:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything….Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” – James 1:2-4 & 12 

Trials and temptations test our faith, which produces perseverance, which leads to maturity and fruitfulness.

Temptation will never cease for any living person; no matter how many minutes you spend reading the Bible, scriptures you memorize, or situations you avoid. Jesus being tempted was part of proving His humanity. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus overcame temptation to show us He understands our struggles and can help us through them. Not just as the big man upstairs, but as someone who has been down in the trenches just like us.

You are not alone in temptation

So is temptation a sin? No. Jesus’ example shows that they are part of the human condition, and can be overcome. God purposes trials and temptations to perfect our faith and bring us to maturity. We are told to flee from temptation not because it is a sin in itself, or have already sinned, but because while being tempted we are in a place where we want to sin. If temptation was itself a sinful mark, we would not have a sinless savior, one who was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15).

One last bit of encouragement for us all:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Whenever you face temptations, know that you are not alone. Your temptation is not only common to man, but Jesus overcame the same temptations and provides the way out; so look for it.

-Colton Jansen

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