Did you ever see the television show called “On the Fly”? My daughter and I caught an episode once. It was a reality show about airports and how people handle delays and other airport-related dilemmas. It was interesting to me because my mom was a flight attendant for 20 years.
But in one clip I watched, a gentleman in a business suit figured out a way to entertain himself while waiting especially long for a delayed flight due to bad weather. While others were just grumpy and pouting, he had a good laugh tempting those passing by with a $5 bill lying on the floor. One by one, people would stop to pick up the money only to have it quickly disappear because the well-dressed man had a piece of thread tied to it. As soon as a person stooped over and reached for the $5 bill, he’d snatch it away and get a good laugh at their reaction.
He was quite entertained to say the least!
I was recently reminded of this escapade while reading the Book of James. It says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’–for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:13-14).
The man with the string was having a bit of fun with strangers passing by, and we could say he was “tempting” them. But then again, according to James, temptation really comes from within a person more than outside influences.
By definition, the word tempt has several meanings. It could mean to try whether a thing can be done, like as in to attempt. In a good sense, it could mean to test for the purpose of ascertaining how a person will behave himself; or in a bad sense, it could describe a malicious test meant to try a person’s faith or virtue by enticing them to sin.
We know God “tested” Abraham whether or not he would offer up his son Isaac (Hebrews 11:17). And the Bible also says in Deuteronomy, that God “tested” the children of Israel in the wilderness to see what was in their heart (8:2). So the question is: Are these a contradiction of what James said about God and temptation?
The answer is no.
James clearly explained how temptation comes–“…when [one] is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” Think about it: Was the well-dressed man in the airport a tempter? In a sense, yes… because he tied the string to the money and laid it out in the path of those passing by. But on the other hand, no… because the ones who stooped over to pick up the money did so on their own, being “enticed” by their own desire for free money.
God cannot, and will not, cause anyone to sin. He will, however, put opportunities across our path to test and reveal what is already in our heart. And I’m personally glad about this. I want God to “check” me periodically because I need to know what’s in my heart. And if sin is revealed, I know God isn’t behind it.
When I sin, I do that all on my own.
The man in the airport was simply having some fun, seeing what people would do. He wasn’t causing anyone to sin. And technically, we can’t even say those who tried to pick up the money were sinning by doing so. They did what any of us would do when you find something valuable.
So always remember: God is good, sin is bad, and we get to choose!