Temptation, Benefits of 

EH? Did I hear that right?

by Edward Langenback

© 2/19/03

Not long ago I was looking through Nave's Topical Bible for something and happened to run across a topic heading that read "Temptation, Benefits of". I stopped cold. The subject that I was searching for got lost in my amazement that anyone would believe that temptation had any positive aspects at all. On studying the matter, I found out that there actually are benefits to temptation.

James 1:12, "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him."

The first impression I had about this verse is that it's telling us that we should be happy about being subject to temptations because that will get us the crown of life that God promised. I had a problem believing that was what God said. It just didn't make sense to me that I should be happy about being tempted. If anything I was angry about it. I was being subjected to temptation. Like most humans, I found myself giving in to temptation and all too often failing that test of my faithfulness and determination to do God's will. This left me dealing with the guilt and self-condemnation that came afterward. Then I started to study this verse in detail and found that I was wrong about what I had thought it said.

The word Blessed is translated from the Greek makarios {pronounced mak-ar'-ee-os} [strongs number 3107] meaning fortunate, well off:-- happy, fortunate, well off: .

In Bible study, it is important to know about the word "blessed" and that blessing in general is more than just saying good things about someone. It is also more that merely pronouncing someone to be happy, gifted or well off. In addition to those things, its usage in the Bible includes the idea that the one blessed is given the ability to succeed or prosper.

To see how this gift of ability applies to temptation, we need to go on to look at the word 'endureth'. It is translated from the Greek word hupomeno {pronounced hoop-om-en'-o} [strongs number 5278] and means to remain, to tarry behind, abide, not recede or flee, to preserve: under misfortunes and trials, to endure, bear bravely and calmly.

This begins to make clear that we're blessed, not simply because we've been tempted, but for enduring and remaining in spite of the temptation. Having overcome the temptation, we find ourselves to be blessed. After having been tempted without giving in to that temptation, we are even more blessed because each victory encourages and strengthens us so that we can be in position for more victories. One thing to remember is that while blessing or empowerment is a result of temptation, this empowerment, this gift of ability is what enables us to overcome the temptation in the first place!

The central word in all this is temptation, which is translated from the Greek word peirasmos {pronounced pi-ras-mos'} [strongs number 3986] and means an enticement to sin, adversity, affliction, trouble, trial, proving or testing of fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy. To endure or to remain constant and faithful in spite of these things is to find that we are indeed blessed. For without the blessing that God gives us, we would never be able to withstand these trials and tests of our faith.

Given that definition of temptation, another important point is to remember just exactly WHO is the source of temptation. (Hint. It's NOT God!)

James 1:13, "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:"

The Bible in Basic English does a good job of translating this verse more clearly for modern English speaking readers:

"Let no man say when he is tested. I am tested by God; for it is not possible for God to be tested by evil, and He himself puts no man to such a test:"

The very simply put and self explanatory thought here is that God, by His righteous nature, cannot fail such a test of enticement to sin or do evil. He does not subject mankind to tests and trials that involve enticing us to sin or do evil. Again, this is because of His righteous nature. If God were to offer us enticements to sin and do evil then He would be contradicting His own commandments not to do such things. He would also be violating His own commandment to "love thy neighbor as thyself", because in that context, your neighbor is anyone you interact with. Therefore when God interacts with us, He is required by His own law to love us the same as He loves Himself! As you might imagine, if God violated his own commandments and standards of being, He would cease to be God. And folks, you cannot possibly imagine just exactly how much nothing there would be left after God stops existing.

So, if God is not the source of temptation and He is not throwing all these opportunities to choose sin instead of God's will, then where are they coming from? The answer might surprize you. You don't get the easy excuse of blaming the devil.

James 1:14, "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed."

When we are drawn away from God by our own inordinate, excessive desires, we find ourselves enticed to sin. "It won't hurt if I just look at that person." . . . "It's a really big company worth billions, they won't miss twenty or thirty or a thousand dollars" . . ."I know I don't really need to eat that much, but it's just so good" . . . And so on.

Humans all have wants and desires. We have things that we like and enjoy and this is good. The wrong comes when favorites, wants, desires, likes and enjoyments cross the line and become lusts.

Lust is a powerful sounding word that isn't used much these days outside of churches. Where the word lust is used in these verses, it is translated from the Greek epithumia {pronounced ep-ee-thoo-mee'-ah} [strongs number 1939] and means desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden.

This gives more impact to the verse when we re-translate it thus:

"But every man is enticed to sin when he is drawn away by his own desire for what is forbidden."

So, it is the simple fact that while we know something is wrong, we want to do it anyway. We take the fruit knowing that it was forbidden, fooling ourselves into thinking that we have gotten away with something . . . but have we really?

James 1:15, "Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."

Now let me see if I get this right. . . Lust, the desire for what is forbidden gives birth to sin, and sin when it is completed results in death. Wow, that sounds pretty severe! Is there anywhere else that the Bible talks about sin resulting in death? Yes, sin has a horrible price:

Ezekiel 18:4, "Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die."

Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

God has made it clear that sin has a price and that price is higher than any other. He has made it clear that NO sin or sinner will ever enter the kingdom of God. Because He does actually love us, He has made it possible for us to have the sin completely removed, making us to become like we had never sinned in the first place. The blood of Jesus doesn't just cover sin, as I'm sad to say, I've actually heard people preach. Rather, that blood is like the ultimate 'sin detergent', washing it away like laundry soap will remove dirt, mud and grime from your clothes. When they come out, your clothes are clean. The dirt is gone. It is not just covered, it is removed.

So yes, as it turned out, I was wrong in what I originally thought. Temptation really does have blessings involved with it. Those blessings are what makes you able to resist temptation and rise up in victory over that enticement to sin. Praise God, you don't have to give in to it or let it rule you! With His help, you can come out the winner in any test or trial that urges you to do what you know you shouldn't. Why don't you use God's 'detergent' and get in on the blessings?