“What does it mean to ‘tempt’ God?
I have never been tempted to eat a cockroach.
Although I have heard these insects can be eaten toasted, fried, sautéed, or boiled, I have also read that ingesting them raw can result in sickness and possibly death. So no, I cannot be tempted to eat a cockroach.
In a similar way, God cannot be tempted to do evil, as James says, “…God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” (James 1:13-14)
We are tempted because sinful passions still exist within us. As long as we are in this flesh we must work with God to subdue these, to, as Paul wrote, “put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph. 4:22-24). The old man is “crucified with Christ,” (Gal. 2:20), but he’s not yet expired; he thrashes about, tugging at the nails, longing to wreck more havoc.
But God Himself has no such evils, no point at which temptation could allure Him. Barnes explains this more fully:
(1) There is no evil passion to be gratified, as there is in men;
(2) There is no want of power, so that an allurement could be presented to seek what he has not;
(3) There is no want of wealth, for he has infinite resources, and all that there is or can be is his Psalm 50:10-11;
(4) There is no want of happiness, that he should seek happiness in sources which are not now in his possession. Nothing, therefore, could be presented to the divine mind as an inducement to do evil.
God cannot be tempted to do evil just as I cannot be tempted to eat a cockroach!
In His incarnation, divinity and humanity united, allowing Christ to share in our experience. Matthew and Luke both record Christ’s very real external temptation by the devil (Matt. 4:7, Luke 4:12) testing God against all three challenges: flesh (turning stone to bread), world (demonstration of dramatic spectacle), and devil (handing over the devil’s own power in exchange for one instance of satanic worship). Jesus defeats all three by skillfúl use of the Sword of the Spirit, the written Word of God.
The author of The book of Hebrews reminds us “…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.” (Heb. 4:15). In His humanity Jesus shared in our experience of temptation for purpose of identification with us, but In His Divinity, as James stated “God cannot be tempted by evil.”
The term ‘tempt’ can also mean “to put God to the test.” While God cannot be enticed to do evil, we certainly can irritate Him by our lack of faith and sinful waywardness.
At one point during the wilderness wanderings the Israelites complained to Moses saying, “‘Give us water to drink.’ Moses replied, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?’… And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’” (Exod. 17:1,2, 7) See also Deut. 6:16, Mal. 3:15,
God has chosen to respond to us with grace. We do not merit this grace and we dare not take it lightly or arrogantly impose upon it. If we do, we “tempt” God. We become like a sassy child pushing a parent’s patience.
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