James 1:13-The Difference Between a Trial, and a Temptation

IMG_0393James 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.

In James 1:2 Christians experiencing suffering (trial in ESV, temptation in King James) are encouraged to be happy instead of sad. He proceeds to explain this suffering gives them stronger endurance (1:2–4), stronger faith (1:5–8), and stronger confidence in God’s justice (1:9–11).

James here is explaining a Biblical view of suffering…God brings these situations into our lives for His Glory, and our benefit

This is followed up with a command not to say during these situations the person is being tempted by God which is strange since both words “trial” (1:2) and “temptation” (1:13) come from the same Greek Word (πειράζω) peirázō;

Spiro Zodhiates in The Complete Word Study Dictionary gives two very different definitions for the word

  1. Generally and in a good sense in order to ascertain the character, views, or feelings of someone (Matt. 22:35 cf. Mark 12:28, 34; John 6:6; Rev. 2:2 (); Sept.: 1 Kgs. 10:1; Ps. 17:3).
  2. In a bad sense, with ill intent (Mark 8:11; 10:2; 12:15; Luke 11:16; 20:23; John 8:6)

In other words, a “temptation” would be a trial that’s meant to only make the person fail; you have no chance of passing it at all. The trial that comes from God however is only for our good.

This may seem like a small difference but trust me it makes a HUGE difference in the way that we view suffering of trials in life.

In my running group that I’m a part of, all courses that we train on are created by a head coach who makes sure to add plenty of hills so on race day we will be strong…this is a trial since the painful experience is for our benefit.

This would become a temptation if

  1. She made us run every hill in town
  2. Every single run was at the same pace or speed [1]
  3. There were no water stops along the way
  4. There were no rest days during the week (we have two)
  5. Every day is the same distance
  6. And there is no taper [2]

Now I know in my heart the head coach is creating these courses for my benefit (to make me stronger) but there are days when my mind begins to view that trial as a temptation (something done just to make me fail).

In the same way Satan loves to come near when we experience a trial and whisper into our ear “you know if God really loved you He wouldn’t allow this to happen (Genesis 3:1–6). And if we aren’t careful before long that lie will find it’s way in our hearts. At that point we become bitter toward God…The one who is trying to make us stronger, and is always good.

The truly frightening thing for me is how easy it is for my mind to change from viewing suffering as a trial to viewing it as a temptation.

So what can we do about this?

Remember that God is good.

Not just good…but perfect (he cannot be tempted with sin)

And because in Love He will only give things that help us grow

Then most importantly remind ourselves where the sin in life comes from…

Us (James 1:14-15)


[1]: she makes us all run a much slower pace on the longer runs

[2]: purposely slowing down on speed and cutting back on distance a week before the race

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