Lead us Not into Temptation – Matthew 6:13

This line of the Lord’s Prayer does not mean, “Don’t let us be tempted.” but rather “do not let us yield to temptation.” Craig Blomberg draws attention to a similar saying in Mark 14:38, “pray that you do not come under temptation” (Blomberg, Matthew, 120). Temptation is a fact of being human and is unavoidable for the disciple of Jesus. For example, in James calls trials “tests of faith” and considers them occasions for joy because they produce steadfastness which leads to maturity (James 1:2-4). For James, the result of being steadfast in suffering is a “perfect” faith, one that is complete and lacking nothing. James is not teaching his readers they can achieve perfection since he is clear humans struggle. But he is also clear people can mature and overcome specific sins.

There is an important translation issue in this verse. First, the Greek word normally translated “evil” covers a wide semantic range, as does the Hebrew and Aramaic word which Jesus likely originally used. The word πονηρός (ponēros) can refer to something which is poor quality or physically unhealthy, but also to something which is degenerate and wicked. A person who has poor vision, for example, has “bad eyes.” This does not mean their eyes are morally degenerate, only that they do not function properly. So this could be translated “bad thing” or “evil thing.”

Second, the Greek phrase in Matthew 6:13 is ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ (apo tou ponērou) and can be translated either as “from evil” or “the evil one.” In the first case, the prayer is to be rescued from bad things which happen in this world, in the second case it is a prayer to be delivered from the power of the tempter himself. This would refer to Satan and the dark spiritual forces of this world.

Both observations are important decisions to make at the translation level since there is quite a difference between “rescue us from bad things happening to us” and “rescue is from the power of the devil.” Should the disciple of Jesus expect that God will rescue them from every bad thing that might happen to the in this life? This is highly unlikely since he has already warned his followers they will face persecution. The disciples are the poor ones who hunger and thirst, they are the ones who will be persecuted and falsely accused for all sorts of evil because of their stand for Jesus.

It seems better that this is a prayer to be rescued from the dark spiritual forces that are active in the world. Jesus prays in John 17:15 that God the Father would protect his disciples “from the evil one.” In Ephesians 6:10 Paul says the believer does not wrestle against flesh and blood, but rather against dark and sinister forces of evil. In 2 Thessalonians 3:3 Paul says “the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”

In the context of Jesus’ ministry, the trials that the disciples faced were very real threats to their lives – they were going to be arrested and likely beaten by both their friends (the Jews of the Synagogues) and their enemies (the Romans, eventually). In Mark 14:38, Jesus is talking about a trail which might result in apostasy, a denial of faith. We might describe this as a “crisis of faith,” a difficulty which is so severe that the believer may be tempted to reject his faith, to deny the Lord and, in a sense, return to a state of unbelief.

There is a strong indication that Jesus believes his disciples will pass through the time of trial, and be restored after the resurrection. This is also found in contemporary Jewish literature as well, that the one who fears the Lord will be rescued in their time of trial. Sirach 33:1 says “No evil will befall the one who fears the Lord, but in trials such a one will be rescued again and again.”

The disciple of Jesus should expect trials and temptations. There is no way to avoid them. In fact, trials and temptations are an indication the true disciple of Jesus is living out their faith, they are coming to the attention of an evil society which seeks to suppress them.

If this is correct, there is a serious contrast with some strains of Christianity which teaches the real disciple of Jesus will always be happy and healthy, or that any trial in one’s life is the result of sin. This is not at all what Jesus or Paul taught! The disciple of Jesus will still struggle with a failing body, they will endure pain and death. The disciple of Christ will still face the economic disaster of a lost job through no fault of their own. They will still face the heartbreak of rebellious children or a faithless spouse. These are not punishments for sin, but the sort of things all people face because the world is a fallen place. It is a lie to tell people their lives will be perfect if they aspect Jesus as savior. Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount the true follower can expect all sorts of hardships and will suffer persecution for their faith.

11 thoughts on “Lead us Not into Temptation – Matthew 6:13

  1. This was a great post and part of the chapter in McKnight that really was a great insight into temptation, and how we as Christians should deal with. McKnight explains it more like a test that will ultimately help us in our Christian walk,” Since the word peirasmos, used here means either “Test”, trial or “Temptation” one could also render it, “Lead me not unto the test or the trial”. we just need to know that it is what we do with that temptation is the situation. we need to know that temptation will be all around us and we need to learn, and “test” what will happen when we have temptation, and that is to turn away. I think of a small group session that we had over our weekend retreat when I and the seventh graders were having a conversation about guarding our eyes and a student told me a scenario about him on the bus, and another kid came up with a woman’s underwear add and shoved it in his face, and he had to see that. he explained to me that all he could do is turn his head away and say stop. I explained to him that he did what he could do, he did not fall into temptation, he denied it when temptation came he turned away.

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  2. I love this topic because it is one that many people discuss incorrectly. As stated in the initial blog post, people think that once they accept Christ as their savior, then their life instantly becomes easier and they will no longer face hardships. This is not true! You will still experience trials and hard ships, you will be persecuted for your faith, and you will still feel pain and suffering, but the Bible says that God will not give you anything that you can’t endure. 1 Corinthians 10:13 states “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” (ESV). This verse provides evidence that God still allows sin and hardship in our lives, because this is what helps us grow and hopefully brings us closer to God. However, he knows that we are only humans and he will help us through whatever that hardship is. It is not always the good things that brings us close to God, but the difficult times when we cannot do it on our own. It is very easy to worship God for all the good things in our lives, but it is a true test of faith when we are faced with one of the hardest events in our life and admit that we need guidance and support from Christ.

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  3. Being a Christ follower and a Christian can be very challenging but also very rewarding. The world that we live in is evil and it is our job as Christians to over come the evil an temptations of the world. The Lords Prayer says “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Christians are also humans so that means that we will be tempted from the evil things of the world, but it is our job to resist temptation. This is when we put our trust in God and walk with them through the hard times too. Like stated above James knew that we were human because he was human too, he understood the temptation that he dealt with on a day to day basis. But as Christians, we have to take the Christ like walk and resist.

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  4. In temptation we have a chance to be victorious and “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). I cannot recall a time where I heard a sermon on the joy of temptation. Normally, the “trials of many kinds” that are talked about as if they are natural trials of life and not temptation trials. It seems that oftentimes we combine temptation with sin in our minds. We perceive them both through a lense of negativity. Of course sin is a very negative aspect of life, but temptation is like the fork in the road where we can choose choices that bring life rather than death and destruction. If we truly believe that the power that raised Jesus from the dead is within us then shouldn’t we be confident to face any temptation and know that we can be victorious? As this blog post considers, James tells us temptation is a chance to grow. Moments of temptation even yield potential to be “occasions of joy” when we are faced with evil and choose to walk in righteousness which glorifies God (Long, 2018). James encourages believers saying:

    “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” (James 1:2-4).

    This makes me wonder if we are more afraid of having to endure difficult trials and persevere than the actual temptation. Naturally we want to take the path of least resistance, but when we encounter Jesus and life under his grace we are called to a totally different way of life than our sinful human nature is comfortable in. We are told that we will face things that are painful and difficult and tiring. It is refreshing to focus on the victory on the other side of this perseverance in the midst of temptation and to remember that being tempted is not bad. It is simply the fork in the road where we have a choice to choose evil…or to choose good.

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    • Hey Joelle, I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this topic of deliverance from temptation. I had a lot of similar interpretations of the concept of being tempted as represented in Matthew. Temptation entered the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s one command. Because they fell into the deception of the Wicked One (Genesis 3:4-5), Adam and Eve became the beginning of a long period of time in which God’s creation would turn away or run toward Him. Due to the fact that sin entered the world so early, sin (or in this case yielding to temptation) became a part of human nature.

      One of my favorite passages in Scripture is that passage you shared of James 1:2-4. I believe that God gives us various trials in life, and those challenges are meant to change the individual. Because the Evil One still exists within the world today, it is inevitable that temptation has become a norm for humankind. When the Devil tempts any individual, that individual has the opportunity to lean on and trust God’s sovereignty, and obey God by fleeing from the Devil. When we are tempted, it can become a habit to say to oneself, “If I fall into this temptation, I know God still forgives me so it is okay”. God’s forgiveness is everlasting yes, but that does not mean that He wants you to fall into temptation because you know that. When an individual is able to flee from the Devil, and abstain from temptation, they may become closer in relationship and commitment to God.

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  5. Dr. Long,
    I love your statement “temptation is a fact of being human and is unavoidable for the disciple of Jesus” (2018). Often times, I feel like people think being a Christian is living a perfect life without the temptation of sin, but as you said in your statement above, sin is unavoidable. In 1 John 1:8 it says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (ESV). So, it is human nature that we are tempted, but as we walk through life, we will always be tempted but we have a choice whether or not we succumb to that temptation of sin. In Matthew 26:41 it says, “watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (ESV). So, what Matthew is saying here is similar to the Lord’s Prayer, he is not praying that we will not be tempted, but that we do not succumb to the temptation and allow our weak flesh to be overruled by the spirit of God inside us.

    As a Christian, I think it is important to take a look at that. Being a Christian does not mean that we will not be tempted by sin because even Jesus was tempted, but what we do with that temptation. Do we rely on God? Yes. Do we give into the weakness of our flesh? No. It is bound to happen because as sinful beings, we will fall to temptation eventually, but if we want a strong relationship with God and if we want to grow the Spirit of God to grow within us, we need to rely on the Spirit and prayer and try to overcome the temptation that has been put in our path. God will test us, he will push us to make us stronger, just as he did with Christ. God does not want us to be weak and powerless against the flesh, but to be strong and reliant on Him throughout anything we may face.

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