Lead Us Not Into Temptation


Posted by Matt Postiff December 28, 2018 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Theology 

The well-known statement in the model prayer reads like this:

And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (Matthew 6:13, Luke 11:4).

It has lately been the subject of some controversy. One person asked me this: "How can the Catholic church rewrite the Lord's prayer?"

First of all, let us reaffirm that we can pray that portion of the prayer verbatim if we so desire, from the text of our English version. God knows what He meant when He inspired the text, and the genuine believer intuitively knows what the text means.

After all, God is able to deliver His godly ones from temptation (2 Peter 2:9).

Even more importantly, the Bible makes it clear that God never God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. (James 1:13). What does this mean? It means that God does not solicit anyone to an evil thought or deed. Such is impossible because of God's nature. That truth must be held together with a complementary truth, that God does allow situations to arise in which our faithfulness to Him is tested. But it is our own flesh, the world, and the devil that allure us to do evil when a test arises.

When we do face temptation, God promises to make a way for us to "escape" the temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). That could be through changing or removing the circumstances or helping us remain faithful in the circumstances.

As for the Catholic Pope "changing the Lord's prayer," the following quote from the Salt Lake Tribune is instructive:

The words in the Lord’s Prayer that ask, "Lead us not into temptation," can cause confusion, Francis said. To make it clear that God would not lead anybody toward sin, the pope suggested a better translation of the Greek prayer from the New Testament would be something along the lines of, "Do not let us fall into temptation." (www.sltrib.com)

I appreciate that the Pope is trying to help people not make the mistake of assuming God could tempt us to sin. So let us give credit where it is due. His solution, however, is not great. The Greek verb does not at all mean to "fall" into temptation. It means to cause someone to enter a certain condition. And even if the verb did mean to fall, that doesn't really solve the problem because then we might surmise that God does cause us to fall into sin, or culpably permit us to do the same. While God does permit all that occurs in the world, He does not actively cause sin. The mystery of that may be beyond our ability to comprehend, but it is an accurate statement of Biblical teaching on the subject.

Any way you try to say this can be misinterpreted. So just remember: in this prayer, you are asking the Lord to help you not to sin, in whatever way He knows how.

The bottom line is this: a true believer does not want to sin. He doesn't want to get close to the edge or be in places where he may be overwhelmed and fall into sin. Following the model prayer, he can and should pray that the Lord will deliver him from tempting situations, and deliver him from himself. The prayer in no way suggests that it is God who tries to get us to sin. The prayer is asking God to keep us AWAY from such situations! Indeed, God can providentially orchestrate our days to restrain sin in our lives, and to help us to avoid tempting situations. May He do that, and may we do our diligent part as well.

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