What Role Does God Have in Tempting Us? – Greg Albrecht


I have two comments/queries about the Lord’s Prayer.  In Matthew 6::7 it states that “gentiles” prayed. Would that have been to “greek” gods? My understanding is this would mean Pharisees way of self promotion.

Also Matthew 6:13 would appear to suggest that God has the option of “leading us to or into temptation” similar to Matthew 4:1 where Jesus was led to be tempted. Your consideration and insight would be appreciated.


Matthew 6:7 speaks of vain repetitions in prayer, and then has Jesus saying that the “heathen” (Authorized King James and others) or the “pagans” (New International Version) or “hypocrites” (favored by many other more modern translations).  The only translation with which I am familiar that uses the word “gentiles” in this verse is the New American Standard.  The translations using the word “heathen” and “pagan” and “gentile” are capturing the sense of the way in which Jesus was accommodating the religious worldview of Judaism.  He was condescending to their beliefs, both cultural and religious, that only the Jews knew God – he did not obviously agree with their view as he made clear throughout the Gospels, but was using the in house language they favored in this verse (without here challenging it as he did so many times elsewhere) to make another point. 

Speaking of translations, I believe that the Contemporary English Version captures the heart and soul of Jesus’ instruction here (Matthew 6:7) in saying “… don’t talk on and on as people who do not know God.”  This includes the nuance that Jesus obviously has in mind here – it’s not just “other” people who don’t know God but Jews as well, who are themselves captives of their religion and go on and on in their prayers – for instance see the parable of the Pharisee and the publican in Luke 18, where the Pharisee goes “on and on” and is quite obviously cast in this role as a hypocrite – though he is not “heathen” – “pagan” – or a “gentile.”

To your query about Matthew 6:13 and whether “God has the option of ‘leading us to or into temptation.’”  First of all, not to nit pick your question, but God has any option he chooses.  He can do whatever he wants whenever he wants.  He is the unlimited God – however, the revelation of the Father in Jesus Christ, throughout the Gospels makes it clear that God exercises “self-control” (and using the term “self-control” of God I am of course using language of human parameters – given that we are confined to time and space and must use our existence and limitations to speak of God who is eternal and outside of our time and space world). 

God’s love is who he is.  God’s mercy and grace flows out of this paramount definition of his deity – out of his love flows mercy and grace, and not the emotional experiences of humanity, including seduction, temptation, taking revenge, being angry, unforgiving, etc.   So yes he has “options” but chooses in many ways not to exercise all his options.  That is clear not only biblically but in history.

James 1:13 says that God does not tempt anyone, in terms of taking humans down a primrose path and selling us a bill of goods.  If such is our perspective of God then we, to quote the Contemporary English Version translation of Matthew 6:13 then we “do not know God.”  We are God’s children – he is not tempting us (the Bible speaks of the tempter,  Satan, the devil of engaging in this nefarious activity). 

God does not expect us, as his human children, to leap buildings in a single bound. He does not tempt us to do something or resist something we are not capable of.  He, as the Psalmist says, “knows our frame.”   In that regard, we don’t need any further prodding or incentives or alluring seductions beyond the culture in which we live or the nature which we fight against.  Our inward lusts and external circumstances tempt us – not God.

Matthew 6:13 in terms of “leading us into temptation” does not mean, in the Greek, an enticement to sin, but rather a prayer to provide protection from the testing of our own lusts and desires which are always around us.  The same spiritual reality in terms of God’s love for us are present in Matthew 4:1 when the “tempter” came to tempt Jesus – to try and test him and allure and seduce him.    The phrasing “lead us not into temptation” of Matthew 6:13 has been the subject of much study by biblical scholars, for on its face it seems to suggest that God might have some part in tempting us and that we might spare or deliver us from something he otherwise would allow (as one of his “options” to use your terminology).  But the best sense, it seems, of all the studies of which I am aware, is that this part of the prayer suggest that he has a role, somewhat like that of Psalm 23, of being with us during valleys of despair and the shadow of death, so that we lie down in green pastures, beside rivers of living water, eating at his table and in his house forever.  Nothing of God provoking, inciting or seducing us into sin there – nor indeed in the vast majority of passages that help us understand the totality of God, and most specifically, in those New Testament Gospel passages when Jesus reveals the heart and soul of the Father to us. 

In Christ, Greg Albrecht

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