Does God tempt us? That’s a question Christians have wrestled with for 2,000 years, and Jews for even longer. Do you really think I’m going to settle it in this blog post? Some dismiss the question out-of-hand, as if even asking if God ever tempts us shows that our theology is way off course.
If the answer is so obviously “no,” then why did Jesus ask us to ask God not to lead us into temptation? Would Jesus have survived our theological inquisition?
I’ve got a few thoughts on the subject which I may share at Darkwood Brew this Sunday. But for now, I want to offer a thought that I find helpful no matter how one comes down on the God-As-Tempter thing.
Darkwood Brew viewer Brian Breeding, of Alexandria, LA, sent me a link to a video clip of a skit on the Lord’s Prayer which I’d coincidentally been looking for this past week. I remember staging the same skit in my college days and it waas both funny and helpful. It’s a skit where a woman kneels down and starts praying the Lord’s Prayer only to be interrupted … by God!
“Our Father, who art in heaven …” she starts out.
“Yes, what is it?” a voice answers.
“Shhhhh! I’m trying to pray!” she responds, annoyed, and tries to continue.
And so it goes, back and forth, with the woman trying to make it to the end of her prayer and check it off her “To Do” list and God constantly responding as if she’s actually trying to have a conversation.
When she gets to the “Lead us not into temptation” part, she interrupts herself saying, “Now wait a minute, that’s a really weird thing to pray. Are you, like, gonna lead us into sin or something?”
God responds, “I don’t know. You spend half your time asking me to.”
Ouch. That gets a little too close to the truth for comfort.
I may not think I’m asking God to lead me into temptation, but what if all the energy I spend in wishful-thinking actually acts like a prayer I make to God? (Is not our very life a prayer to God, of sorts?) I’m not just thinking of lustful things one might wish for (Isn’t it funny how fast your mind went there?!) No, I’m more concerned about how much I want to be tempted by stuff that, for instance, helps me avoid seeing the pain in the world – or the possibilities before me – that might call me to action. I want to be tempted in ways that help me believe that I’m the master of my own destiny. I want to be tempted to the point where I have no choice but to be convinced that surrender to God is simply an “interesting option,” not a glaring necessity.
The skit eventually offers an interesting possibility: could it be that our praying for God not to tempt us may at least serve as a first step to admitting that we really don’t want to be tempted by all these things to begin with. We make a small step toward trying actively not to tempt ourselves.