What Is the Bible's Definition of Temptation?

The Bible is full of tests and trials, usually with temptation at the center

Satan Tempts Jesus
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In the Bible, temptation usually takes the form of a test or trial designed by God which aims to give a person the opportunity to do evil and commit a sin. 

Sometimes the point is to confuse the subject about what good and evil really are. Other times it's to simply see if the person really understands what good and evil are in the first place. God may do the tempting, or Satan may be given this task.

How Christian Religions View Temptation

If something is too tempting, there is sometimes the urge to destroy the source of temptation and thus alleviate the guilt for being tempted.

Too often, though, another person is identified as a source of temptation. Israelites, for example, saw other tribes as sources of temptation to turn away from God and therefore sought to destroy them. Christians at times saw non-Christians as sources of temptation, for example in the Crusades or the Inquisition.

Is God Subject to Temptation?

Although most biblical examples of temptation involve humans, there are times when God was tempted. Enemies of Israel, for example, challenge God to punish them for their attacks on his chosen people. Jesus refuses to “test” or tempt God and Christians are advised not to test God by engaging in improper conduct.

But the Bible does contain some instances where Satan attempted to tempt Jesus, even using the scripture's teachings as his supporting evidence. 

Story of Jesus Being Tempted in the Bible

While he was fasting in the desert, Jesus was tempted by the devil, who quoted the Bible to try to make his case.

Satan taunted Jesus, telling him,  "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." Jesus replied that man does not live by bread alone.

Then Satan took Jesus up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, saying they were all under the Devil's control. He promised Jesus to give them to him if Jesus would fall down and worship him.

Again Jesus quoted from the Bible: "You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve." (Deuteronomy 6:13)

Satan tried to tempt Jesus a third time, taking him to the highest point of the temple in Jerusalem. He misquoted Psalm 91, noting that the angels would save Jesus if he tried to jump from the top of the temple. But Jesus replied with Deuteronomy 6:16: "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test." 

Valuing Temptation

There are arguments in the Christian tradition that temptation actually has value and should not be shunned too strongly. If there is no temptation, then are no opportunities to overcome temptation and thereby strengthen one’s faith. Where is the value in the practice of celibacy by Catholic priests, for example, if one never experiences any temptations to sexual behavior?

By struggling and overcoming temptation, you can feel engaged in self-improvement.