Christian morals



29. What does it mean ‘to tempt God’? How can one tempt God?



I will answer your question by commenting on one of the temptations that Jesus endured. Matthew says: “Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matthew 4:5-7). Now as you can see, when Satan tempted Jesus to do a sensational act (for he tried to induce Jesus to throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple of Jerusalem by reminding Jesus of a promise of God written in the Holy Scripture which assures God’s protection), Jesus answered the devil saying that it is also written: You shall not tempt the Lord your God”. Therefore, if Jesus had yielded to Satan’s request, He would have tempted God, even though God had promised in the Scriptures to protect Him; God would not have protected Jesus because Jesus with that act would have tempted His Father by doing something which was not in the will of God for Jesus. Jesus realized immediately that there was a danger hidden behind the proposal of Satan (there is always a danger hidden behind every proposal of Satan) and so He rejected it; Jesus refused to do what Satan wanted Jesus to do. Therefore, if Jesus had tempted God on that occasion, He would have induced God not to protect Him, and that would have had harmful effects.

But how can a man tempt God today? A man can tempt God by handling poisonous snakes publicly, as some Pentecostals in the USA do relying upon the fact that Jesus said that those who believe in Him will take up serpents (Mark 16:18). What these people do is contrary to the sound doctrine because in this way they tempt God; this is confirmed by the fact that since this practice arose in these churches several people have died after they were bitten by some of the poisonous snakes which are handled in the midst of these churches. I don’t mean by this that a believer can’t take up a poisonous snake in any circumstances, because this is exactly what can happen in certain circumstances, but this will happen in the name of Jesus Christ, therefore the poisonous snake will not hurt him at all (I remind you that Moses, even though he was not under grace but under the law, took a snake by the tail because God commanded him to take it – cf. Exodus 4:4-5).

Another way – in which one can tempt God – is by walking through the fire to show off one’s faith in the passage of the Scripture which says: “When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (Isaiah 43:2). However, it must be said that it may happen that a believer walks through the fire without tempting God, as it happened to Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego who walked in the midst of the fire because they had been cast into a burning fiery furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar for they had refused to fall down and worship the image he had made. In that case, the fire had no effect on them because God delivered them from the fire (Daniel 3:1-30).