Pater noster qui es in coelis,
sanctificetur nomen tuum;
adveniat regnum tuum,
fiat voluntas tua,
sicut in coelo et in terra.
Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie,
et dimitte nobis debita nostra,
sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris.
et ne nos inducas in tentationem
sed libera nos a malo.
To the best of my knowledge, that is how St. Jerome translated the Lord’s Prayer into Latin about 18 centuries ago. Only recently, someone has proposed to change one line (“ne nos inducas in tentationem”) reasoning that “God does not lead anyone into temptation” and therefore we should use the slightly different Spanish translation: “Do not let us fall into temptation.”
First of all: is it true that God does never lead us into temptation? The case of Abraham comes to mind. Was he put in a position where he could have been tempted to disobey the divine commandment to sacrifice his only son? It seems to me that Abraham could have been tempted to disobey God’s order. I am not a theologian but it certainly looks like the man may have been tempted.
Then we have the temptation of Christ. (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12, 13; and Luke 4:1-13)
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. (Matthew 4:1-11)
I am tempted to go into analyzing the three temptations but I don’t want to digress. The important point here is that Jesus was “led by the Spirit” to a deserted place “to be tempted” (or tested) by the devil himself.
Apparently God does lead his servants into situations where they can be tempted by the devil. This is very different to say that God could tempt us. Yet God can test our mettle for our own benefit. He knows our limitations but he also wants us to grow in confidence.
No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
In allowing temptation, God allows us also to participate in responding personally to the evil challenges of the devil. See Proverbs 27:11.
Be wise, my son, and bring joy to my heart;
then I can answer anyone who treats me with contempt.
God is with us during temptation, making sure we are not completely defeated by it. He provides the escape of sincere repentance even when we fall. In that manner, God transforms our failures into a tool that sharpens our justice.
The devil may try to make us fall and may even succeed to a point, but he needs our collaboration, the devil needs our complete surrender to destroy us.
By allowing us to be tested, God makes us stronger. Every time we repent sincerely, we emerge stronger and better trained to defeat that specific temptation.
God is good. Good is a benevolent benefactor. In His unfathomable perfection, even things that do not look like grace are gifts designed for our good. When God leads us to the desert to be tempted, that may be the sign that we are being prepared for a great mission. Abraham and Jesus were tempted before they could be given their missions. Abraham went on to be a “father of nations” and Jesus went on to conquer the world for the Kingdom of God.
The next time temptation knocks at our door, we should see it as an opportunity to fight a battle for our Redeemer, and a sure sign that He is inviting us to grow and go into better and greater things.