Updated: Feb 6, 2021
We are told to pray, "Lead us not into temptation."
Why? Why would our holy God ever "lead us" into temptation?
We are told that God can't be tempted with evil, and that He does not tempt anybody (James 1:3).
So, I'm not asking with a cynical or unbelieving motive. I want to understand.
Why put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden in the first place? Why give Satan access to Adam and Eve? Why allow the fermentation process and the existence of mind altering substances? Why not intervene when Sarah offered Hagar to Abraham? Why allow David to even see Bathsheba? Could God not prevent such things?
Actually, I don't think I have the ultimate and complete answer to these questions. I believe God is good. I trust His goodness. I preach and rest upon the reality that He is loving, kind, generous, gracious, merciful, reliable, and righteous. Still, I pray repeatedly, "Lead me not into temptation."
I have said before that if you really want to run from God, I believe He will buy you the tennis shoes to do it. It's a statement from experience. But I mean it when I say it. While God can supersede in any and every situation (for example, King Saul prophesying in 1st Samuel 19), apparently He can't or won't do so in many situations. Because? He has a higher purpose and plan that demands our freedom.
Yet our freedom screams for His mercy and grace. Well, it actually screams against it, but His mercy and grace are the answer.
Perhaps the best and deepest answer to the question (why does God allow temptation) we can possibly surmise is... love. Divine love and reciprocated love. It is love that sets options before the target of love. And it is love that desires a return of affection and cooperation. No man loves with the object of producing rejection. At least, no sane man would love for that reason. And we are made in the likeness of God. We love because He first loved us. And that was His object. To plant and cultivate love in us. Love for Him.
The greatest commandment (and its little sister) is to love God with everything we are and all that we have. In loving Him we love those who resemble Him - namely our neighbors. And there is the "temptation" thing again. God allows the world to woo us. He wouldn't have to allow it. But HE does. Of course, perhaps He would add that WE don't have to allow it, but we do. Yet the fact remains: we are called to love a God we cannot see (1st Peter 1:8). And we are commissioned to love people who are not lovable.
The only one we love naturally is ourselves. And even that is a warped and twisted love that many times (most of the time, actually) does more damage than good.
So, THIS is the world God loved. This is the world God loves. John 3:16. [I'm borrowing from someone else here (I think it was Alvin Carl Plantinga). Read him yourself to see if he is worthy of the blame/credit]. Of all the possible, theoretical ways that God could have made the world, He chose to make it this way. This is the world He fell in love with.
Now, might I add that there actually is no other way that He could have made the world. If there was a better way to do it than the way He did it, then He would have done it that way instead. But if His purpose is to manifest His love, to bring glory to Himself, to bring honor to the Godhead, to reveal His majesty, and to maximize His own pleasure - then this was the only way to go. God only does what is best. He never has to apologize. He never needs to repent.
So, we don't understand. He has all the ability and yet He has assigned the responsibility to us. I mean in this area of resisting temptation. If I fail and fall, ultimately I'm to blame. I get in trouble. Not the devil. Not God. Me. On the other hand, if I get something right, He gets the credit. As He should.
Trust me. Any time I ever have victory over temptation, it is because God is working in me both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).
So, why does God allow temptation? He hates sin. So why allow it?
Well, for one thing: He is not threatened by it. He will not be dethroned. He will put all things under the feet of His Son in due time. Nobody is actually "getting away" with anything... ever.
Another thing: His perspective transcends us. He sees and knows things that we don't see, can't know, and wouldn't understand even if He did choose to reveal them to us. The ways of God are so far above us that they are past finding out.
Hence the requirement of faith.
And then, there is redemption. I propose that there is nothing that declares and reveals God's character (to us) more clearly than redemption. He is a God who can take the worst moment in human history (the mock trial and unjust execution of the Son of God) and turn it into the best and most glorious moment in human history. Jesus (representing the whole human race) willingly laid His life down to redeem the rest of us. He was the only one who ever scored an A+ 100% on every test and temptation every time throughout His whole life. And what would He do with that stellar perfection? He purchased our forgiveness.
Without temptation, there would be no sin. Without sin, there would be no Savior. Without a Savior, we could not possibly know the depths of the love and grace of our Maker.
So, while we don't (or shouldn't) sin so that God's grace can be seen more frequently and more powerfully. Still, where sin abounds, grace abounds much more (Romans 6:1 & 5:20)!