That is an excellent question. The fact is the Greek word “PIERASMOS” is used for both “temptation” and “trial.” Yet it has two different meanings, depending on the context in which it is found. It is used 1) of trials or temptations that are permitted or sent by God for a beneficial purpose and effect; and 2) of trials sent by Satan designed to lead to doing wrong. These have been called respectively our “HOLY trials” and “UNHOLY temptations.”

We have both of these brought out in James chapter 1. In verses 2-3 we read, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various TRIALS, knowing that the TESTING of your faith produces patience” (NKJV). The “trials” mentioned here are obviously of God, for the purpose of “testing” (or proving) our faith and producing patience in us. Verse 12 pronounces a blessing on the believer who faithfully endures these trials, “Blessed is the man who endures temptations; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” A good example of this kind of trial is when God tempted (tested) Abraham by telling him to offer his son Isaac to prove his faith and obedience to God (see Genesis 22:1-14).

In verses 13-15 the subject turns to “unholy temptations.” Those verses say, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” It is obvious that the word tempted in this verse deals with a trial that causes an “inward response in us to sin.” Satan often puts something before us to cause this effect, like he did in the Garden of Eden when he tempted Eve to sin. God NEVER tempts a man to commit a sin! Besides Satan’s temptation of Eve, another good example is when David was tempted to commit adultery with Bathsheba and he did indeed act on that temptation (see 2nd Samuel 11:1-5). As our verses indicated, David was “drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (for he kept looking at Bathsheba as she bathed) and “it gives birth to sin” (for he acted on those desires by having her brought to his room where he committed adultery with her).

Sometimes a trial may be of Satan and God, as in the case of Job. After God praised His servant Job for his faithfulness, Satan said to God in Job 1:11, “But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face.” In verse 12 God replied to Satan with these words, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.” As you read on in Job you see that Satan was allowed to destroy Job’s cattle, his servants, his children, and his health, yet Job never cursed God. So, Satan was “tempting Job to sin,” but God was “testing Job to prove his faith.” It was ONE TRIAL, but both God and Satan were involved in it. God had “holy purposes in mind” and Satan had “unholy motives.” Thankfully Job endured the temptation, resulting in God being glorified and Job being blessed. (247.1) (DO)