Is being tempted sinful?

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.
 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”     James 1:2-3 (NLT)


An infinite number of sermons have been preached on the topic of temptation and also a multitude of articles have been written concerning how to avoid or overcome it. The main fallacy with this myriad of words is that temptation is treated as sinful or at the very least as being negative.  However, is this true?     

The topic of temptation is frequently introduced by citing the three temptations of Christ and how He avoided each of them.  However, this illustration of temptation being evil is clouded by the claim that Christ was sinless.  I have no argument that He did not sin but I would raise the question if He did not sin, how could His temptations be sinful? 

          Almost universally temptation is regarded within our churches in negative terms and is usually associated with improper sexual behavior.  However, the word, temptation according to my dictionary and others that I have consulted is defined: “something enticing or inviting”.   Please note the neutrality of the definition!  Obviously, temptation can be a force for either good or evil as we can be tempted to do good deeds     as well as bad!  It is essential to keep this truth in mind.  I would suggest that numerous believers harbor guilt feelings because they were tempted even though they did not succumb to it. Needless to say no one should to be subjected to the burden of guilt when no culpability is involved!

          The assertion that temptation is not a sin unless one acts on it is sometimes countered by the citing the admission of a former president who claimed he had sinned because he lusted in his heart.  Lusting is NOT tempting; lusting involves coveting improper relationships usually accompanied by fantasies whereas temptations are usually fleeting desires.  So let’s not foster guilt in others or ourselves because unwholesome thoughts may flutter through our minds!  Let us save our remorse for those acts, which actually involve improper deeds.