The Devil Made Me Do It?: Understanding the Source of Temptation

Understanding where temptation comes from can help us overcome it.

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire…”
(James 1:14 ESV)

The devil made me do it.

A comedian in the 1970’s made this statement popular in American culture. He created a female character who explained her bad behavior with these words. When she fudged on her diet, purchased an expensive dress, or submitted to some desire, she exclaimed, “The devil made me do it!” As a comedy routine, it was funny. As a theological truth, it is faulty.

Scripture does describe Satan as the tempter. He tempted Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3:1-7). He tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:3). He still tempts people today. His temptations are external. However, James indicated that temptations are also internal.

James introduced a contrast with the word but. He clearly explained that God is not the source of temptation (1:13). But instead, each person is tempted by his own desire. Own means the exclusive property of someone. Desire carries an emphatic tone as something that is greatly wanted. With this language, James said, we own our desires, and they lure us into temptation.

Lure means to pull out or drag away. When our personal desires drag and pull us, we are tempted. This is very different from, “the devil made me do it.” Overcoming temptation requires us to understand from where it comes.

Trials and temptations are common to all of us (1 Corinthians 10:13). But they are also unique to each of us, according to James. They are personalized. What tempts me may not tempt you. What tempts you may not tempt me. But we are both tempted when our own desires drag us away. This places the source of temptation within us and the responsibility for our sin upon us.

Applying this truth to missions, we know that missionaries face many temptations and enticements to evil. Some are external from the tempter. But most are internal from their own desires. We need to pray for God to strengthen our missionaries to overcome their desires so the advance of the gospel will not be hindered.


“Lord, protect me from my own desires that lead me into sin. Strengthen me through your Word and your indwelling Spirit. And please also do this for our missionaries.”

Prayer requests for missionaries:

  1. Pray the prayer above for specific missionaries by name. Pray that they will understand how their desires can lead them into sin if they turn away from God.
  2. Pray for the Word of God and the Spirit of God to equip our missionaries to stand firm during temptation.
  3. Pray that the gospel will advance globally through laborers completely surrendered to the Lord.
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