1 Comment

  1. Erin
    September 21, 2011 @ 5:10 pm

    I’ll admit that when I read that “testing” verse, I kind of wanted to skip over it, too. Reflexively, I don’t like the idea of Jesus testing anybody. Or, more precisely, of his testing ME — he can test others all he wants. 🙂

    But then I started thinking about what Jesus did to test Philip: He asked him a question. That’s it. He didn’t do anything to him or require anything of him. He just asked a diagnostic question, one that would let him–and Philip himself–see where Philip was on the getting-and-trusting-Jesus spectrum.

    And THAT got me thinking… When God tests people elsewhere in scripture, what does he do to them? Because I realized that I had this idea that when God tests us, it means that he makes us go through something really hard and terrible to see whether we’ll be faithful to him. But that didn’t really seem to be the nature of Jesus’ test of Philip. So maybe I had this wrong?

    So I did a cursory search, looking at every instance where “test” is used in the Bible. [Disclaimer: I used one translation. I didn’t look at Hebrew or Greek. I didn’t search for tested or testing or the other iterations of the word. So this isn’t authoritative — just a starting place.] There were 59 of them. What I found was really surprising to me:

    1) The Bible has a LOT more instances of humans testing God than of God testing humans. And even though God has told them not to test him (because, you know, he’s God and they’re not), he is often gracious in responding and doing what people ask him to do.

    2) Sometimes when God tests people, he does it by giving them GOOD stuff and seeing how they respond. Example: Exodus 16, where God gives the Israelites manna in the wilderness to see “whether they will walk in my law or not.” He’s basically saying, “I’ve told you to follow me and I’ll give you what you need. Here’s proof. Now, are you going to do it?”

    3) I didn’t find ONE instance where God does something bad to someone or causes something bad to happen to them in order to test them. James 1:13 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” It seems to hold true for God causing harm to people in order to test them. He just doesn’t seem to do it.

    What I learned is that for God, testing seems more to be about finding out (or more likely, helping us see) what we’re made of, like you bite on a piece of gold to see how pure it is, or put a little bit of weight on a tree branch while climbing before you trust it with your whole weight. Where are we in our faith? How much are we ready to handle? Where could we stand a little purifying, a little strengthening?

    This helps me see Jesus’ testing Philip a little differently — as more loving and gracious. My hope is that it helps me to be more open to where God might be testing me, and to trust that he’s being loving and gracious with me, too.

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