Provoke One Another
Genevan Institute for Reformed Studies
by Bob Burridge ©2011
Provoking someone is not what we normally expect the Bible to tell us to do.
Google’s English Dictionary gives the following definitions for the verb “provoke”:
- Stimulate or give rise to (a reaction or emotion, typically a strong or unwelcome one) in someone
- Stimulate or incite (someone) to do or feel something, esp. by arousing anger in them
- Deliberately make (someone) annoyed or angry
The Bible uses this word in a very different sense.
Hebrews 10:24, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works”
We are told to provoke one another to that which is good, not to anger or other unwelcome emotion. We have a responsibility to carry out what this verse is talking about.
To begin with, we are told to consider one another. We should not be unprepared about how to stir up others to good attitudes and behaviors. We need to consider what will actually accomplish this goal. We should strategize, looking into what will have the intended consequence of our actions toward one another. We might plan long in advance for weddings, vacations, parties, even for our evening’s television schedule. Certainly our duty toward others is important enough that we put in the same effort ahead of time that we would in planning an evening watching our favorite shows.
The action we’re commanded to take it to provoke the other person. The word “provoke” here is actually not a verb in the original text. The text reads eis paroxusmon (εις παροξθσμον), “unto provocation” Our English word “paroxysm” comes from this word. It means, “a sudden extreme reaction to something”. The word in Greek means to stir up someone to some behavior: regardless of it being a good or a bad response.
In this case we are to stir up something good in others. We should provoke them to love and to good works. We are called by God here to create situations that help others to improve and mature spiritually.
It’s so easy when people are thoughtless, self-centered, our simply rude, to respond to them in ways that humiliate them, or that provoke anger in them. That’s exactly the opposite of what God calls you to do here in this verse.
When you deal with others in your life day by day, do some advanced planning. Consider the way the people you’re dealing with respond to things, and strategize how to stir them up to responses and attitudes of love and of good works. This is your assigned duty.