We have all read about people who are getting paid thousands of dollars to be “social influencers” online. There are nano or micro influencers with followers in the thousands, mid-level influencers with hundreds of thousands, and the ultimate macro influencers with a million or more followers. In fact, social influencing is a billion-dollar industry now that is expected to continue to grow rapidly. We may tend to dismiss these media sensations as shallow or self-promoting, but did you know that the Bible encourages social influencing? Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works.”
That word “provoke” often bears a negative connotation in our minds – along the lines of “Stop provoking your brother!” That word has also been translated as “motivate, encourage, spark, spur, stir up, stimulate.” Or, for our purposes, “influence.”
So, while we may not have millions of followers, we do have a sphere of influence. Our example can be one more brick paving a fellow believer’s path toward a right decision or one more stumbling block deterring from the right path.
We are social beings. God made us that way! The advertisement industry is simply capitalizing on our inherent human desire for social acceptance and conformity. However, God’s design has a loftier motivation in mind than the manipulation of buying power. He wants us to influence others to “love and good works.”
How do we do that? The first step must surely be for us to engage in love and good works ourselves and so to influence by example. Does that mean that we do our “good works” and then run home to post it immediately on all of our social media platforms, so that our influence cuts the widest possible swath?
In the days before social media, back when this verse was written, the picture would have been much different. Provoking to good works would conjure up visions of quiet, consistent good works most likely done on a very small scale. And, in the end analysis, when all of our modern day photos have been liked, shared, and commented on and have given way to interest in the next sensation, most people will recognize that it is still the quiet, consistent, dedicated examples of love and good works over the course of a lifetime that will have the most lasting influence. That kind of example may not be noticed by thousands, but it may make the difference in someone’s life and ultimately bring glory to our Father.
Does that mean that posting on social media is always the wrong choice? No, I believe that a post can influence in a positive or encouraging way. Perhaps the crux of the question lies in the motivation for our actions. The beginning of the verse admonishes us to “consider one another.” If our actions are truly considering our Christian brothers and sisters and not simply promoting ourselves, and if our actions provoke our fellow believers to “love and good works,” then we are well within the framework indicated in Hebrews.
If we could put it this way, “Stop provoking your brother[!] and start provoking your brother (and sister) in Christ.”