1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Charity suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity braggs not itself, is not puffed up,…
1. Provocation is but the calling forth in us, and from us, some emotion, by some external circumstance which in some way or other affects us. It is perhaps the evil from within us, answering to, and going forth to meet the evil from without us. There is probably some dangerous, tender spot in the character or temperament of every one of us which is peculiarly susceptible to provocation. It may vary from time to time. It may shift from one point to another, just as pain sometimes shifts from one member to another. We know also that certain conditions of the atmosphere, or postures of the body, or certain things which affect our senses, affect each of us according to the sensitiveness of any particular sense. So it is with the mind. One thing which one person will bear without the least annoyance will entirely disturb another; or again, certain people will have the peculiar gift of saying, or looking, or having a manner which almost, in spite of ourselves, seems so easily to provoke us, and cause us to be wanting in kindly feeling. There are persons who somehow always contrive to say the right things at the wrong times, or are out of tune with us altogether. When we are in great trouble, they talk trivially; or they console us with just the very things that do not afford us the very least consolation; or when our minds are full of some important business, they detain us with some imaginary trouble of their own, or some story about their neighbour. Our charily, our courtesy, is chafing under it, and at last we are fairly "easily provoked," and, indeed, if we knew where to draw the line — justly.
2. Much depends, however, by what is meant by the word "provoked" here. The word is such an everyday word, that we can be at no loss to attach a meaning to it in its ordinary sense. When we hear such expressions as "I was provoked beyond endurance," or even of things which fall out in the order of providence, that favourite expression, "It is so provoking," when we come to sound, means really neither more nor less than that our mind has, for the time being, lost its equilibrium, and therefore we are so far forth out of charity with God and our neighbour. Of course the range of such an expression is enormous. It may go from a hasty passing phrase to the deadly sin of anger, malice, and all uncharitableness. At any rate, it is the beginning of sin; and, says the wise man, the "beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water"; that is to say, no one knows when or where it will stop.
3. No doubt one common form that this sin takes with us is irritability of temper. We call it sometimes constitutional irritability. We may excuse it in others, but we must not excuse it in ourselves. It can be overcome. It must be overcome, though it cost us twenty-two years' work, as it is said to have cost a great saint. Charity is not irritable, nor easily irritated, we may translate the text.
4. To show its great danger, and how it may take any one of us at unawares, remember that one hasty word, spoken under provocation, deprived Moses of the possession of the promised land.
(J. B. Wilkinson, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,