If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For so you will heap coals of fire on his head, And the Lord will reward you. Proverbs 25:21-22
Believe it or not, heaping burning coals on someone’s head is a good thing. Many Christians have errantly interpreted or have been falsely taught to believe that this verse is suggesting that doing nice things for bad people makes them burn with rage. That is not the implication here at all. God does not reward His children when they do mean or vengeful things. 1 John 1:5 is one of many Bible verses that testifies to this:
…God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.
The truth of the matter is a person’s head [Biblically speaking] is a reference to the fire source in a person’s fireplace, stove, or furnace. It is typically the smallest of embers that are kept glowing in order that when a full blaze is desired all that is needed is a little tinder, some kindling and oxygen. Old time engineers would always keep a ‘head’ smoldering in the locomotive, needing only a shovel full of coal to quickly get the boiler cooking. I recall learning in school how native Americans would carry these coals in a portion of a hollowed-out log when they traveled in order to have fire easily available.
At this point you might be thinking that if all that is needed is tinder, kindling, and oxygen to restart the fire, why does the Proverb indicate that our nice deeds are akin to heaping coals (aka: hot embers) on a person’s head if their head already has embers in it?
What’s being conveyed here is that your enemy’s head (his coals) have gone cold, which is a further indication that the enemy in question is not a believer. How do we know he is not a Christian? Because, according to Isaiah 42:3 and Matthew 12:20, God does not let the head of a true believer ever go out.
A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench…
So what Proverbs 25:21-22 is actually suggesting is that when we lovingly attend to the needs of our enemies it is an evangelical act as it serves to lead a person to Jesus Christ. Heaping coals is comparable to planting seeds! Our kind acts towards non-believers are likened to heaping embers of faith upon their souls. It’s not an act of rekindling a fire, but bringing a fire to a place where one never existed and doing so in the name, power, and authority of Jesus Christ
- What do these passages say about God?
- What do they say about us?
- Are there changes we can make?
- What is your prayer?
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- Very Basic Campfire Building (prepandgo.wordpress.com)