Reading the Word
Proverbs 25:21–22 (ESV)
21 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,
22 for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.
Understanding and Applying the Word
The first line of this proverb is simple enough, but the second may seem kind of surprising, depending on how you interpret it. Some take the second line to mean that by doing good to our enemies, we heap up future punishment for them. This means that by doing good, we are secretly just waiting for their future punishment and our revenge. This seems like a strange way to understand this passage.
A better interpretation is to understand burning coals on the head as a picture of repentance. By loving our enemies and doing good for them, we can have a profound impact on them. Doing so may even lead our enemies to see the error of their ways and to a point of change, even looking to our God. Jesus calls us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-48). By doing so, we imitate what our Savior did for us and we put reaching the world with the Gospel as our top priority.
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