Burning Coals


I love the book of Proverbs. It has a way of making something seemingly complex, quite simple. In the New Testament, Jesus tells us to love our enemies. And in Proverbs we learn that when we do good to our enemies, or those who hate us, it is like heaping burning coals on their head. Proverbs 25:21-22 reminds us of that and takes it even a step further. It says:

“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”

I’m not sure if you have any enemies. I can’t think of a single person that I know personally whom I’d consider an enemy. But the Bible encourages us to treat those who treat us poorly with love. In Proverbs, it says that we are to give our enemies food to eat and water to drink if they are hungry or thirsty. If we do, it really plays with their head. But what is even better, it says that the Lord will reward you. You may be like me and can’t identify a single enemy in your life. But think about this, if we’re supposed to treat our enemies this way, shouldn’t we, all the more, make every effort to extend love and aid to those who are not our enemies?


God wants us to love our enemies. Solomon reminds us in Proverbs, and Jesus does as well in the gospels. It may be difficult to wrap our mind around how different than the world we are supposed to be. Loving our enemies goes against our human nature. But that is what we are called to do. It may be difficult, but there is a dual benefit. By doing so it is as if we are heaping burning coals on their head. In other words, our kind acts will frustrate them because they expect, and probably even want, anger and hatred from us in return for their hatred, not love. But better than the burning coals is that the Lord will reward us. Giving food or water to someone in need is an act. We don’t have to like it when we do it. We just have to do it. If in your heart you don’t feel like extending a helping hand to your enemy, it may help to remember that you’re doing it out of obedience to our Lord. It may take time for the Holy Spirit to teach you how to experience and project sincere love in the process, but in the meantime, simply performing the act might be enough.