Unlimited: Burning Coals

Aug 24, 2023 148

Unlimited: Burning Coals

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head (Romans 12:20b).

The apostle Paul is here quoting from the wise king Solomon, who wrote,

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 (Prov. 25:21–22).

The idea of “coals on his head” seems to be an idiom, and its precise meaning is lost in the mists of time. Perhaps the best way to understand this is that if you love your enemies and do good to them, their conscience will burn within them, so that they may reconsider their enmity toward you.

If you love your enemies and do good to them, their conscience will burn within them

In my younger years, when I was mistreated by others, I would often intentionally go out of my way to do good to them, and with this specific verse in mind. While the general principle was a good one, I didn’t do it in a loving spirit. I did it through gritted teeth, determined to prove that I was better than them, and desperately hoping that their conscience would be so hurt by my goodness to them that they would be tormented by it.

This isn’t what Paul is talking about. He is focusing on unselfishly loving your enemy, not hurting them or seeking revenge.

Spiritual Application

Have you ever tried to “shame” someone into treating you well? What were your motives? Were you truly loving them? How did it work out for you?

Eliezer Gonzalez

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