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Returning Good for Evil: The Power of “Hot Coals”

Hot CoalsQ.  In Proverbs 25: 21-22, Solomon writes that if you give a hungry, thirsty enemy food and water, “you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”  What does that mean?

A.  My “enemy” is almost always a friend, colleague or family member who’s hurt me in some way.  An enemy is like a chisel God uses to chip away at the rough spots in my life.  God uses people close to you to expose the weak areas in your life.

Can a wife be your enemy?  Yes, because she sees the real you that no one else ever sees.  If she loves you, she’ll have to be your enemy from time to time.  Otherwise, how are you ever going to get better?

What would qualify as “hot coals?”

A kind word, a phone call, a brief note, a flower, a meal, a small gift, a letter of recommendation, running an errand, offering a ride, helping them complete a project, rewriting their report, stepping in to save a project that was failing, putting in a good word with their superiors, going bowling with them.

The list is endless, because “hot coals” refers to any act of kindness you do for an enemy.  Your only limit is your creativity.

How will God reward those who show kindness to their enemies?

It’s hard to say.  One obvious answer might be to cause your “hot coals” to turn your enemy into a friend.  Or He might promote you or pour out new blessing or grant you answers to your prayers or give you new spiritual growth.  Not to worry.  If you do your part, God will do His.  You can count on that.

          Ray Pritchard is pastor of Calvary Memorial Church, Oak Park, Illinois.

Adapted from The ABC’s of Wisdom (Moody Press, Moody Bible Institute, 1997).



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