Empathy for the Enemy (Proverbs 25:21-22)
Proverbs 25:21-22, If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee.
Solomon unveils an important principle in controlling your anger in these verses. Displaying compassion and kindness to an enemy is like heaping coals of fire on his head. Heaping coals of fire on the head was an indication of caring for your enemy. The principle involves investing in the life of your enemy or offender. The flesh says, “No way! There is no way I’m going to do anything for my enemy! They are not getting a thing from me!” Yet, Solomon says to give to and do good to your offender and the Lord will reward you.
What is the meaning behind the “coals of fire?” In Egypt, a man showed repentance by carrying a pan of burning coals on his head. It was a symbol of shame, conviction, guilt, and the changing of the mind. Fire was precious, especially when you traveled from one place to another. To give someone your coals was to provide them with warmth. The result is our kindness will overcome evil.
The natural reaction is to retaliate against our enemies, but godly wisdom tells us to respond in kindness. Give in secret and anger will be smothered, muffled, or appeased. A gift in secret pacifieth anger (Proverbs 21:14). The best way to defeat an enemy is to smother him with kindness. If he has a need, meet his need. Give him food when he is hungry and water when he is thirsty. It can calm anger in your enemy and in you. It’s hard to give to someone and remain angry with them. This is what the Lord did for us when He gave His life for us and continues to bless us, even though we do things that are offensive to Him.
Doing good to an enemy is a difficult and unnatural response. God doesn’t want you getting bitter, hard-hearted, or to ever hold a grudge. If you’re not careful in resolving conflicting matters, you may hold a grudge against someone, and take pleasure in their misfortunes. Thinking of the individual only in connection with our injuries. The spark maybe confined for years until least expected and then bursts out into an out-of-control flame. When you’re kind to your enemies it shames. Don’t offer them a cold shoulder; offer them a kind hand. That will shame them more than any retaliation we might put up. Honor godly wisdom and the Lord will recompense us (Romans 12:20-21).
Paul spoke about investing in your enemy also. This will cause the heart and mind of the enemy to burn with conviction and possibly change. Romans 12:19-21, Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. Most people return good for good and evil for evil. We have a higher standard that the Lord has set for us. We are to return good for evil. This requires love and faith that God will work His will in our lives and in their lives. We are to obey the Lord in this matter. I Peter 3:9, Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For all the railing or criticizing you have received from your enemies you return blessings; knowing you will receive the greater reward.
Our generosity and kindness would bring about conviction and a change in attitude toward us. Watchman Nee tells about a Chinese Christian who owned a rice paddy next to one owned by a communist man. The Christian irrigated his paddy by pumping water out of a canal, using one of those leg- operated pumps that make the user appear to be seated on a bicycle. Every day, after the Christian had pumped enough water to fill his field, the communist would come out, remove some boards that kept the water in the Christian’s field and let all the water flow down into his own field. That way, he didn’t have to pump. This continued day after day. Finally, the Christian prayed, “Lord, if this keeps up, I’m going to lose all my rice, maybe even my field. I’ve got a family to care for. What can I do?” In answer to his request, the Lord put a thought in his mind. So, the next morning he arose much earlier, in the predawn hours of darkness, and started pumping water into the field of his communist neighbor. Then he replaced the boards and pumped water into his own rice paddy. In a few weeks both fields of rice were doing well—and the communist was converted. This perhaps is something that everybody admires to do, but very few are willing to imitate. Matthew 5:44, But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; It is difficult to hate and be angry with those who you are praying for. This is one of Jesus’ most difficult commands to obey. Yet, when it is obeyed, it has a powerful effect upon others.
Questions to Consider:
Who are the first three people who come to mind that you need to love?
What are some actions the Holy Spirit has shown you to love and do good to your enemies?
Will you decide to do it?
Will you do it willingly and joyfully?
What actions will you commit to doing today?
Points to Ponder:
God doesn’t expect you to trust your enemies; He does expect you to forgive them.
Never has a man truly conquered his enemies’ heart by revenge; however, many times by love.
It is hard for a person to be mean to someone who is being kind and tenderhearted towards them.
Don’t worry or concern yourself if your enemy has not regarded all the good you’ve done for him.
If you obey this command the enemy has no claim on your life.
PRAYER: I realize this is a matter of obedience to You. Already some names have come to mind. Help me to pray for my enemies, and count on You to give me guidance on the helpful ways that I can love them. Help me to treat enemies that come across my path as You commanded. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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Dr. Blackman is passionate about helping others grow in the grace of the Lord. His devotions are centered on how to grow closer to the Lord through a personal relationship.