In our Bible study last night, we had the verse that concludes with " heaping coals of fire on their heads." What is your interpretation of this phrase?
Hello Janet, your question brings back a fond memory. The passage you referenced in Roman’s, with heading
How to behave like a Christian
Romans 12:9-10, 12-21 NKJV
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
This verse a quote from Proverbs 25 :11-12 it is a very very old saying.
In olden times before we had the means of quickly creating a fire, a community fire was perpetually maintained so people could come and get burning coals, embers to restart thier fire after leaving to hunt or travel for other reasons. Also the pan that the coals were put in was carried over the head. The most effective less taxing way to carry anything. Picture a middle east women carrying water, or basket on thier head. It was a common good deed for a person to help in thier time of need. I have heard it meant other things that were not kind which I will not get into. Blessings to you hope this helps clarify things for you.
Thank you! That helps immensely.
Romans 12:19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
When I was a kid, one evening my mother brought my father, who was sitting watching T.V., a plate of snacks with a soft drink may of kissed his head. My father responded, “Wow. What did I do to deserve this?” My mother proclaimed, “I am heaping coals of fire on your head.”
I do not know how my father had wronged my mother, but whatever it was it was probably rather minor, but the lesson was major. She was responding to his unkindness with kindness and he afterwards was be more attentive to her requests. I noticed this and I have never forgotten the lesson.
So often, our worldly nature is to repay evil with evil. God is the one who can justly mete out vengeance. I do not have that capacity to be “just” in my anger and desire to seek revenge. The Christ way is to bless when we our cursed, to give generously when others seek to wrong us.
The “burning coals” are to a way that our good behavior should pierce the hearts of those who would abuse us.
1 Peter 3:16 …keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.
Our good deeds may cause repentance and bring them painful sorrow leading to Godly sorrow and that person may ask us for the reason for our hope.
1 Peter 3:15 …but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. 17 For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. 18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit
2 Corinthians 7:10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.