Don’t Get Even, Get Generous

Read: Romans 12:9-21

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you. (Prov. 25:21-22)

Have you ever thought about the difference between Proverbs and proverbs—the human sayings that have been around forever and that offer advice for everyday life? The book of Proverbs comes from heaven. Human proverbs sometimes come from the other place. For example, when someone insults you or cheats you, the human response is: “Don’t get mad, get even.” Proverbs says don’t get even, get generous.

Paul quoted this verse in a section of Romans devoted to Christian ethics. Sounding very much like Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, the apostle told us to “Bless those who persecute you . . . Repay no one evil for evil . . . [and] never avenge yourselves” (Rom. 12:14, 17, 19). Instead of vengeance, we must show kindness to our enemy, offering help instead of harm. And here’s the reason: doing that will heap burning coals on the head of the one who has hurt us.

I wonder how that works. Does it mean that the wrongdoer will really get it in the neck when the Lord of vengeance finally judges everyone? Or could it be that the “fiery coals” means that our gracious response causes this person to burn with shame at the thought of their shabby behavior? If that’s the case, perhaps we’ll have turned an enemy into a friend. —David Bast

As you pray, ask God for the grace not to respond to evil in kind.

About the Author

david bast

Rev. Dave Bast retired as the President and Broadcast Minister of Words of Hope in January 2017, after 23 years with the ministry. Prior to his ministry and work at Words of Hope, Dave served as a pastor for 18 years in congregations in the Reformed Church in America. He is the author of several devotional books. A graduate of Hope College and Western Theological Seminary, he has also studied at both the Fuller and Calvin seminaries. Dave and his wife, Betty Jo, have four children and four grandchildren. Dave enjoys reading, growing tomatoes, and avidly follows the Detroit Tigers.