Scurdie Ness, Montrose.
Photography courtesy of Ben Bremner,

“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.”

Romans 12:20 (NASB)

I remembered this verse recently in conversations regarding folk making my life difficult; I used to apply this very badly as a young Christian, weilding it as a weapon of vengeance. I must confess there is still a side in me that loves being nice to those who are not nice; such as that person who ignores me will suddenly find me smiling at them and engaging them in conversation. Sometimes it works well and in other times it doesn’t work at all. This is “heaping burning coals on someone.”

The above verse is a quote from Proverbs 25:21-22 in the Old Testament, and is further elaborated upon by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ:  “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Matthew 5:44. The key word used here is “love” meaning that our actions towards those who hurt us are to be done in love, rather than in vengeance. This points to our primary motivation being to share God’s love with those who ignore us, in such a way to display His love which may lead them to repentance for sin they have committed. Burning coals poured on our head would be painful, illustrating the pain of having one’s sin exposed by someones kindness to us  whom we have mistreated. It is the kindness of Almighty God working through His people in such circumstances that lead sinners to repentance (Romans 2:4).

Dear reader, you will be glad to know that I have matured in faith such that I no longer weild His Word as a weapon on those who hurt me. I now love being kind to folks because I know it is commanded in love by Jesus, as is His command to also pray for them. If my kindness makes them uncomfortable unto repentance that is a victory for the love of God in a sinful world.  Do you have such folk in your life, and do you avoid them? I encourage you brethren to “heap burning coals on their head” in love, and pray for them too.

19 thoughts on “Burning Coals

    1. It is the spirit it is done in that is the problem, and I have like yourself Barbara have done it in a wrong spirit in my past. May we both learn to do it with grace and love sister.


  1. Actually, “heaping burning coals on their heads” was NOT an act of cruelty. Think about how difficult it was to start a fire before lighters or even matches! And one would NOT carry coals in front of you, as they embers might fly in your face. So if you wanted to give a fire to someone whose flame had gone out, you would put it in a pot to be carried on his head. This is much more consistent with the first part of the verse and makes better sense in the culture of those days.
    See for more detail on this discovery.
    ❤️&🙏, c.a.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Praying for someone who hurts me or a member of my family is such a hard step to take. Instinctively, I want to wallow in the hurt. But oh how praying cuts off the root of vengeance and allows seeds of love to grow for that person and their well being. Great devotional Alan!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Beth.
      At present I have been quite ill this weekend, hence there is no Psalm Sunday today. I would be grateful if you could pray that I am able to see a doctor tomorrow.
      God bless you and your lovely family sister, Amen 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

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