I’ve been to seminary. I’ve come to the conclusion that the seminary’s primary task is to show you how little you really know about the Bible and prove to you that you need to study it your entire life. I want to teach you something awesome today that I just learned myself.
I read a Facebook post from a friend a few minutes ago who was being berated by a person behind her in the McDonald’s drive thru. The person thought my friend cut in front of her. So my friend pays the $19 to cover the angry person’s order and tells the cashier to tell the lady to have a great day.
And I was reminded of the Scripture that Paul quotes in Romans 12:20 from Proverbs 25:21-22 –
On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
I never understood the Scripture until I researched it today. Paul is in the middle of a section of Romans where he’s telling them and us to “Behave like a Christian”. He says “do not repay evil with evil”. And he says when you are kind to someone who hates you or has not been kind to you, it will be like pouring burning coals on his head. Taken out of context, that makes it sound like you’re being kind so that you can harm them or make them miserable. After all, who would want burning coals poured on their head?
But Kenneth Samuel Wuest, who lived in the first half of the 1900’s, puts it into context for us:
“In Bible times an oriental needed to keep his hearth fire going all the time in order to insure fire for cooking and warmth. If it went out, he had to go to a neighbour for some live coals of fire. These he would carry on his head in a container, oriental fashion, back to his home. The person who would give him some live coals would be meeting his desperate need and showing him an outstanding kindness. If he would heap the container with coals, the man would be sure of getting some home still burning. The one injured would be returning kindness for injury.”
So this morning, according to the Bible, my friend poured some heaping hot coals on the person’s head in the McDonald’s drive thru. How “cool” is that? And in doing so, she behaved like a Christian. In this case, she may have just put a fire out.