Heaping Coals of Fire Upon Their Heads


What do you do when someone treats you mean? When someone makes decisions that frustrate you? When you want to change someone’s behavior?

Do you have a talk with them and try to persuade, lecture, pressure, scold or threaten them into doing things your way? Do you persecute them with snide remarks, shun them, or belittle them? Do you draw back from them, being emotionally distant and cold-shoulder them?

Christ’s doctrine to love your enemy was rather shocking in the ancient world where revenge, protecting one’s honor by violence, and cruelty were the norm. As Christians, we know in theory—but it seems even some adults haven’t yet learned in practice—the very simple and wonderful truth that love is the solution. Or maybe we don’t yet really down-deep-inside believe it.

I am inspired by this very insightful scripture found in the Bible:

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.
Proverbs 25:21-22

The way to deal with an difficult person, someone who is perturbing us, or frustrating us because they won’t be nice (or accepting, flexible, cooperative, obedient, etc.) is to “heap coals of fire upon their head” through caring kindness. Love always wins. Whether it be a supervisor or your little child who is giving you trouble, love is hard to resist. Almost impossible to resist. And isn’t it interesting that love is the exact opposite reaction than what springs up in our heart. The natural man inside us wants to fight, argue, get revenge, be hot-headed, and force somebody, too. Christ’s doctrine is soothing, cooling words of peace.

Have you ever caught a glimpse of one of those judge shows on TV, where the opponents are accusing, shouting, and doing all manner of embarrassing behaviors because they are so upset with their ex-spouse, ex-partner, or ex-friend? It makes me cringe, because that is so not the way a Christian should act!

This idea of “heaping coals of fire” upon another’s head by showing love and kindness is illuminated in one of my favorite Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories. It is a wonderful story, and I read it to my children over and over when they were young, and we talk about the concept still. (Read the story). And when they come to me upset by something one of their friends or associates did, I remind them to “heap coals” on their head with positive attention and kindness, and things will go better. And things do go so much better. The reminder is good for me, too.


Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories—fabulous character training through stories

Someone was causing me some grief and as I was praying about what to do, the thought came into my mind to pick some apples from my orchard and write a little note of gratitude to that person and deliver them. Those kinds of ideas come from God, as I sure don’t feel like delivering presents to someone who complicates my life. It is wonderful to see how it softens and alters my perspective as I try to please and serve them. That is the magic. “Heaping coals upon their head” must burn the meanness out of them, too, so God can work with us both.

What a happier way to live!

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