If Thine Enemy be Hungry
How to Treat Your Enemy (vs.21)
A. If He is Hungry or Thirsty, Feed Him and Give Him Drink
1. This is a command and it is simple to understand.
a. If our enemy is suffering, we should try to meet his need.
b. If our enemy is going without the bare minimum, we should help feed him or give him something to drink.
c. And we could probably add here that if he is injured and bleeding on a battle field, we should treat his wounds.
d. It doesn’t mean that we are required to give him arms and weapons or adopt his ideology.
e. But we are required to alleviate his suffering.
2. However, it is not so simple to obey.
a. It is not quite so hard to give food and water to an ally, a friend, or a brother.
b. But providing the essentials of life to an enemy is hard to do.
c. The word “enemy” here means one who is hated or loathed.
d. It is an exceptionally strong term.
e. Thus, by using such a strong term, Solomon makes it clear that the action is not being done out of a warm fuzzy feeling that we have for the person.
f. Instead, the kind deeds are to be done regardless of our feelings for the individual.
g. The command is to perform deeds of kindness contrary to our feelings. The reason is clear; our behavior is to be in harmony with God’s Word, not with our feelings.
h. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Going by the feelings of our heart we can deceive ourselves into thinking that our actions are proper when in fact they are not.
i. We are to be kind to our enemies because God said so.
j. The Bible doesn’t tell us what to feel, but it does tell us what to DO.
k. We are not required to feel warm and gushy towards our enemies, but we are commanded to love them by performing DEEDS of love, regardless of our feelings.
l. Matt. 5:43-48 – Jesus commanded His disciples to love their enemies, bless them, and do good unto them.
• In doing so, the disciple is LIKE his heavenly Father.
• It is an expression of God’s love to the unworthy and undeserving. It is an expression of godliness.
• God bestows good gifts on His enemies and so should we.
• If we do good only to our own brethren, we are no better than the world. The world does that!
• That is just natural affection—human compassion.
• God wants us to demonstrate agape love.
• And remember that agape love is kind. Love is not self seeking. Love is not easily provoked. Love bears all things. And love never fails.
3. Feeding a hungry enemy does not come naturally to us.
a. Revenge comes much more naturally to us.
b. There is usually a sense of sweet satisfaction that comes from seeing an enemy suffer.
c. We enjoy seeing our enemy go hungry or thirsty.
d. We enjoy seeing our enemy suffering any kind of tragedy.
e. Prov. 24:17 – We are not to rejoice at the calamity of an enemy; but rather, meet his need.
f. Phil. 4:13 – To obey this proverb requires the power of God working in us.
• The power to obey this command is foreign to us; on our own it is impossible.
• But “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
• We are to follow the One who died for His enemies. Surely we can feed them when they are hungry!
4. Our responsibility is to demonstrate deeds of love.
a. We may feel the person deserves wrath and vengeance, but that is not our job.
b. II Kings 6:22 – Elisha showed kindness to and fed the very soldiers that came to take him away!
c. Heb. 10:30 – “For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.”
d. Our job is to demonstrate love. God will judge those who need judgment in His time and in His way.
e. When we take vengeance on an enemy, we are assuming the role of God, and the Lord does not appreciate rivals from the likes of us… from other unworthy sinners who also deserved judgment but received the love and grace of God instead!
f. Ps. 35:11-15 – David treated enemies with love. So can we.
B. If His Coals Go Out, Give Him Hot Coals
1. What Solomon said about providing food and drink for an enemy is easy to understand. It is hard to do, but easy to understand.
2. This command is not as easy to understand.
a. It could be understood as the third expression of agape love and kindness shown to an enemy.
b. Some have also interpreted this to mean that the deed of kindness may melt his heart and win over the heart of the enemy and make him a friend!
c. It could also be understood as an expression of divine vengeance on an enemy.
3. As an expression of love and kindness.
a. In the days before electric stoves, lights, and heaters, fires were used to heat a home and cook the food.
b. Often the fires were kept going by preserving the hot coals.
c. If a fire went out, it was considered a neighborly thing to give your neighbor some of your hot embers.
d. Those hot embers would be put in a metal dish and carried on the head as most things were.
e. Many believe that “heaping coals of fire on your enemy’s head” was the third expression of kindness—like giving him food and water… and hot coals to cook the food on or heat his home.
4. Thus, if your enemy is hungry feed him; if thirsty give him drink; if out of burning embers, give him bountifully.
HOW THE LORD WILL TREAT YOU (vs.22)
A. The Lord Shall Reward Thee
1. The one who obeys the commands of verse 21 can expect the blessing of verse 22: God will reward you!
• Recompense; pay back; restitution.
• OR retribution… pay back for evil done.
• Either way, it speaks of being rewarded for deeds—either good deeds or evil.
2. The one who shows love and kindness to an enemy is told to expect a blessing from the Lord.
a. God rewards good deeds with blessings.
b. Especially under the law, the Jews’ blessings were often contingent upon their obedience.
c. The promise here is that if you show love to an enemy (deeds of kindness that may be costly to you—food, drink, coals), then God will “pay you back.”
B. Coals Upon the Head: As Divine Vengeance
1. While it is possible that the coals of fire heaped upon the head of an enemy COULD refer to an act of kindness (as mentioned earlier), it is also possible that it refers to an act of divine wrath and vengeance upon this enemy.
2. If this is the case, then the proverb is to be understood in this sense:
a. Our responsibility is to give food and drink to a cruel and heartless enemy as an act of love.
• We are not to take vengeance into our own hands, but to leave that to the Lord.
• Prov. 24:29 – We are not to “pay back” those who have harmed us. We are to leave it to the Lord.
b. God’s responsibility will be twofold:
• God will judge the enemy in His time and way. God will add heaps of burning coals to his head—perhaps a reference to more severe judgment in the Lake of Fire.
» Rom. 12:19-21 – Paul quotes this proverb and seems to link the heaping of coals to divine vengeance.
» By showing an enemy deeds of kindness, you are actually increasing his judgment and adding coals of judgment to his head, for he is now sinning against greater light… sinning against expressions of God’s love through you!
• And God will reward you for not taking vengeance into your own hands, but choosing to obey God and showing kindness even to an enemy!
c. God will do all the “paying back” for deeds done—both good deeds (He rewards you) and evil deeds (He judges the enemy).
• Thus, when we obey God and show kindness to our enemy, we can do so knowing that the enemy isn’t getting away with anything. Justice will prevail eventually.
• It is not our job to do the judging. Our job is to do good to all men and leave the judgment and vengeance to the Lord.
• Of course we should not do good to others HOPING that our deeds will cause them more pain and suffering in the afterlife. A vengeful spirit displeases the Lord.
• We receive no reward for deeds done with the wrong attitude or evil motive.