Blogging the Bible 172 – Proverbs 25-26 – Be kind to your enemies

‘Be kind to your enemies. It really winds them up.’

That seems a reasonable paraphrase of 25:21-22.

If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat; and if they are today, give them water to drink;…and the LORD will reward you.

At least, that’s what it feels like it should say, if we’re sticking to the rules of good behaviour being rewarded by the LORD. After all, that’s how we’re meant to live, isn’t it? Jesus taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, so this seems to fit the model. By being kind to those who do us harm or wish us harm, we rise above them and grow spiritually; and God’s reward is a worthwhile bonus.

But that’s not the whole picture. I must admit, I didn’t realise that St Paul was quoting from the book of Proverbs when he repeated this wise advice in Romans 12:20, though I’ve always loved that version for its honesty! Paul doesn’t even mention the LORD’s reward. He goes straight to the bit I missed out above. The whole version reads,

If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat; and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink; for you will heap coals of fire on their heads, and the LORD will reward you.

In other words, be kind to your enemies. It’s the right thing to do, you’ll please God, you’ll grow as a person and as an added bonus you’ll really, really annoy them.

That sounds like wisdom to me.

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