“A picture is worth a thousand words.” The Chinese proverb speaks to the image put in front of us, but how about when no actual image is offered, just mere words. Words that cause your mind to paint the picture.
When teaching Hermeneutics a few years ago, we took a sharp look at the ‘culture’ to help determine the possible meaning behind ‘pictoral wording’, the example used was, “Heap burning coals on his head…”
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 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. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Ro. 12:17-21 (emphasis mine)
Not only was Paul painting a dandy of a picture, but speaking directly to the culture of that day, while quoting Proverbs 25: 21-22. WAIT, this is getting good, keep reading: Fire was HUGE! For warmth and cooking, when ones ‘fire went out’, (and out of burning material) well …not a good thing. These folks would travel distances to their neighbor to get more live burning coals. If the neighbor was generous and full of kindness, they would not just place a few hot coals in the pottery container, but HEAP the pot full. The person would then place a cloth on their head, putting the container there as well and carry it home that way, as was the custom of eastern culture. Reading the verse with this in mind, has the potential of ‘seeing’ it differently, then just our “YES! Get the dude back and burn his head!”
“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.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (vss 20,21)
In doing so, you meet the need of the person, you go big and beyond. Blessing them. Now YOU are not playing the game …. rather… “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
A picture of understanding.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Heb. 10:24)