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
When I was in my early twenties, I worked in the construction industry as a sheet metal apprentice. Just a week after I married, I was laid off from the shop where I had been working — something that was not uncommon for entry-level employees in the building trades at that time. This was stressful, of course, but after a few uncertain weeks, I was relieved to be summoned to work at a local fabrication shop. There I learned my assignment was to assist a guy named Larry in the most undesirable task in the entire shop. It was a dirty and strenuous job, and to make matters worse, Larry took exception to the fact that I was a Christian.
His harassment began with unkind verbal innuendos. Soon these became cruel and mocking remarks, often made in the presence of others. I began each day with the certain knowledge that I would have to endure another round of humiliating comments hurled in my direction. Then, to make matters worse, Larry began to look for ways to put me in harm’s way. One time he nearly ran over me with a forklift as we were moving pallets of metal from one area to another. What was initially just an embarrassing situation became one that was potentially dangerous. However, I did not report this. Larry had worked at the shop for a long time and was seemingly well-regarded by the senior shop workers. Since I was the newest member of the crew, it seemed prudent to remain silent or risk becoming unemployed again.
I made up my mind to follow instruction from God’s Word in dealing with Larry, determining that not only would I pray for him, but I would be as kind and helpful as possible. Every day became a new opportunity for me to be the best worker I knew how to be, and to make him look good to the supervisors, since he was technically in charge of our assigned duties. Of course this puzzled him. While he certainly was not receptive to my Christian convictions, in time he began to find fewer reasons to make my life miserable.
Then one day the shop foreman took me aside and informed me that while Larry and I had done great work, we were caught up, and it wasn’t feasible for the company to keep both of us as employees. Larry had seniority so it was only right that he stay on; I needed to plan to be out of work in a few days. At the end of our conversation, he asked me what my trade experience had been prior to coming to his shop. Not supposing that my response was of particular importance, I told him I had worked in a much smaller shop doing metal fabrication. Although I did not know it at the time, that type of work was typically reserved for seasoned journeymen. The foreman’s eyes lit up when he realized that a lower-paid employee possibly possessed skills of a more highly compensated worker. Later that day, he reassigned me to another project where I worked alongside some of the best and most highly regarded men in the shop.
Looking back, I can see how the Lord blessed me for adhering to the principles of His Word. Our focus verse brings out that the most effective way to deal with those who do us harm is to do good in return. This can be challenging at times, even for those who have faith and confidence in the Lord. However, God will honor those who honor Him. When we choose to take the high road and live by God’s principles, He will bless us, and His name will be glorified by our actions.
Chapters 25 through 29 are the final collection of proverbs written by Solomon. These were preserved and copied by scribes under the direction of King Hezekiah, one of Judah’s most godly kings. Some of the most memorable statements in all of the Book of Proverbs are found in this section. The sequence and subject groupings of the statements indicate a careful editorial arrangement that is more observable than in other sections of the book.
Many of the sayings in chapters 25 and 26 were directed either toward the king or those who interacted with him in court matters. During the time of Hezekiah, Judah’s governmental structure was large and complex. (Insight regarding its complexity is found in 2 Kings 18-20.) Those in governmental positions needed wisdom, and that concern is reflected in this collection. The royal responsibilities spelled out in these proverbs provide helpful wisdom for leaders of every era.
Another theme with prominence in these chapters is that of proper speech. In Proverbs 25:11-14, Solomon offered four comparisons related to oral communication. He said timely words were as pleasing as golden apples in settings of silver. He compared the one who listened to wise counsel and obeyed to ornaments of fine gold. Also, he likened a dependable and truthful messenger to a cold drink in hot weather. On the other hand, he said those who boasted falsely of oral skills were like clouds and wind without rain. The statement in verse 15 that “a soft tongue breaketh the bone,” means that gentle speech calms the most obstinate resistance. In chapter 26, verses 4, 5, 7, and 9 also allude to prudent speaking.
Paul quoted from Proverbs 25:21-22 in Romans 12:19-20. The precise meaning of this proverb has been debated, but most Bible scholars agree that it teaches one should respond with kindness rather than seeking vengeance against one who does evil.
The first 12 verses of chapter 26 summarize the folly of fools. The implication in verse 2 is that a baseless curse will have no effect. While verses 4-5 may seem contradictory, they bring out that answering a fool requires stooping to his level, while at other times a decisive response is necessary to expose foolishness. The implication in verse 8 is that giving honor to a fool is as ludicrous as binding a stone in a sling, thus eliminating the possibility of it being launched.
Verses 13-16 concern the lazy — those who make excuses for their inactivity, and prefer sleeping to working. Verses 17-28 refer to various types of troublemakers. The statement that “there are seven abominations in his heart” (verse 25) reflects the utmost degree of evil, as seven is the number of completeness.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III. The sayings of the way of wisdom
C. The words of Solomon arranged by the men of Hezekiah
1. The introduction (25:1)
2. The 119 proverbs
When we choose to return good for evil instead of seeking vengeance, we honor God through our obedience to His Word.