In Romans 12:19-21* Paul says:
“19Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (bold added) 20On 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.” 21Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”
* Note: References and links are from the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible
Prior to this, in Romans 12:9-18, Paul is telling us:
- “Love must be sincere.”
- “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”
- “Be devoted to one another in love.”
- “Honor one another above yourselves.”
- “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.”
- “Practice hospitality.”
- “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”
- “Live in harmony with one another.”
- “Do not be proud, but willing to associate with people in low position.”
- “Do not be conceited.”
- “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.”
- “Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.”
- “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Paul really changes his tune in verse 19, where he says to let God, in His wrath, get revenge and repay the evil done to you because that is what is written in the Old Testament. Hear he is saying something like, you can hurt me now, but just wait, my big brother is going to be furious with you and he is going to repay you for all the bad things that you did to me. This is the same lie (Job 42:7) that Eliphaz tells about God, that He is angry and punishing Job for his wickedness, in Job 4:7-9. The point is God does not spill out His wrath on evil people, during their time on earth. To learn more see Chapter 7 of my book, The Bible’s Hidden Treasure: James: The Precious Pearl: John P. Hageman: 9781973692850: Amazon.com: Books.
The passages in the Old Testament that speak of God seeking revenge on evil people are in:
- Leviticus 19:18
- Deuteronomy 32:35-41
- Psalm 94:1-15
- Proverbs 20:22
- Proverbs 24:29
- Jeremiah 51:36-37
- 1 Samuel 26:9-10
Quoting from 1 Samuel 26:
“9But David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless? 10As surely as the LORD lives,” he said, “the LORD Himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish.” (bold added)
David gives three possibilities that may occur to King Saul (Paul’s namesake) and he is wise enough to know that only God knows Saul’s fate. David is speaking the truth, that God’s wrath may not instantly be poured out on Saul to repay him for his evil deeds. Eventually, Saul fell on his own sword, committing suicide, to evade capture by the Philistines during the battle where three of Saul’s sons were killed.
The expression, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, comes to mind. The Bible says to be holy because God is holy, in 1 Peter 1:16 and in Leviticus 11:44-45, 19:2, 20:7 and 20:26. So why would God do the opposite of what Paul told us, “Do not repay evil for evil?” Why would you even think, or worse hope, that God, who is never evil, will avenge and repay the evil that is done against you?
Proverbs 25:21-22 says the same as Roman 12:20. I think the burning coals on the head is not to be taken literal, but is meant as an analogy that your enemy will seriously think and ask, why is my enemy feeding me and given me something to drink? This mind-bending thought may overheat their brain and even lead to the enemy’s conversion. If Paul meant that you are physically hurting your enemy, by heaping coals on his head, that is wrong and contrary to all that is in verses 9-18.
God is a forgiving God and He most likely will not take revenge on your enemy and repay evil for evil, as Paul is telling us. Jesus Christ taught about His forgiveness of sins and that He came to save the sinners, not the righteous. The evil enemy that is persecuting you may be the person that God is working on the hardest to influence and convert; and He will not repay evil for evil on your behalf.
Paul gets it right in Romans 12:9-18 but has a massive train wreck in Romans 12:19, by saying God is a vengeful God who will repay your enemies evil for evil. To learn more about the train wrecks of Paul, read Chapter 1 for free at “Look Inside,” on the above web site and get my book to read Chapter 16 of my book, at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1973692856/ref=nav_timeline_asin?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1