Right after Thanksgiving, and after a hurtful family interaction, I received a Tweet from Melissa Moore Fitzpatrick, Beth Moore’s daughter. I love her fresh thinking, funny personality and sweet spirit. She tweeted a comment of buying extravagant gifts for those boycotting Christmas this year. Her tweet got me thinking and that is when I decided to write about the 12 days of conflict. However, when I got to the subject that originally sparked my idea I developed writer’s block. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to write—the problem was that I couldn’t honestly write about the practice considering the condition of my heart. My heart is still wounded from a family member and I just can’t bring myself to heap coals on their head. See Proverbs 25:21-11 and Romans 12:20. So, I decided denial and avoiding the blog article was the best route to take.
But, here it is, two days past Christmas and my conflict still remains and the solution to the problem evades me. The emotions are still too raw and in my case, perhaps enough time hasn’t passed for me to work through the process of getting to where heaping burning coals would be done out of love rather than manipulation. Sometimes knowing the right thing to do doesn’t always mean the right thing to do is easy.
So, what exactly is heaping burning coals you ask? What on earth was the Bible talking about when mentioning this archaic practice in its pages? Some would say that heaping coals would be practiced to bring the person to repentance by heaping coals on their head to bring shame and guilt upon them for acting so rudely. My personal opinion is that this is not what it means because in Proverbs 25:22, the first part of the verse talks about giving your enemy bread and water—which does them good, not harm. Finally, it states that the Lord will repay indicating to me that ultimately, God is the one who is responsible for the outcome—not me. The practice of the ancient near east I believe Paul is speaking of in Romans 12 relies on the practice in ancient times of women carrying coals. Women would often seek out coals from their neighbors to light fires that had gone out. They would carry these coals in a clay pot upon their head. So if someone were to give them a “heaping pile” this would be a very generous act – since a person really only needs one good coal to light a fire.
So, where do we go from here? Knowledge is knowing what the right thing to do is, wisdom is knowing what to do with the knowledge you have. Check your motives. Don’t heap coals to get a rise out of the person but because you seriously want to see them be blessed. Honestly, with one person in my life I have conflict with I must admit I’m not ready to heap coals on their head with right motives. But, I’m asking God to move my heart in that direction.