|artwork by Bonnie Miller|
NASB: If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.“But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Amplified: If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for God’s wrath [and His judicial righteousness]; for it is written [in Scripture], “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome and conquered by evil, but overcome evil with good.
NLT: Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” (Deut 32:35) says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” (Prov 25:21-22) Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
Phillips: As far as your responsibility goes, live at peace with everyone. Never take vengeance into your own hands, my dear friends: stand back and let God punish if he will. For it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine. I will repay’.... these are God’s words: ‘Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head’. Don’t allow yourself to be overpowered with evil. Take the offensive—overpower evil by good!
Wuest: If it is possible so far as it depends upon you, with all men be living at peace. Do not be avenging yourselves, beloved ones, but give place at once to the wrath, for it stands written, To me belongs punishment, I will repay, says the Lord. But, if your enemy is hungry, be feeding him. If he thirsts, be giving him to drink, for doing this, you will heap burning coals of fire upon his head. Stop being overcome by the evil, but be overcoming the evil by means of the good
Young’s Literal: If possible—so far as in you—with all men being in peace; not avenging yourselves, beloved, but give place to the wrath, for it hath been written, `Vengeance [is] Mine, I will recompense again, saith the Lord;' if, then, thine enemy doth hunger, feed him; if he doth thirst, give him drink; for this doing, coals of fire thou shalt heap upon his head; Be not overcome by the evil, but overcome, in the good, the evil.
Overcome which in Greek is nikao from nike, means victory, to get the victory, overcome, conquer, or subdue. Nikao means to conquer, to be victorious or to prevail in the face of obstacles. The verb is in the present imperative and thus is a command to keep on overcoming. May we be empowered by His Spirit to stand firm against the onslaught of evil, being supernaturally enabled. Overcome describes the quality of a true saint who may stumble and fall, but who God always picks up and he continues onward and upward in the power and motivation of the victory Christ has already won for us on the Cross. The only way to overcome evil with good is to do it in reliance of God, motivated and enabled by His indwelling, empowering Spirit.
Greek Scholar Kenneth S. Wuest writes: “As to heaping coals of fire on the head of the one who has injured one, that is equivalent to satisfying his hunger and quenching his thirst. The latter two actions meet a desperate need of that individual, and are an outstanding kindness shown him. Heaping coals of fire on his head also meets a desperate need. In Bible times, an oriental needed to keep his hearth fire going all the time in order to insure fire for cooking and warmth. If it went out, he had to go to a neighbor for some live coals of fire. These he would carry on his head in a container, oriental fashion, back to his home. The person who would give him some live coals would be meeting his desperate need and showing him an outstanding kindness. If he would heap the container with coals, the man would be sure of getting some home still burning. The one injured would be returning kindness for injury, the only thing a Christian is allowed to give back to the one who has injured him. This act of kindness God could use to soften the heart of the person and lead him on to repentance and the offering of a recompense for the injury sustained. In this way the Christian would overcome evil with good.”
Pastor Ray Stedman continues: “I was reading one day a story about a boy who was in the army. He was a Christian and had formed the habit of praying beside his bed before he went to sleep. He kept up this practice in the army, but he became an object of mockery and ridicule to the entire barracks. One night he knelt to pray after a long, weary march. As he was praying, one of his tormentors took off his muddy boots and threw them at the boy, one at a time, hitting him on each side of his head. The Christian said nothing about it, and just took the boots and put them beside the bed and continued to pray. But the next morning, when the other man woke up, he found his boots sitting beside his bed, all shined and polished. It so broke his heart that he came to that boy and asked him for forgiveness. That led, after a time, to that man becoming a Christian. This is what Paul means when he says you overcome evil with good. As Abraham Lincoln once said, "The best way to overcome an enemy is to make him your friend." Three times in this passage the apostle has stressed the fact that you are not to return evil for evil. In Romans 12:18-21 he states it. So, throughout this passage it is underscored that the major way we express love in the world is by not reacting in vengeance when we are mistreated by the world. Can you imagine what would happen if Christians would begin to act this way? How many times we turn people away from Christianity by assuming the same attitude the world around us has. Surely, this is a practical way Paul has of reminding us that we are not to be conformed to this age. We are not to think like they do. What a testimony of grace that would be!
Pastor Charles H. Spurgeon states: “Beloved, this spirit of forgiveness is the Spirit of God, and he that hath it becomes like to God. If thou wouldst rise to the highest style of being, rise thou to the condition of a being who can be injured, and yet forgive. To be just is something, scarcely for a righteous man would one die; but to be merciful and kind is much more, since for a good man some would even dare to die — such is the enthusiasm which a loving spirit will kindle. Rise above mere righteousness into the divine atmosphere of love. But whether men love you or not is a small matter; whether you conquer them or not is also a little matter, but that you should conquer evil, that you should be victorious over sin, that you should receive from your Lord at the last the “Well done, good and faithful servant,” and that you should be like to God in your nature, this is of the utmost importance to you, for this is heaven. Heaven is to have self dethroned to be purged of all anger—to be delivered from all pride. Heaven is in fact to be God-like. May we be made so through Jesus Christ our Savior, by the work of his Holy Spirit.”
Heavenly Father, You’re a good, good Father. It’s Who You are. Thank You for Your tender whispers of love in the dead of night, when You tell me that You're pleased, that I'm never alone, and I'm loved by You…It's who I am…You give me my identity…who I am in Christ. You know just what we need before we say a word. Your love is so undeniable I can hardly speak. You give me a peace so unexplainable I can hardly think, as you call me deeper still…into love, love, love…You are perfect in all of your ways…You are perfect in all of your ways to us. May we trust You in the big plan you have for our lives. May we yield to the empowering presence of Your Holy Spirit in the innermost part of us, taking authority over our soul—the seat of our emotions, and our body—our fleshly desires and appetites, so that You overcome us with Your love, so overwhelmed by Your grace, that all we can do is say, Thank You, as we shine the muddy boots thrown at us.
Previous word studies…
Romans 12:1-2…flawless…transformed by the Spirit
9 word studies from Romans Chapter Eight…
12 word studies from Ephesians Chapter One…