Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 25:21
"If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink"
This proverb -- written by Solomon transcribed by the men of Hezekiah -- is the Old Testament source of and equivalent of Jesus' statement: "Love your enemies." Jesus was really the fulfillment of the Law in that He brought out the meaning of the Law which was being hidden under regulations and interpretations. To love one's enemies means to meet their needs when they have an obvious need you can meet. It is the same in the story of the good Samaritan. That story answers the question that is implicit in the second great commandment: Who is my neighbor? The story of the good Samaritan says that your neighbor is anyone whose need you see and whose need your are in a position to meet.
This is the Hebrew word sane, which means hated, held in aversion. It is a word which carries the idea of a strong negative emotional attitude toward another.
This is the key word in this phrase as well as Jesus' statement: “Love your enemies.” Because of the word enemies, we often do not realize the practical and immediate applicability of this proverb. It is not talking about a geopolitical antagonist. It is talking about a person that you know that you dislike and want to have no contact with because of your strong emotional aversion to this person. Something has gone wrong with your relationship with this person and you are filled with anger, rage, and even hatred for this person. It is this person that God, through Solomon, says that when you are aware of a real need this person has and you have the means to meet that need, then you should do that. Solomon mentions food or water -- real needs that keep body and soul together.
It is the action that you should take that is the focus of this verse and what you will gain that is the focus of the next verse.
But notice that love is meeting needs; it does not have anything to do with how you feel towards the person whose needs you are meeting. In fact, meeting another person's needs may be the only way to drain hatred from your soul.
Who are the hated people that this verse applies to in your world: A relative, a person at work or school, maybe your spouse this week, maybe a sibling, maybe a person at church or a neighbor? Most often the person that this verse is speaking about is a person with whom you have regular contact, whom you cannot stand, or who right now has made you extremely angry.
God, through Solomon, is giving us an antidote to the poison of anger and hatred. For that hatred will surely begin poisoning your life if you hang onto it. It will begin to reduce your ability to enjoy life. It will cut you off from relationships that are crucial to your success, joy, and development.
God often will allow the person that we are angry at to go through a time of deep need to give us the opportunity to overcome our hatred. But if we miss our opportunity, then we still have the hatred and the relationship is not repaired. I have often suggested that people be prepared for a second-mile investment in the person with whom they are angry or hate. A second-mile investment is a way of meeting a need; loving them that seems way beyond what you would have to do. It is this type of investment that brings joy to the heart of God and releases you from the bondage of hatred.
Some people want to hold onto their hatred because it begins to define them. Their whole life has been about hating their parents or an ex-spouse or a sibling or a partner. What happened to you at their hands may have been unjust; it may have been immoral; and it deserves punishment at the hands of the civil authority. But your hatred of them has reached the point where your whole life is filled with poison over the incident like an infection that is throughout the body. Hatred is an infection that saps us of emotional, physical, and mental energy. It may give us a momentary burst of great power, but it drains us and dulls us to much of life.
This verse seems counter-intuitive, and it is the opposite of what a selfish person would do. A fool would not meet the needs of their hated adversary but instead would rejoice that their adversary is in such a desperate position. But the wise person knows that God is giving an opportunity to overcome the infection of hatred that is building in your heart. The wise person would take advantage of that situation and would meet the need.
This verse lets us know that we will have people that we will hate from time to time because of what they have said or done to us, but that does not mean we should stop being Christian toward them. In fact, being Christian toward these people is the way to overcome the hatred that wells up in our hearts. Meet their needs when it is in your power to do so.
Let me say again that if what your enemy has done is worthy of civil penalties or civil justice as their level of selfishness toward you would damage the whole of society if allowed to continue, then one must seek justice at the same time as one would be open to meeting their needs. To act lovingly toward a person does not mean that one cannot act justly. We have confused love and justice as though they are mutually exclusive. They are not. Justice means stopping and even punishing selfishness in its wider social implications. Love is meeting needs not wants, desires, or feelings of others.