So the Lord said, “You cared about the plant, which you did not labor over and did not grow. It appeared in a night and perished in a night. Should I not care about the great city of Nineveh, which has more than 120,000 people who cannot distinguish between their right and their left, as well as many animals?”Jonah 4:10-11 (HCSB)
So often we care about things which are gifts to us and over which we have had no say or authority. When blessings that we once received are taken from us, we grumble and moan. When our health or wealth or fame are taken from us, we rage and enter into a tantrum. But all of these are things we do not deserve and we did not truly earn. Our health is a gift from God and nothing more. Our wealth is a gift from God because the gifts and talents, the motivation and energy we used to attain it were gifts from God.
Without God’s common grace, we would likely all have become addicts and people driven by basic emotions and desires rather than thinking bigger. The same applies for fame or public perception or anything else we have which is good. So why do we complain when they are taken away? Because that is human nature, and that is what the sin filling our hearts and minds leads us towards. Our natural reaction to loss and pain is to cry foul.
As Christians, we must humble ourselves such that we recognise that all the good things are from God, things which He in His wisdom causes or allows (James 1:17). In the words of Job after everything had been taken from Him, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away. Praise the name of Yahweh” (Job 1:21). If this is true in our own lives, then why do we act so surprised when God gives good things to others—even those we hypocritically think don’t deserve it?
Jonah cared for the blessing of the plant which served Him well, but He cared not at all for the Ninevites whom God granted deliverance and forgiveness. That a prophet of God could be so short-sighted should comfort us and help us recognise just how ingrained our sin and foolish ways are. But it should also challenge us because the prophet Jonah was later willing to recognise his error and write a most unflattering account of his mistaken thoughts and actions.
Let us learn from Jonah. We must humble ourselves and accept the truth that none deserve anything good from God, but He gives it to whom He, in His unknowable wisdom, chooses, and in this we should rejoice: “I [God] will show mercy to whom I will show mercy, I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” It does not depend on human will or effort but on God, who shows mercy.” (Romans 9:15-16)