By Joe Smith
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever. - Psalm 136:1
I remember coming to the bench after scoring a goal only to be met by a teammate with this statement: “Just a typical goal from you: Jump on the ice, do nothing, and score a goal.” Now, you don’t need to hear the tone of that statement to understand that my teammate wasn’t exactly thrilled with my goal. Have you ever been in a mood where all you can focus on is the fact that someone was rewarded and didn’t deserve it? It’s a terrible feeling, but it can happen. Partly because of pride and partly because of selfishness there are times where we just aren’t happy with the success of others.
The Story of Jonah
I always liked the story of Jonah. For those who don’t quite know it yet, it goes something like this…. Jonah boards a ship, but because of his unwillingness to obey God’s order of going to Nineveh he is thrown overboard. While in the water God provides a huge fish to come and swallow him which, in a weird way, saves Jonah from drowning. Alive inside the belly he prays and God causes Jonah to be spewed out onto dry land. He then goes on to share with the Ninevites all about God’s loving warning for them.
For many years, I always had one misconception about this story. The Ninevites were brutal people. They were stubborn, violent, hateful, and had already been responsible for many deaths of Jonah’s people. I always thought that Jonah ran away because he was scared of Nineveh. I thought that he was afraid the people would hurt or kill him because of his message and where he was coming from. Now, he may have been scared of those things, but the Bible explains the main reason for Jonah’s unwillingness. After Jonah spoke to the people and warned them about God’s anger toward their evil ways they repented: “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry” (3:10-4:1). So Jonah’s heart wasn’t exactly in the right place when he went to Nineveh. He told the people that they would be destroyed if they didn’t turn from their evil ways. However, their destruction was exactly what he wanted. He thought those people were so evil, so mean, so barbaric that they deserved to be killed.
We ALL Fall Short
Jonah obviously had a misunderstanding of his own. He thought that there were people out there that actually deserved God’s wrath! More specifically, he thought there were people out there that didn’t deserve God’s love. He never wanted to go to Nineveh because he was afraid that God WOULD spare them from destruction and to Jonah that wasn’t fair. Although the book of Romans wouldn’t be written for a very long time after Jonah’s day, there is a simple yet applicable verse for Jonah. “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We have all been separated from God’s love because of our sin, but the great news is that we are all eligible to experience that love. “Yet to ALL who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
Christ Came...Even though we don't deserve it
If you ever find yourself sinking into frustration over someone getting something they don’t deserve, you can always reflect on God’s love. Compared to a perfect and holy God, we are all just like the Ninevites. Our mess ups, wrongs, and sins deserve God’s punishment. We deserve God’s wrath. But Christ (maybe the two best words in scripture) came in love so that He would take the punishment of God on our behalf. So, whenever you are feeling someone doesn’t deserve something, remember that you don’t deserve anything either. Yet, God still sent His Son to die for you. Instead of wrath, we get mercy through the saving work of Jesus Christ. We never did can or will deserve it, but it is here and it is here to stay regardless of our failures.