Today’s Powered by 4 reading was Jonah 4. Jonah and Whale is a familiar to story to most anyone who grew up with any kind of a connection to the church. It’s a classic kids story. I haven’t been so faithful this week with the daily readings, mostly because I believed the four chapters of Jonah to be very familiar – tired and well worn. Not something that I need to read again, at least not this week.
I know. I should know better.
I am struck by the last two verses of the book. Jonah has been nudged not-so-gently into Nineveh. He walked three days into the city, proclaiming his message. The word gets to the king, and he declares that the whole city should repent, both man and beast. What evangelist today would not rejoice at such a turn in a city of 120,000 people – especially one with the reputation of Nineveh! Yet chapter 4 finds Jonah sulking over God’s grace towards Nineveh. He declares that this was the very reason he did not want to go to Nineveh and fled west in the first place – so God would NOT spare the city.
Jonah, sulking, goes out into the desert and sits down, waiting for the destruction of the city. God raises a vine overnight to shade him, and Jonah rejoices at the provision of shade. The next night, however, the vine is eaten away by worms, and it withers and no longer provides shade to Jonah. So he becomes even more bitter and angry. And God asks him if he has reason to be so bitter about the plant. Jonah responds that he does. And God asks, “Why the vine and not the 120,000 people of Nineveh? What makes the vine so much more worthwhile than they?”
How often have we fallen into the same trap, caring more for the fleeting things of life – the iPod or iPhone or dinner out or seeing the movie that’s getting all of the buzz or not missing an episode of our favorite show or cleaning out the dirt under our nails rather than the world that is dying around us? Are the people around us not of more worth than those other things?
It is a trap into which I easily fall. I pray that I will become more attuned to the world around me. To see more with God’s eyes. To place my time, effort, and energy into things that are lasting and worthwhile rather than fleeting.