It’s Not Fair! – Jonah 3 & 4


When we left Jonah at the end of chapter 2, it seemed like he understood that God’s ways were not his ways and that his only position and job was to be obedient. So, he goes to Nineveh. He preaches that God is angry with the city and the people. So angry, in fact, that he is going to destroy them. But, the people hear the message. The believe in God’s wrath. They repent. They cry out. They seek God’s mercy. And, He grants it.

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.

God’s mercy saved an entire people, but it made Jonah angry. In his anger, he grumbled and complained, because it wasn’t fair. After all, these were not good people. They had done bad things. They had lived less than holy lives. Yet God still forgave them! Where is the fairness in that? Where is the part where people get what’s coming to them?

It’s easy for us to look at Job’s story and see how wrong he was. It’s easy to say, silly Job, of course God would rescue them. That’s why He sent you to them – to give them a chance. He could have just destroyed the city. He didn’t have to send you to warm them and give them a chance to recover from their mistakes. We get that.

But, do we?

Because no matter how much we say we understand the story, it’s easier to turn into a Jonah in our own lives than we’d like to admit. We see someone do something wrong. We see them earnestly seek forgiveness. We see them forgiven. And, instead of rejoicing, it makes us angry. And a little judgmental. How could they be forgiven? They’re not even really sorry (in our less than informed option). Once someone does something so wrong, there is nothing they can do. We hold people up to a standard that they could never reach, but we balk when other people do the same to us.

Why is it so easy to embrace our own forgiveness? Why is it so easy to say you’re sorry and accept it when someone, a friend, a family member, or God Himself, forgives you, but then not believe in the forgiveness of others. Because, we are like the people of Nineveh. We are trapped in our own sin and sorrow. We couldn’t do anything to stop the cycle ourselves, so God sent someone to preach and teach forgiveness and compassion. Someone to offer us the chance to be forgiven. Someone who had every right to yell out from the cross it’s not fair.But he didn’t.

If we believe God can forgive us of our messes, why do we scream so loudly about fairness? Nothing about our promised home in eternity is fair. Nothing about the price that had to be paid to get us there is fair. I think every time another person makes the commitment to follow Jesus, these words from Jonah should be said and pondered:

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.