Regrettably, there have been people in my life that I really wish I had never met. During our encounters, I would try like heck to muster up any feelings of empathy towards these individuals, however, with every attempt came more disdain. I had contempt for their behavior, contempt for their decisions and all-inclusive judgment of their hearts. The resentment would burn inside me for their apparent success and I would actually begin mind-wishing them misfortune! Moreover, if this wasn’t the worst of it, I would see God continually granting them His mercy!
As humans, our flesh cries out for equal opportunity. We cannot understand why God does not send his judgment upon those - we believe - are at the top of the “deserving list”. How frustrating it becomes when God’s grace – the same grace that saves our undeserving souls – is shown on those “most” undeserving.
Jonah, chapter 4:5-11, illustrates Jonah’s anger at the very same situation. God was pouring his compassion and mercy upon the city of Nineveh, and this infuriated Jonah, for he knew how “bad” they really were.
[Jonah] went out of the city to the east and sat down in a sulk. He put together a makeshift shelter of leafy branches and sat there in the shade to see what would happen to the city.
God arranged for a broad-leafed tree to spring up. It grew over Jonah to cool him off and get him out of his angry sulk. Jonah was pleased and enjoyed the shade. Life was looking up.
But then God sent a worm. By dawn of the next day, the worm had bored into the shade tree and it withered away. The sun came up and God sent a hot, blistering wind from the east. The sun beat down on Jonah's head and he started to faint. He prayed to die: "I'm better off dead!"
Then God said to Jonah, "What right do you have to get angry about this shade tree?"
Jonah said, "Plenty of right. It's made me angry enough to die!"
God said, "What's this? How is it that you can change your feelings from pleasure to anger overnight about a mere shade tree that you did nothing to get? You neither planted nor watered it. It grew up one night and died the next night. So, why can't I likewise change what I feel about Nineveh from anger to pleasure, this big city of more than 120,000 childlike people who don't yet know right from wrong, to say nothing of all the innocent animals?"
After reading this passage, an embarrassing and humbling thought came over me: Am I on anyone else’s “deserving list”?