“But the Lord said, ‘You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?'”
Over the past year we have seen summits on global warming, protests against the cruelty to animals, and the unjust treatment of certain groups of individuals. It is clear that people feel justified in demanding the ethical treatment of the planet and its inhabitants. While it is clear that we bear a responsibility before God for the way we treat what He has given us to care for, it is also true, we can become consumed with other things and forget that the most valuable, and often most neglected resource in the world, is the human soul. Jonah wept over the mistreatment of a plant and cared little for the eternal souls of the inhabitants of Nineveh.
We, like Jonah, have been commissioned by God to declare a message of salvation to the world. This message is so powerful it carries the ability to save a person from eternal destruction, while at the same time, transforming their lives. Jonah watched it happen to hundreds of thousands of people in Nineveh. When he shared the gospel, the king, his colleagues, and the inhabitants of the city turned from their evil ways and began to worship YHWH. The Gospel we have been commissioned to share is no less powerful. Paul said it alone has the power to bring salvation and Peter called it the words of eternal life. Along with this powerful message, we have also been given the supply of the Spirit of Christ. When the gospel is declared, the Spirit of God convicts the heart of the hearer of their need for God.
I wonder if we, like Jonah, have become distracted by caring for lesser things, while neglecting the most important thing? Perhaps it is time we spent a little more time caring about the souls of our neighbors, co-workers, and friends than we do about whether TiVo recorded our favorite show or who is the quarterback for our favorite sports team. Jonah’s failure was caring about the wrong things, while neglecting the most important thing.