Scripture Reading: Jonah 4:9-11
“But God said to Jonah, ‘Do you do well to be angry for the plant?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I do well to be angry enough to die.’ And the Lord said, ‘You have compassion for the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night.'” (Jonah 4:9,10)
The bottom line is that Jonah cared more about a plant than he did about the lost people of Nineveh. I call this “the Jonah syndrome.” I’ve seen it many times across the years in my ministry — people who get all worked up over insignificant things rather than being passionate about the gospel and its impact on people’s lives.
Over the years, I have regularly preached this passage at missions conferences. I’ve said may times that people get angry, passionate and even unreasonable over small things in churches — the color of the carpet, screens in the sanctuary, the way people dress for worship (I actually had this happen recently when a person complained that one of our instrumentalist didn’t wear a coat and tie), etc. I was told by a member of one church I preached this sermon in that their church almost split over a plant! It seems that someone gave a plant for the chancel area. A decision was made to remove it and major chaos followed. How sad!
Jonah had misplaced affections. The real issue was self-love and self-comfort. The plant had given him relief from his “discomfort” (v. 6). We get comfortable with certain traditions, worship styles, and forms. Then when we change them, people get upset. They put a lot of emotional energy in things that don’t really matter.
Where is our passion for the gospel? Where is our passion for lost people who are heading for a Christ-less eternity? “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?”
Lord, I confess that I like Jonah have misplaced affections at times. I love my own comfort rather than being willing to think about others. I get more passionate about things that don’t really matter, than I am passionate for the spread of the gospel. I know there are times that I love myself more than I love Jesus. Forgive me, Lord.
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