With Jonah’s forgiveness equation out of balance, his anger growing, we see the root of his problem, no pun intended (Check out earlier chapters of PURSUED)…
The Value Equation (Jonah 4: 5-9) 5 Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. 6 Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant[a] and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. 7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”Jonah was holding out hope in the back of his mind, that maybe, just maybe, God would hear his grumblings and bring the city down to the ground. As he waited God miraculously provided a plant to shade the prophet, alleviate his discomfort, and as the worm chewed to the root, the real problem with Jonah’s heart became clear, again he decreed his go to line- ‘it would be better for me to die than to live.” The value equation was out of whack; find the plant more pertinent than the lives of people. Just how valuable is one life?
Ethicist Peter Singer argued not very valuable, “Surely there are nonhuman animals whose lives, by any standards, are more valuable than the lives of some humans.” That value equation is being lived out–worldwide 42 million lives are aborted before they get a chance to prosper.
Several years ago a fragile young woman expecting her first child was under the care of Dr. Joe Wheeler. About a month before the baby was due it was discovered that the baby was in a breech position which caused the doctor great concern as he knew of difficulty of such a delivery and the high death rate involved. On the day of delivery Dr. Wheeler was ready to move quickly as time was of the essence. When the time had come for the delivery he retrieved the first tiny leg from the birth canal and then reached for the other. To his horror there was no other as it was evident that the babies other entire thigh from the hip to the knee was missing. In that brief moment he knew the tramatic effects this would be on this young family. Surely they would spend a life’s savings taking the child to every famous orthopedist in the world. And he envisioned the little girl sitting sadly by herself as the other healthy girls danced and ran and played. He was tempted to slow the delivery for just a few moments. No one in the world would ever know and after the first shock of grief, the young mother would be spared from the pains of having a handicapped child.
Dr. Wheeler resisted that wave of temptation as the life of the mother and the baby had been entrusted to him. The little girl was delivered with her one pitiful little leg and the mother suffered in the hospital several months causing the doctor to wonder if he had done the right thing in not yielding to his temptation.
Seventeen years later Dr. Wheeler attended the annual Christmas banquet for the hospital staff. This year there were three lovely musicians playing in unison with the organ. Of the three he was fascinated by the young harpist. Her fingers plucked effortless across the strings with her face upturned as if the world that moment were a wonderful and holy place.
When the program was over, a woman ran down the aisle toward Dr. Wheeler he did not know. “Oh, you saw her,” she cried. “You must have recognized your baby. That was my daughter who played the harp–the little girl who was born with only one good leg 17 years ago. We tried everything at first, but now she has a whole artificial leg on that side. Best of all through all those years, she learned to use her hands so wonderfully. She is going to be one the world’s greatest harpists. She is my whole life and now she is so happy… And here she is!” as the young girl approached.
Impulsively, Dr Wheeler took the girl in his arms and thought back to those temptations 17 years ago thankful that he didn’t allow a warped value equation rob the world of this young woman’s tremendous value.
What’s astounding is that God didn’t go about his creation haphazardly or unthinkingly allowing mankind’s value as dust to derive from the sustaining breath poured into us. It was enough to drive the Psalmist to cry out (139:13) For you formed my inward parts, you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” What would your life look like if you lived out this biblical reality? Where would you spend your resources—on chasing the corner office or on the guy living on the corner? The needs of others would rise up higher than the skyscrapers.
Jesus in the famous passage from Mark 12 was being pestered by the Pharisees and other factions and it revealed his equation: “Should I pay taxes to Caesar?” Jesus asking for a coin asked who image was on the coin and the man replied “Caesar.” Jesus replied was famous- “Give to Caesar that which is Caesar’s and give to God that which is God,” but Ravi Zacharias argues that the man should have added a question, “What belongs to God?” and Jesus would have answered: “Whose image is on you?” Whose image is on those around you? Seeing the image of God in those around us isn’t always easy, but Jesus death on the cross didn’t come just for his family, friends and followers, it came for His enemies as well! C.S. Lewis put the conclusions before us, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This week let me encourage you, challenge yourself to see people with the value equation of God, rather than the value equation of Jonah. What are you living for: the ultimate reality or avoiding the momentary inconvenience?