Jonah goes to Nineveh, the city he dreaded since they were very wicked and he doubted he could turn them towards repentance…he was wrong! So he adjusted his attitude towards obedience and preached to these people. To his utter surprise, they turned from their wicked, sinful ways, and repented in hopes that God would not destroy them! How shocked must've Jonah felt when even the king put on sackcloth and fasted. These people heard the message and were determined to show God that they not only stopped sinning but changed their ways; they wanted to follow Him and be His people.
God, being the gracious, merciful and compassionate God that we serve, changed His mind and did not demolish the city. God was gracious, merciful and compassionate with us too when He allowed His Son to be killed so that we wouldn't be destroyed! What wonderful news!
Next we see Jonah miserable. He should've been celebrating that God saved the people and used him to preach the message. My life goal is to lead even one person to God, save just one soul. I would be utterly ecstatic if The Lord would use me to do that. If I led a WHOLE CITY, well I would feel like God used me beyond anything I could comprehend. This isn't the last time we see this type of attitude.
Jesus used two parables to explain situations with similar attitudes: The Vineyard Workers (Matthew 20:1-16) and The Lost Son (Luke 15:11-31). Both help me expand on the reasoning behind Jonah's feelings. In the first parable, Jesus explains that a vineyard owner went out and hired workers at different hours of the day, promising each set of workers he would pay them a denarius for the day. When it came time to pay the workers, he started with the ones that he hired one hour before the end of the work day. He gave them a denarius. Then he went down the line of workers until he paid all workers one denarius for their work. You may be thinking like the first group of workers, "How unfair!" but this paints a beautiful picture of God's grace. No matter what stage of life you are in, God will receive you at any time and give you the eternal life He promises everyone! Even if from birth you have followed Jesus or on your death bed you accept Jesus, your reward will be the same: Eternal Life.
Even though our reward may be the same, a life lived in the presence of The Lord does have some perks! He will bless us our entire life ( I can't say how but I know that He loves to Bless His children abundantly!). Therefore we mustn't be bitter if someone later in life accepts Jesus while we have been serving Him for years. This is very similar to Jonah's attitude, he didn't want to accept these people and be joyful that they were now his bothers and sisters in the faith.
The second parable is similar to the first. It may be more familiar to you as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Jesus tells us a man had two sons: one who wanted his inheritance early, ran off and lost everything and the second who stayed with his father and helped in the fields. The son I want to focus on is the second one and his poor attitude when his brother comes home and the father welcomes him with a party. He was angry and jealous of his brother:
"'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.
Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.
But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'"
Can you relate? Do you feel like you should be rewarded for all your hard work (I know I have felt this way, many times in the past few months). We don't deserve anything close to a fattened calf because we sin and fall sort of the Glory of God every day. But never fear, our reward will never be taken from us: Eternal Life with God. The Son wanted a party for all his hard work, yet the father responds with even better words than a party could ever satisfy:
"'My son', the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.
But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'"
This is the Love of God. Everything we have is His and we are always with Him from the time we accept Jesus into our lives until we are reunited with Him in Heaven. How powerful is that image. So what is your attitude: those of the first vineyard workers, the second son and Jonah: pouting that they didn't receive the same payment OR a grateful attitude that God will reward us all the same but wants us to live a full and long life with Him!!