Can I be honest with you, friend? For the longest time, the story of Jonah stopped for me after the fish spat him out. Am I the only one who remembers doing crafts and singing songs about Jonah being swallowed by a whale as a child? If you let my childhood “self” tell the story it would go as follows: God told Jonah to go somewhere. Jonah didn’t go. Jonah got tossed off of a boat and swallowed by a whale. Jonah asked God to forgive him. The whale spat Jonah out and Jonah did what God asked him. THE END. (Side-note: Was it even really a whale? Read the entire book of Jonah and circle the word “whale” when you find it.)
So fast forward some twenty years later and a Precept Upon Precept class later, I now know that there’s so much more that happens after Jonah got out of the belly of the fish. My childhood memory was correct in the fact that after Jonah got released from the fish he went on to do what God asked him. But our friend Jonah’s gratefulness didn’t last that long. As a matter of fact, Jonah threw a temper tantrum just like a child and even had the nerve to tell God, “This is why I went the other way! Because I knew you were going to do this!” (Read Jonah 4:2 for exact wording.) Jonah’s temper got so out of hand he actually wanted to die. Yep, this might be one of top three temper tantrums of the Bible in my book. And how did God respond?
Jonah 4: 4 tells us,
“And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?”
Ephesians 4:26 tells us,
“In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”
This lets us know that anger is an emotion that God has allowed us to have. Anger itself is not a sin but our actions based on anger can lead to sin if we’re not careful. So, going back to the question God asked Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry?”
I read that today and I just had to pause at that verse. I first paused because I was intrigued by the fact that God was opening the opportunity for dialogue between the two of them. Sometimes, While Jonah may have been acting like a brat, he was still in communion with God. Because of this communion he could still be disciplined by God, “For the Lord disciplines those He loves and he punishes each one he accepts as his child”(Hebrews 12:6).
The other reason I paused is because I thought about the question literally. Do we do well when we are angry? Well, it depends. There is righteous anger and unrighteous anger.
“When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it,” (Jonah 3:10). God’s initial anger towards the people of Nineveh was a righteous anger. “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry” (Jonah 4:1)
Jonah’s motivation for being angry was the fact that the people of Nineveh weren’t punished like he wanted them to be,
“For I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”
Is this not crazy? Jonah was angry because he basically felt like God wasted his time by being merciful towards the people of Nineveh. Jonah, let’s have a talk about priorities, friend. But in all seriousness, have we not been just like Jonah at some point in our lives?
So of course we need to ask ourselves: what is the motivation behind my anger? Is my anger pushing me forward or holding me back?
In other words, do you need to temper your tantrum?