He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love. A God who relents from sending calamity.” Jonah 4:2
Jonah was angry because God was gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love, and relented from sending calamity!—which is an odd thing to get angry about.
Jonah’s real problem was that God was acting this way towards the Ninevites and in his mind, they didn’t deserve it. They weren’t God’s chosen people, just mere pagans, who were Israel’s enemies. Jonah’s attitude is like the elder brother’s in the parable of the prodigal son. “The older brother became angry and refused to go in (and join the party on his brother’s return)” (Luke 15:28). Jonah and the elder brother became angry because the “wrong” people received mercy, the “wrong” people received a blessing, and the “wrong” people received a party.
God doesn’t act according to our understanding of fairness. Jesus made this clear when he told the parable of the workers in the vineyard, who were all paid the same, though some worked much longer than others, and then he asks, “… are you envious because I am generous?” (Matthew 20:15).
Are we envious of the way God has blessed others and wondered why God hasn’t blessed us in the same way? God is Sovereign and has the right to be generous to whoever he chooses, even those we may consider “undeserving.”
In actual fact, we’re all undeserving, so let’s be grateful for the grace and compassion that God shows us.