Explore The Bible Study: No Compassion

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In your opinion, are people growing angrier today?  What results have you personally experienced or observed from people who are consumed with anger? Do you feel angrier today than you have in the past? You will discover in the Explore the Bible Study: No Compassion, that Jonah had an anger problem that God had to address. Perhaps He needs to address this issue in many of us as well.

From angry airline passengers, to business customers, to drivers on our highways, we seem to be experiencing unchecked and uncontrolled anger like never before. Many times, social media platforms become places where this anger spews out like a free-flowing stream of lava burning away anyone and anything in its path.

As believers in Christ, we realize we are sinners and have been saved by grace through faith. But let’s be honest. Things we face may unleash upon those around us, pent up anger that has been brewing for weeks, months, or years. This kind of anger distorts our view of other humans and causes us to grow callous to their need for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Many times, anger causes believers to quit caring about other people's relationship with Christ or lack thereof.

After Jonah initially received his commission, attempted to run from God, was thrown into the sea, was saved by God and placed back on dry land, the Lord once again commissioned Jonah to go to Nineveh (Jonah 3:2). This time, the prophet did as the Lord commanded him. Jonah went to Nineveh and proclaimed God’s word to its people.

When the people of Nineveh heard Jonah’s message, they believed in God (Jonah 3:5). When the king heard the message, he also believed. He commanded every person and animal to begin a fast and be covered with sackcloth as an expression of repentance before the Lord (Jonah 3:7-9). Consistent with His character, when the Lord saw them repent and turn away from their sin, He relented of bringing the disaster He had declared through Jonah and refrained from doing it (Jonah 3:10).

After the Ninevites repented and God relented, Jonah became consumed with anger, resulting in God having to deal with him regarding his anger. Let’s look at the results in Jonah’s life and consider how we can avoid this kind of anger during the times in which we are living. 

Anger Unchecked: Robs us of Compassion – Jonah 4:1-4 

When Jonah saw the city still standing forty days after he proclaimed God would destroy the city in forty days, he was consumed with anger (See Jonah 3:4).  Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh because he knew God would pour out His mercy and forgiveness if the people of Nineveh repented. They repented, and God relented in His judgment. Because of his view of the Assyrians and their acts of violence toward Israel, he had no compassion for them. He did not want God to show compassion to the wicked people of Nineveh. Jonah knew God but did not approve of His ways. Now, in verse 4, Jonah challenges God for God’s lack of anger, so God challenged Jonah in regard to his anger. 

God asked Jonah in verse 4, “Is it right for you to be angry?” What is the obvious answer when God asks this question?

What did Jonah’s anger do to his view of people who needed God? In what ways might we respond the same way?

The obvious answer to God’s question was “no,” but Jonah refused to reply and persisted in his fuming rage over what God had done. Assyria was ranked as the most feared, hated nation in the ancient Middle East during the mid-700’s BC. If you consider all the Assyrians had done to Israel, you might think Jonah’s anger was justified and the people didn’t deserve compassion. But, as God’s people, this is not how we are to respond to people who are far away from God. We are to warn them as Jonah did, give them an opportunity to repent, and if they do repent, we are to rejoice with them.

How difficult is it for you to rejoice when someone is saved who you once considered an enemy, or who had mistreated you, or who practiced a lifestyle that was in direct conflict with God?

Jonah’s anger robbed him of the compassion of God for those who were far away from God.

Read Matthew 5:43-48. How can this passage protect you from letting anger rob you of your compassion?

Sadly, Job’s response is just how many of us might respond. We just walk away so we can hold onto our anger. Job walked away to the east of Nineveh where he hoped to watch the city be destroyed. God wasn’t going to give Jonah a free pass because of his anger. God provided a plant for shade and then took it away, which brought Jonah’s anger to a boiling point once again.  This time his anger revealed his attitude of entitlement.

Anger Unchecked: Produces an Attitude of Entitlement – Jonah 4:5-9

There is an element of comedy in this situation. Jonah has walked away to pout and positions himself to watch the city. If it had been in today's setting, he might have a bag of popcorn and a soft drink in his hand as he sits to watch the drama unfold. While sitting in his shelter ready to watch the “show,” God provides a plant for shade, then sends a worm to eat the plant! Then God sends a scorching wind. With the sun beating down and the wind blowing, Jonah is just about to faint. This time God asks, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” And, this time Jonah answers, “Yes, it’s right!”

Jonah's attitude of entitlement prompted him to confront God. Jonah was enraged when God showed compassion on people whom Jonah hated and whom he felt didn’t deserve God’s mercy. However, he was delighted when God showed compassion on him by providing a plant for shade.

Jesus said there is great joy in heaven when sinners like the people of Nineveh repent (Luke 15:7,10). In contrast, Jonah was angry when the Ninevites repented. Jonah’s since of entitlement caused him to lose God’s perspective.

Consider how you might respond to the following questions: What right do we have in expecting God to show us favor and not show favor to others? What right do we have to dictate to God what He should and should not do?

If we become angry at God because we think we deserve His grace more than “they do” (whoever “they” might be), then we have allowed anger to fester into a sense of entitlement that God must deal with as He did with Jonah.

Things weren’t going Jonah’s way, and he wasn’t even pretending that he was happy. This is when God reminds Jonah of His grace and mercy.

Anger Unchecked: Blinds us to God’s Grace to the Lost – Jonah 4:10-11

God pointed out the absurdity of Jonah’s caring for a plant that he neither planted nor nurtured, yet taking issue with God for caring about the hundred twenty thousand people made in God’s image along with their large number of livestock in Nineveh. What’s more, the people of Nineveh were ignorant of the things of God. Jonah was much more culpable for his actions, given his background as part of God’s covenant people and as a prophet of God. 

Jonah expressed deep emotion toward what should have evoked the least amount of care—the plant! Christians can likewise become so concerned about their own safety, comfort, and well-being that they do not prioritize those who do not have a relationship with Christ. God’s calling is not only a privilege but also a responsibility to take the gospel to those who have not heard it.


At this point, the book of Jonah comes to a very abrupt end. Jonah’s response to God is unclear. Perhaps the story was left open ended so that we could put ourselves in Jonah’s position.

Hopefully Jonah came to his senses and repented of his unchecked anger that:

  1. Robbed him of his compassion for those who are lost.
  2. Produced in him a sense of entitlement.
  3. Blinded him to God’s grace for the lost.

What about you? How are you dealing with anger? Have you lost your compassion for others, especially those who are lost? Do you have a sense of “Christian” entitlement? Are you blind to the grace God offers those who are lost?

If you realize you are just like Jonah, don’t wait until God sends a worm to eat a plant! Ask God to forgive you and to protect you from the anger that is boiling up in you. If you aren’t angry, ask God to protect you from becoming angry like Jonah did. We should all pray God will help us see the lost through His eyes of compassion; that we will share and show the good news of Jesus with a heart of love and not a heart of anger toward those who are far away from God.

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

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