“Now Nineveh was an extremely great city, a three-day walk. Jonah set out on the first day of his walk in the city and proclaimed, ‘In forty days Nineveh will be demolished!’” (CSB – Read the chapter)
If you google “not my job memes,” you will find some pretty funny images. Most of them are pictures of road striping work where the stripes go right over something in the path that could have been easily moved out of the way. It wasn’t the striper’s job to do it, so he didn’t. My favorite is a picture of a python that has wrapped itself around a terrified-looking young boy’s leg with the National Geographic logo in one corner and in the other corner you can see a National Geographic cameraman crouched and actively taking a picture of the scene rather than helping. Of course, the guy taking a picture of the guy taking the picture wasn’t helping either, so… In any event, what Jonah does here is worthy of a “Not My Job” award. Let’s talk about it.
After trying to run from God and getting swallowed by a giant fish and spending three days in the fish’s belly and then being vomited back out (if human vomit smells bad, giant fish vomit has to smell really bad), yesterday we talked about the fact that God repeated His call for Jonah to go to Nineveh. This time, Jonah goes.
After letting us see Jonah at least set out to do what God has commanded, the author shifts gears to tell us a little bit about Nineveh. It is apparently a huge city. He describes it here as a three-day walk. Now, that could be talking about its breadth or its circumference or about how long it took to walk all of its streets. Whichever way exactly it is a three-day walk, the point is that it’s a really big place.
You would think that it would be quite an undertaking to let a city that large know that God’s intention to destroy it if it doesn’t get back on track. Now, sure you could simply hit a few of the main thoroughfares rather than walking every single street and alley, but Jonah’s task was a big one either way.
Here, though, is where we discover that Jonah’s attitude really hasn’t changed in spite of everything he’s been through. He walks one day into the city, delivers a sermon of either seven or eight words depending on how you translate the Hebrew, and walks out. He may not have tried to run to the other side of the world this time, but he just about might as well have done that for all the good this seems like it would do.
Jonah didn’t care about the people of Nineveh. He didn’t care if they all got wiped out by God for their sinfulness. In fact, he preferred to see them come to that end. That’s why he ran in the first place. He may have finally done what God told him to go and do, but he put as little effort into as he possibly could. God told him to cry out against the people and so he did just that. He did exactly that and not a stitch more in fact. He would have been the line striper leaving roadkill in place rather than moving it to do a good job.
Friends, this is not the effort our faithful God deserves. It is not the effort the people He loves and in fact sent His Son to die for, but who will perish in their sins but for our efforts to share the Gospel with them deserve. If God calls us to a task—any task—the only right thing to do is our absolute best. It does not matter if we don’t like it or don’t agree with it, He always does His best for us and so we owe Him nothing less.
What has God called you to do? What do you plan on doing about it? May I suggest not following the example of Jonah? The work may get done, but no one is going to be honored by it or happy about it. No matter what situation you are in, always do your best.