Right or Relationship


I’m a child of the 1980’s, so whenever I hear the word pity, I naturally think of Mr. T and his iconic one-liner, “I pity the fool!” Today we read that Jonah pitied a plant, which, for me, cast a new light on the concept. I looked up the definition and found it means, “Sorrow for another’s suffering or misfortune.” Hmmm. Misplaced passion perhaps? Or that same old struggle to want what I want, while attempting to wrap it up in pretty language?

  • What comes to your mind when you think of pity?


9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” 10 And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. In verse 9, what did God ask Jonah and how did Jonah respond?
  2. Restate in your own words what the Lord said to Jonah, in verse 10.
  3. In verse 11, replace the word pity with its actual definition (“sorrow for another’s suffering or misfortune”). Describe how you hear the Lord’s heart being expressed.
  4. The last four words of this book make me smile. God cares about the animals too. What do we learn about God’s character in this passage? What about God’s heart makes you smile?


Bringing the lesson of Jonah to a close, God compared Jonah’s deep anger over a withering plant to his sorrow over thousands of lives that he had personally created, who were misguided and in need of grace. This is the true heart of God; our hearts don’t fare too well in the comparison. Oh our stubborn need to be right! Our insatiable desire for comfort at all costs! Those who cling to worthless idols, forfeit the grace that could be theirs (Jonah 2:8, NIV). You see, we can selfishly choose to be right, or we can choose to be in relationship with God, participating in his work of mercy and reconciliation.

  • Help us Lord. We are blind to many things in our lives. We assume our values honor you. Have mercy on us. Thank you for the great love you had for Nineveh, and the tender, patient ways you taught Jonah what grace looks like. Thank you for doing the same for us.