Jonah was told by God to go to Ninevah. He refused and went the other way. Jonah was thrown overboard in a storm and spent three days in a fish. Then he was spit back up on land and finally went to Ninevah.
I heard that story countless times in Sunday School growing up. When you hear something often enough you begin to assume you know the whole thing. For a long time I would skim the book of Jonah rather than read it, relying on my memory from Sunday School to fill in the details.
I recently sat down and decided to slowly and carefully read it again. I was only five verses in when I was struck by the cost of Jonah's disobedience and the cost wasn't just limited to him.
Jonah is on a boat going away from Ninevah. He's running from God. Jonah 1:4-5 says:
"Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried to his own god. And they threw cargo into the dea to lighten the ship."
Reread that last sentence again.
This cargo, part of the sailor's income, was thrown into the sea because of the storm that was sent because of Jonah's actions. Jonah's disobedience had a cost for other people too. His choice had far-reaching effects.
The same is true for us. Our choices don't just affect us - they also affect those around us. Even those we might not know very well.
The sailors didn't know Jonah, yet they paid a price for his choice. I don't think Jonah intended for them to pay it, but they did.
When we choose to disobey God, we're not usually intending to make others pay a price, but the truth is they may.
How often do we think that what we do or don't do doesn't affect anyone but ourselves?
The truth is, if we stopped to think about it, we would realize that other people are affected by our choice when we choose to disobey.
I don't know about you, but looking at it that way makes me think again about some things. If my disobedience is going to affect others, especially those I love, then maybe it's not worth it afterall.