Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Copyright Kevin McShane, The Gracious Winner, Flickr

To Gloat or not to Gloat?
That is the Question!

Whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.
Proverbs 17:5

After tragedies like Hurricane Sandy and the recent school shooting I’ve noticed a troubling reaction in some Christians who believe events like these are God’s judgments. Whether these incidents are or are not is a subject for another time. What bothers me is the smug satisfaction and sometimes outright glee demonstrated when events like these occur. Although they don’t come right out and say so, these believers are quite pleased at the misfortune of others. Vindicated because their belief that sinners will be punished is confirmed, they are proud. They “knew” this would happen. I have no doubt that God doesn’t feel this way at all.

The bible contains the story of Jonah, the only evangelist I know who was angry because of ministerial success. Called by God to warn the residents of Nineveh concerning their behavior, Jonah hit the ground running – in the other direction. In the attempt to avoid his assignment, he placed a ship and its crew in mortal danger. A fierce storm arose that threatened to sink the ship and kill all aboard. The crew cast lots to determine the person responsible for their misfortune and the lot fell to Jonah. When confronted, Jonah confessed. The only solution was to cast him overboard and the crew gladly obliged. Prepared for this turn of events, God provided aquatic transportation, in the form of a very large fish, to deliver Jonah to his destination. At Nineveh Jonah preached, the people repented and judgment was averted.

Called to warn the Ninevites of pending doom, Jonah ran away. Why? He didn’t stutter like Moses. He wasn’t a coward like Gideon. What was his problem?

When God saw what they (Ninevites) did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened. But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home?...I knew that you’re a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”
Jonah 3:10-4:1-2

Jonah wanted the Ninevites to get what he believed they deserved - judgment. I find some Christians today feel the same. Deep down they know God is quick to forgive. Just like Jonah, when presented with an opportunity to warn someone they’ll run, but not out of fear of rejection or failure. They want to see people experience the consequences of their actions. I know; I’ve done this.

Proverbs 17:5 warns that gloating over someone’s misfortune is an invitation for punishment. It’s never the right response. What we wish for others we’ll receive; the law of sowing and reaping always works. The next time disaster hits, and it will, let’s not adopt a self-righteous “I told you so” attitude. Instead, let’s be proactive and take preventative measures beforehand. Sharing God’s love with others will change their lives and derail disasters. Rather than gloating over a field of carnage, wouldn’t it be more fun to rejoice over the blessings and good things God has done in the land and lives of the living?


  1. Is this also true for those who are followers of Islam?

  2. Thank you for your appraisal of the reaction of others. When I shared with someone at a former church that my husband had told me he had a destructive habit that controlled him, this woman found it laughable. I was very careful what I said to he after that. Looking back on that scene, I didn't know what to say to her at the time.

  3. Hi Mary! Excellent job! This post is very similar to my post Every Party Has A Pooper I wrote back in Nov! Jonah is such an an incredible book of reference! Thought you might like to read my use of him and his story! http://brightstar2911.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/every-party-has-a-pooper/ I REALLY LIKED your take on all this!
    Keep up the great work and be blessed!