By Doug Inglish … It is inevitable when thinking of the story of Jonah, that our minds immediately envision a whale (I know, the Bible says it was a great fish, so all you marine biologists can fault me here for being technically inaccurate, but for the purposes of this article I am going to call it a whale). God had a message for the wicked city of Nineveh, and a weak-kneed prophet was not going to stop that message from getting all the way to the king. From the vantage point of He who loves every soul to the point of making the ultimate sacrifice, so many people in need of a call to repentance was a whale of a problem. So, He didn’t hesitate to come up with a whale of a solution.
But as you are also no doubt aware, one of the smallest creatures on earth enters the story in the last chapter (If you need a refresher at this point, it only takes about half an hour to read the whole book of Jonah). Jonah, too upset over his prophecy being overruled to rejoice in his successful evangelism, sat sulking in the shade of a leafy vine. But along came a worm to chew through the vine so that it withered away, leaving the prophet even more hot and bothered. As often happens, the Lord spoke to Jonah right at his most ridiculous moment. Since the book was apparently written by Jonah himself, we can conclude that the lesson hit home.
Curious, isn’t it? The whale was the vehicle to get him where he needed to be, so it can surely take partial credit for the conversion of Nineveh. But the whale had no part in the conversion of Jonah. For that, God sent a worm.
The mission to declare salvation to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people is a whale of a task. To carry it out, we need a whale of lot of money, and even then, it needs a whale of a blessing to make it go as far as the ends of the earth. But don’t discount the value of a worm-sized offering.
I did a little research, and it turns out that the worm in the book of Jonah was likely the larvae of an insect weighing around .007 ounces. At the other end of the scale, the blue whale, which is the largest creature that has ever lived (sorry dinosaurs) weighs in at about 330,000 pounds. That’s about the difference I sense between my offering and the task of bringing the gospel to the world.
So how many worms does it take to equal a whale? Not as many as you think. A locust weighs about the same as Jonah’s worm, .007 ounces. But the combined weight of a square kilometer of locusts in a typical swarm is more than twice the weight of a blue whale. Which means that when we all get together, our offerings are equal to the task.
God is equally able to use the whale and the worm to reach those who need to hear His message. And I am truly grateful that there are those among us who can and do give a whale of a lot to the mission. I am equally grateful that I can have a part in it too, even though my means are much closer to the worm than the whale. I am also grateful that a lot of us together can out give even the whales.
–Doug Inglish is RMC director for trust services and planned giving