I’m a complainer. I admit it. I complain when something bad happens to me (an illness hindering me from work, an unexpected expense breaking my budget, or someone getting angry with me for something that wasn’t my fault), and I complain when I’m asked to do something that inconveniences me. Instead of being eager to sacrifice my agenda out of love for someone else, I grumble—even while I actually do what I’ve been asked to do!
Grumbling and complaining could considered “acceptable sins,” sins that we commit regularly but don’t really see as a big deal. The Bible seems to view the matter quite differently, however. Paul commands followers of Jesus to “do all things without complaining” (Philippians 2:14). “All things” seems to include submitting to both suffering and inconveniences without complaining.
The Bible characterizes the ancient people of Israel by their grumbling and complaining, and how God dealt with them illustrates the seriousness of this sin. Grumbling is always directed against someone. We tend to think of it as a response to our circumstances, and the words we use to express our complaints tend to focus on our circumstances. But the Bible describes the Israelites’ grumbling as “against the Lord” (Numbers 16:7-9). God had promised to be present with his people and to provide their needs, but when they couldn’t see how, or were dissatisfied with God’s provision, they grumbled. And he responded with anger and judgment (Numbers 11:1).
Why is grumbling and complaining so serious? Why are we never justified in complaining about our circumstances? My complaining reveals my unbelief. When I complain, I don’t really believe God is with me, working my circumstances for good (Romans 8:28). I’m also forgetting that Jesus died to pay for my complaining. And, in doing so, Jesus didn’t complain about the bad that was happening to him; he didn’t complain about having to take on the weakness of human flesh; he didn’t complain about having to endure rejection by his people or the wrath of his Father. He was truly eager to sacrifice out of love for us, without complaining.
Justin Langley is Minister of Discipleship of Kilgore Bible Church in Kilgore. You can reach him through the congregation’s website: www.kilgorebiblechurch.org.