Quit Complaining!

by Cliff McManis

Boy, the title of this article isn’t very nice! Well, don’t blame me—that’s what God said. In Philippians 2:14, God commands believers, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” In other words, quit complaining, no matter what is going on around you, including the pandemic!

This command is a challenge because complaining is second nature for us sinful humans. To complain is human; to forgive divine. The Israelites complained to Moses and God repeatedly in the days of the Exodus, even after they saw God perform ten miraculous plagues (Ex 14:11); immediately after He divided the Red Sea for them (Ex 15:24; 16:2); and they complained about the supernatural provision of food provided for them in the manna from heaven (Num 11). 

What was God’s response to His people complaining? He hated it. He got angry. When the Israelites were in the wilderness and began to complain, “the LORD heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp” (Num 11:1).

Today, among the Church, God still hates it when His people complain. Paul tells the Corinthians (and us) not to complain like the Israelites did and so they were “destroyed by the destroyer” (10:10). Paul is reminding believers of when God killed 14,700 Israelites instantly simply for “complaining” against Moses (Num 16).

Why does God hate complaining so much? After all, it’s not as bad as stealing, or murder. Or is it?  God thinks believers complaining is evil to the core. There are at least two main reasons why.

(1) Complaining is the epitome of self-centeredness. The focus is all on self. “Hey, I did not get my way, what I want!” James calls this “lust” (4:2). Being consumed with one’s own myopic agenda and wish-list is the antithesis of healthy biblical Christianity which prioritizes focusing on the needs of others (Phil 2:3-4) and the glory of God above all else (Rom 16:27).

(2) When a believer complains, it is an all-out, unmitigated assault on God’s character. It is akin to telling God, “Hey God, why did You do that? That was not fair, nor right, and You need to do it another way…my way!” For a believer to talk to the Almighty, holy Creator and Judge this way is dangerous (Rom 9:20). 

So, as believers who desire to please God, how can we ward off the ever-present temptation to insult our Savior by ongoing, self-centered petty whining and complaining?

First, acknowledge that complaining is a horrible sin, even complaining about small things (Jam 5:9). 

Second, confess your sins of complaining to God, and be specific, asking for forgiveness (1 John 1:9)

Third, make a practice of being thankful to God. Being thankful is a command and it’s the opposite of complaining. Being thankful also puts you dead-center in the middle of God’s will and puts you in the realm of protection and blessing (1 These 5:16-19).

Fourth, ask another believer to hold you accountable by pointing out your complaining whenever they  hear it (Prov 27:17). That is a scary prospect, but we can’t shake this natural inclination of self-love on our own.

Fifth, ask God’s Spirit to help you with this sin pattern. If you are walking in obedience to the Spirit then He will help you produce godly attitudes and words which will smother out the wicked sin of complaining (Gal 5:16).

Sixth, if you are a Christian parent (or an authority figure over children and youth) do not complain in front of your children (1 Tim 4:12). That is a horrible example.

Children and teens don’t need models of how to complain, how to be discontent or how to be expectant. That already comes naturally for them.

Seventh, preoccupy yourself with thinking of others who have it worse than you do as you seek to aid them in their suffering and duress (Jam 1:27).

Is being sheltered-in inconvenient and a hassle in many ways? Yes. Is it worth sinfully complaining about, as we violate Scripture, make God angry, become a bad example and poison others to do the same? Of course not. Instead, as a child of God, be content in all things and be thankful to our great God. 

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