Complaining

This entry is part 323 of 374 in the series Inquiring Minds

Where in the Bible does it say not to complain?

The idea of complaining can encompass several concepts, such as grumbling and being discontented. We complain when we aren’t happy or don’t want to do what should be done. So here are a few areas of the Bible that talk about this type of attitude.

The first thing that comes to my mind is Israel in the wilderness. The people were always complaining to Moses that he had dragged them out into the wilderness to die or face hardships. It got on God’s nerves, and there are several places in the Old Testament where the people paid for such complaining.

They complained against God’s ordained leadership in Moses and Aaron. They complained that they didn’t have the kind of food they wanted. On this occasion, they want meat instead of the manna that God sent them every day so faithfully.

God was so angry that he sent them quail, and many of them died from eating it (Numbers 11:32-34). Instead of being thankful for God’s provision, they complained about it. He didn’t get them exactly what they wanted on the menu. So those who thought eating the quail would be such a good idea suffered sickness because of their complaining about God’s provision.

Some scriptures that deal with the idea of grumbling as part of complaining come from places like Philippians 2:14 and 1 Peter 4:9. The contexts of these verses are in the apostles telling Christians about their attitude in what they do. Paul says to do all things without grumbling.

Peter says, speaking specifically of showing hospitality to other Christians, to do it without grumbling. Sometimes we can begrudge being hospitable to others. Even though they are brothers and sisters in Christ, that doesn’t mean we’re going to get along with everyone.

Either there must have been some of these attitudes among Christians in the churches of Paul and Peter, or they were laying out the possible problems and “nipping them in the bud,” so to speak. Either way, we are called to a higher standard even when we don’t enjoy doing something.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing,” (Philippians 2:14, ESV)

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:9, ESV)

In other ways, the Bible speaks about our attitude in a different way. Instead of mentioning grumbling and complaining, it talks about the positive aspects we cannot carry out by grumbling or complaining.

One example is of Paul calling the Corinthians in giving of their offering to be cheerful givers (2 Corinthians 9:6-11). You can’t hand over money or goods cheerfully and grumble and complain at the same time. It must be one or the other.

Cheerfulness is an attitude of the heart, just as grumbling and complaining are actions that come from a discontented heart. I have found that anytime money is involved, the true nature of our attitude always comes out.

Sometimes we are able to choose how we spend our money or who we give it to. But there other times that we don’t have a choice. We pay taxes and bills, not wanting to give the money to those things. But when we choose to give our money to a certain thing, we must be careful to not do it begrudgingly, especially when it is to the works of God.

A final place I can think of when I hear the words “complain,” “grumble,” and “discontent” is when I think about Paul’s characterization of the contented Christian life (Philippians 4:11-13). People often quote verse 13 about everything under the sun.

But it actually has a very specific context in which Paul is describing how he has learned to be content in every situation. He’s had it good and he’s had it bad, but he has learned how to be content the matter what situation he finds himself in.

The strength of Christ does not refer to superhuman ability, giant biceps, or power over our situations. It refers to the ability to be content to matter what situation we face. We rely on Christ in the good times and the bad.

This means that we should not complain or grumble when we run into situations we do not enjoy. Whether we are poor, in bad health, under persecution, or a host of other trials and problems that may come our way because we serve Christ, we need to learn this life of contentment to be truly at peace and able to handle these situations.

It’s not that nothing can affect us either. Christians are not Stoics. But we turn to Christ and he gives us his peace in every situation. This brings a contentment to us that the world cannot understand. We may not like the situation, and it may even cause us pain, but through Christ we can gain the strength to be content in any circumstance because of him.

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