Why does it seem grumbling and complaining is so tolerated within our Christianity? Sometimes I think we tolerate it because we don’t always think of it as as sin since it is so commonly practiced among us.
We grumble about the weather, our government, our churches, our circumstances and so many other things that truly are trivial in light of eternity.
Is one sin worse than another? When we look at the holiness of God it would be hard to say any one sin is worse than another. In reading the Old Testament I’m so reminded how the sin of grumbling and complaining brought great judgment against the Israelites. It’s hard to talk about grumbling and complaining without bringing the Israelites and their time of wandering in the desert as an example.
We’re no different today. We live in a time of much abundance and most of us are not going without water or food. We have homes to live in and clothes on our back and food in abundance. Beautiful families to care for and love. Most importantly, if we are known by Christ we have all our sins forgiven and our eternity is secure. So why do we still grumble?
Our human natures tend to dwell on the negative more than the positive. Complaining is a spiritual problem and one I hope today to tackle and help guide us in the truth of the Word to spiritually defeat it.
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
~ Philippians 2:12-16
Even though I’m focusing mostly on verse 14 above “Do all things without grumbling or disputing”, I wanted you to get a overview of the context.
The Philippian church was so good to Paul but this was still an area they needed to mature in. It is still an area I need to mature in. Paul is telling them in verse 12 above to “work out their salvation”. We know salvation is a free gift and we cannot work to earn our salvation but we also know that faith without works is dead (James 2:14). We know God is working in us as we see evidence of fruit (Galatians 5:22-23) and there is a spirit of love, unity and care for others.
One of the ways we can love and care for others and bring a spirit of unity in the church is by not grumbling and complaining. This is an example of what it looks like to “work out our salvation”.
Do Everything Without Grumbling:
14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing,
~ Philippians 2:14
(emphasis above mine)
Our obedience should be in attitude as well as action. How often do we obediently do a task but all the while are grumbling inward?
Grumbling comes from the Greek work gongysmós.
It is defined as murmur, murmuring or muttering. It can reflect a a secret debate or secret displeasure not openly avowed (see use in John 7:12). It’s used of those who secretly, discontentedly complain. Those who murmur against others or unfavorable circumstances. It was the term used of the Israelites in the Septuagint when their stubborn spirits spoke against God (Exodus 16:7-9).
I want us to grasp the seriousness of this sin and not just brush it aside. Take a read below of 1 Corinthians 10:7-10 which is referring to Israel in the Old Testament (see more background here to what these verses below are referring to in – What sort of pagan revelry did Israelites indulge in?):
7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.
~ 1 Corinthians 10:7-10
How we can look at this and we’re so easy to pass judgment on them for being sexually immoral and idolaters but look at how grumbling is put in the same category as those gross sins.
Israel complained after seeing God perform miracle after miracle. Three days after watching God part the Red Sea and annihilate the Egyptians, they complained of having no water (Exodus 15:22-24). They complained against their leadership (Exodus 16:2, Exodus 17:3). Their grumbling was not taken lightly by the Lord (Numbers 16:49).
So, if God (who never changes), took the the sin of grumbling so serious back then why would He not in the lives of His children today?
Philippians 2:14 specifically states “Do all things without grumbling or complaining” (emphasis mine).
So what do we do with our issues we tend to complain about? There are true situations in our lives that are challenging. People that are challenging and circumstances that are challenging. God’s Word reminds us that He is working all things for our good (Romans 8:28). We’re told to give thanks in and through all situations (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
We need to learn to deal with them in a biblical manner. Whenever we grumble about anything we’re complaining against God who is sovereignly working all things for good in our lives. Moses reminded the people that when they grumbled against him they were really grumbling against God (Exodus 16:8).
One of the ways I’m “working my salvation out” in this area is to ask the Lord to help me catch myself grumbling and bring to mind Philippians 2:14. In that I’m reminded to give thanks in and through all things and reminded again that God is working all things out for good in my life. Even the difficult circumstances. I need to be reminded to give thanks and I have the power of the Holy Spirit within me that enables my heart to do so. One way God is “working in me” (Philippians 2:13) is by bringing about these circumstances to change me more into the likeness of Christ.
I have two choices: I can buck against God’s work in my life and let my flesh guide my actions and attitudes or I can allow the Spirit to work in my life and lead me to obedience in heart, mind and action with a thankful heart.
In studying Philippians the word “joy” is mentioned 16 times, it’s the theme of the book of Philippians. My life is filled with joy when I’m reminded that I am loved and known by a good and faithful sovereign God who is in control of everything and working out everything for His good pleasure. When I grumble I forget and deny the sovereignty of God at work in my life.
14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing,
~ Philippians 2:14
(emphasis above mine)
Disputing is the Greek work dialogismós and it means to reason or think through. It pictures a man deliberating with himself. In the verse here it’s in a negative light as in the way of arguing. It refers to an arrogant attitude of those who think they are always right. When we argue against others and especially those within the body of Christ, it is troublesome and causes disunity. This is why we need to remember why Paul spent the first part of chapter two in Philippians focusing on humility.
Commenting below on Phil 2:14, John MacArthur notes:
that dialogismos “soon developed the more specific ideas of questioning, doubting, or disputing the truth of a matter. In Romans 14:1, the word is used of passing judgment on another believer’s opinions and in 1 Timothy 2:8 it is rendered “dissension.” Whereas grumbling is essentially emotional, disputing is essentially intellectual. A person who continues to murmur and grumble against God will eventually argue and dispute with Him.
This is a bad place to be. When we are in this place we will see ourselves as always right. Finding fault with everyone but ourselves. Form divisions in the church and our other relationships by drawing others to our side because we are always right. I want to caution you that a grumbling church will be a divided church. Be aware of those that are continual grumblers and complainers about others and every situation. Stay away and don’t let them sway you into their discontentment. If they are believers we must call them out on this sin in their lives – lovingly and graciously.
We must deal with our own complaining spirits and help others to see it in themselves too. It is such a destructively negative attitude that has the ability to cause much damage to the unity of the church. It is damaging in our marriages and relationships with others and most importantly affects our relationship with the Lord. We must call it what it is – sin and deal with it.
Benefits of Thankful Hearts:
When we are not grumbling and arguing we are bearing a positive light on the God we serve to a lost world. The next verses give us a better understanding:
15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
~ Philippians 2:15-16
The reality is we are not going to be perfect in this life and we’re going to fail at this. I’m so thankful everyday for God’s grace in my life because we do fall short but I am known by The One who doesn’t – Jesus! But that doesn’t just give us an excuse to not work hard at “putting off” this sin in our lives.
The unsaved world around us makes it a habit to complain and gripe about life. They are watching us as Christians and are quick to see these same negative attitudes in others who claim to be different. How are we shining as lights in the world if we are not different?
When we complain we are saying to the lost world around us that God doesn’t control everything. (Side note: I’m not talking about a Pollyanna attitude to all things but pointing back to our God who is in control of all things and that we trust Him always as He works in our lives. Even in the difficult circumstances.) Why would anyone want to follow a God who is not in control of all things? When we respond with an attitude of thankfulness and joy in trying circumstances the unbelieving world around us will notice.
My friends, when our hearts are focused on God’s purposes and work in our lives, we will learn to wait on Him and trust Him. Then our lives will be ones filled with thanksgiving and praise to Him. The hope is that our lives would “shine as lights in the world”.
Tearing Down this Sin in My Life:
I need to take my complaints to God and not others. In reading the Psalms, I’m thankful for the example we have of David taking his concerns to God (Psalm 142:2). I can express to God how I feel but just like David be comforted and reminded that one day these troubles will no longer afflict me (2 Peter 1:4). I can complain to God in a way that honors Him and know that I serve a God who understands everything I am thinking and feeling.
I need to be more consistent in memorizing scripture that pertains to these areas of sinful weakness in my life and bring them to mind and pray them when I’m struggling. (Philippians 2, Romans 8:28, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Colossians 3:1-17).
Ask those close to me to call me out on this sin in my life. My husband and I have been talking much about this, hence why you’re getting this blog post.
There’s a great little book I need to re-read called Everyday Talk and it’s so good for parents to remind us how are day to day speech expresses to our children our thoughts about God. Convicting read but a good reminder of when we complain about the weather, we’re complaining about the sovereignty of God at work in all things.
This is how I desire to work out my salvation with fear and trembling in this area of my life. My desire is that my life would honor Him in all things. It starts with the attitude of our hearts and it is an area I’m continuing to seek His face on to remove the dross and mold me more into the image of His Son Jesus.