The Problem with Grumbling

Grumbling! We hate it in our kids but do it ourselves.

Moses’ leadership was met with grumbling throughout the forty years that the Israelites were in the wilderness. It if wasn’t about food, it was about water or Moses’ leadership.

We all know how grumbling works. We’re angry or fearful and start complaining about the people in charge to our friends. Then there are groups upset and confirming each other’s complaints. Grumbling is contagious. What bothers one person soon becomes the issue of a mob. It was grumbling about entering the Promised Land that got Israel stuck in the wilderness for another thirty plus years.

I’ve certainly been guilty and can fall into it without a thought, but recently I’ve watched such complaining end disastrously when churches split over issues of tertiary importance—if even that.

Grumbling often happens when we’re forced to adjust to a new pastor, a new Bible Fellowship teacher, a new small group leader, or even new songs. Generally, we hate change because we like our lives and aren’t getting our expectations met, but grumbling to one another isn’t the way to deal with it.

People who might not be that upset initially become quite bothered when others start feeding them negativity about the situation or person.

I’ve always been haunted by Philippians 2:14-16a: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without blemish though you live in a crooked and perverse society, in which you shine as lights in the world . . . .”

This command is extremely far-reaching. “Do EVERYTHING without grumbling or arguing. . . . “ That includes issues at home, work, community, politics and church. That touches all we do. And the reason for the instruction is sobering: “ . . . so the you may be blameless and pure, children of God without blemish though you live in a crooked and perverse society, in which you shine as lights in the world . . .” That means that it can’t be avoided by saying our culture is so sinful that we have to complain. And we can’t ignore it saying we need to focus on the gospel because Paul makes it clear that grumbling undermines our witness to the world.

Why is it so essential to the gospel witness? Because it distracts and divides us and presents to the world a false picture of Christ himself instead of our shining as lights in a dark world. Even if we complain at work or about our HOA, we aren’t showing Christlikeness. 

Of course, we can share our opinions and beliefs in a positive, constructive way. We can talk about why we vote the way we do or what we’d like to see changed, and we’re to always speak truth, but in love. But grumbling is done in the dark with others, not face to face with those in charge.

These verses hurt because I am so guilty of grumbling. They remind me that God gives us a way to talk about our issues straight to him through prayers of lament, not through gossipy complaining. At its root when I grumble about what God has given me, I complain about him and his provision.

What’s the problime with grumbling? Me.

Father God, help me remember to talk to you about the things that bother me instead of complaining to people about my circumstances or leaders.

Kay is a life-long Texan whose favorites are Tex-Mex, books that feed her soul or make her think, good movies and travel to new places. Her great joy is to serve God by teaching the Bible and developing women as servant-leaders. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Beyond Ordinary Women Ministries, which provides free videos, podcasts and articles as well as low-cost Bible studies to prepare Christian women for leadership. (beyondordinarywomen.org) Kay spent ten years leading women’s ministries on church staffs, most recently at Northwest Bible Church in Dallas. Kay is the author of From Ordinary Woman to Spiritual Leader: Grow your Influence, a practical guide to help Christian women influence others by applying foundational leadership skills to their lives and ministries, and a number of Bible studies for women, some are available at bible.org and the newer ones are found at beyondordinarywomen.org. Kay earned an M.A.C.E. from Dallas Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Effective Ministries to Women. Kay’s family includes a husband, two grown children, one son-in-law, two hysterical granddaughters and a Goldendoodle.

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