Complaining is an everyday occurrence, acceptable in all social norms. It is one way to open up a conversation with strangers. Everything is fair game when it comes to expressing dissatisfaction or annoyance. Maybe the weather doesn’t agree with us, so we gripe. A car in front just nabbed the parking space we were eyeing. How many times have we tapped our toe over the long checkout line at the grocery store? It could be our circumstances have changed, bringing with them discomfort or sorrow. But God does not approve of this negative habit, for several reasons. Can you guess? Consider the Israelites as they traveled along the route to the Red Sea.
“They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died.”
Numbers 21:4-6 (NIV)
The first thing you should notice is that “the people grew impatient on the way.” Patience is listed as a facet of the Fruit of the Spirit and is also a virtue. To wait without complaining is admirable but not actually virtuous. Patience becomes virtuous when discomfort is added to the equation. When the act of waiting without complaint includes personal discomfort, virtue has appeared.
Our God is patient and longsuffering. As imitators of Christ, we are to model His patience. Waiting on the Lord teaches us to persevere and maintain self-control.
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV)
“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” Romans 2:4 (NKJV)
Complaining also leads to rebellion, ingratitude, and a lack of faith. Referring back to Numbers 21:5, we see how the Israelites question God’s will, direction/path, and provision. They speak out against God and His servant Moses. There was ingratitude for the heavenly bread, a supernatural provision. It was actually detested by the Jews. Their loathing for manna is defined as a ‘sickening dread.’
God’s position, as Israel’s Creator and Deliverer, was disregarded. Free from Egyptian captivity, they voiced complaints full of disrespect. Instead of praising God for their deliverance, they focused on their new discomforts. Apathetic to their new freedom, indifferent to the miracles God performed on their behalf, heedless to the promise of a future, they instead concentrated on only the negative.
Earlier, in Numbers 11:1, complaining Israelites displeased the Lord and roused Him to anger. So many of us are slow to heed God’s warnings, and even slower to change habits that displease or anger Him.
“Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp.” Numbers 11:1 (NKJV)
We are to “ Do all things without complaining and disputing.” Philippians 2:14-16 (NKJV) But, since grousing is sprinkled on just about every conversation, this habit will not be easy to break. Those who decide to take on and break this bad habit will stand out. They will receive attention for simply avoiding conversations that criticize others or complain about issues.
“ Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” James 5:9 (NKJV)
When it comes to complaining, I am just as guilty as those reading this devotion. Some of my negative talk includes political leaders and government issues, along with finances and the weather. Opposing actions, decisions, or ideas belonging to family and friends are also in the mix.
God wants a thankful heart, but if we are full of criticism and discontent how can we demonstrate thankfulness? We are free to present our requests and needs to the heavenly Father, but our attitude should always be that of respect. Laying down a worry or petition is not the same as complaining.
Consider God’s view on complaining then decide if you need to alter your words the next time you experience discomfort or your patience is tested.
“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29 (NKJV)
“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV)
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:11-12 (NIV)
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4 (NKJV)
“We should not test Christ, as some of them did-and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did-and were killed by the destroying angel. There things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.” 1 Corinthians 10:9-11 (NIV)