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Without Murmuring and Complaining
by Dr. Johnny O. Trail, LMFT
It has been observed by some that murmuring and complaining are part of human nature. Beyond the normal gripes and complaints that one hears, it seems there are people who delight in murmuring and complaining to excess. There are people who simply love keeping controversy stirred up in various situations—including the church. The Bible admonishes the disciple of Jesus to avoid such behaviors.

The Apostle Paul tells us this very thing. In Philippians 2:14 he says, “Do all things without complaining and disputing.” The King James says, “Do all things without murmurings and disputings.” This passage teaches we should be willing to do things in service to God without grumbling and debate. It also deals with our interaction with brethren that might be problematic at times. Sadly, this was one of the critical flaws of the Israelites as they traveled through the wilderness.

One of the reasons the Israelites were not allowed to inhabit the Promised Land was due to their relentless murmuring. Numbers 14:27-31 says, “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me. Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you: Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me, Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.” The term from the Hebrew language means to be engaged in obstinate complaining.

Jehovah had His limits regarding the nature of the complaints that the Israelite people offered regarding their circumstances. It stands to reason that human beings do also. Numbers 11:1 says, “And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.” They had nothing to complain about because God was supplying all their needs. They were fed (Exodus 16:5), watered (Numbers 20:4ff), and sheltered from their enemies by Jehovah (Exodus 14:14). As a matter of fact, scripture teaches that their shoes nor clothes wore out during their travels (Deuteronomy 29:5).

Paul makes it plain that a terrible fate befell those who complained against Jehovah. 1 Corinthians 10:10 says, “Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.” Given these facts, one wonders how God looks upon the complaints that are sometimes offered among the people of God in refusing to continue faithfully in His service and interaction with fellow saints.

Some questions that we might ask ourselves when we complain might include:

Ø Has my complaining created dissention in the local congregation?

Ø Has my dissatisfaction weakened the ability of the elders, preachers, deacons, and other members to effectively do their job?

Ø Have I sought a resolution to the problem before complaining to the leadership of my congregation (Romans 12:16)?

Ø Is the matter I am complaining about trivial in nature?

Ø Has the nature of my complaint been inconsiderate of others and their circumstances (Luke 6:31)?

Ø Has my complaint weakened the good work of the New Testament church?

Ø Is my complaining required since I do not need to have my way in all matters of expediency?

Ø Has my complaining made the work of the shepherds improperly difficult (Hebrews 13:17)?

Ø Has my grievance undermined peace among my brethren (Romans 12:18)?

Ø Have I contemplated others before myself in this matter (Philippians 2:3-5; Romans 12:10)?

Ø Have I contacted the person that I am conflicted with before going to the leadership of my congregation (Matthew 5:23ff; Matthew 18:15ff)?

Ø Have I made God the object of my complaint rather than submitting myself to His will (Number 14:27ff)?

If any person had a real reason to complain about his situation in service to God, it was the Apostle Paul. He says in 2 Corinthians 11:24-28, “From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.” When one considers the pain and tribulations that Paul endured, our complaints and grumblings fail to compare.

This is not to say that there is no reason to ever complain about any matter. Things that have serious spiritual implications need to be addressed. If any person is advocating false teaching or doctrinal division in the church, then something needs to be said to the leadership (Acts 20:28-31). Immorality among the members of the body needs to be addressed (I Corinthians 5:11-15).

As much as it is within our power, we need to live in harmony with our brethren in Christ (Romans 12:18). When we create strife and division over trivial matters, it detracts from the work of the church and hinders its advancement. Moreover, it might create a hostile environment that people would rather avoid. If you find yourself continually in the middle of controversy, you might seriously consider these words!