Aussies love to grumble. We moan about the government, traffic, petrol prices, weather, and the line for the self-service checkouts at Woolies. It has become part of the culture, but complaining is also intrinsic to our sinful human hearts.
The Bible shows that grumbling has been a problem for humans for a very long time—and that it’s not acceptable for Christians. Here are four biblical reasons why we should stick a lid on our complaints.
1. Grumbling is a sin
This is the fundamental reason. It should be enough that God prohibits us from grumbling: “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.” (James 5:9)
We may think we’re getting away with all our mutterings, but God hears them all. As the mighty Judge, he will return at any moment and hold all the world to account for what they have said and done in this life.
2. Grumbling reveals our rebellious attitude towards God
It’s not just the complaints themselves that are so offensive to God. What lies behind our words is dissatisfaction with God—we believe that he isn’t giving us what is best. You may think your grumbling isn’t that serious. But what’s the attitude of your heart when you complain about the weather? You’re annoyed because the rain or the heat interferes with your plans, as if they are wiser and more important than God’s plans.
We are just like the Israelites. During their time wandering in the wilderness, they seem to do nothing but complain (Exodus 15:24, 16:7; Deuteronomy 1:27). Even though God had rescued his people from slavery in Egypt, they didn’t thank or worship him.
This grumbling prompted the wrath of God, as it still does today: “We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” (1 Corinthians 10:9–11)
3. Grumbling keeps us from loving others
We fail to rightly love others when we complain about them. Consider the anger that is stirred up in your heart against the other drivers in a traffic jam. We think our own ease and preferences are more important than theirs.
The apostle Peter writes: “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another…” (1 Peter 4:7–10a)
Genuine love comes from the heart. It’s not enough to show hospitality while complaining about how inconvenient and costly it is to you—even if they overstay their welcome and leave dishes piled up in the sink. Love demands that we kill the grumbling spirit within us.
4. Grumbling damages our witness
Pride is the foundation of grumbling, so it’s not surprising that Paul tackles this issue after he’s talked about the humility Jesus models:
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 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…” (Philippians 2:14–15)
Notice the two reasons behind Paul’s exhortation not to grumble. First, it is the behaviour fitting to children of God. As we’ve already seen, grumbling is sin, and we ought to live blameless lives.
Secondly, a church that doesn’t grumble will stand out. Because complaining is so rampant in the “crooked and twisted generation” around us, our cheerfulness will make us witnesses to the truth. When people notice that we act differently, we can point them to the all-satisfying God who supplies all our needs.
Living in a complaint-saturated culture like Australia is both a challenge and an opportunity. It’s hard not to go with the flow—we must intentionally put our sinful flesh to death. But when we defeat grumbling by the power of the Spirit, we will stand out even more clearly for the cause of the gospel.