The past couple of weeks I’ve been reading about complaining.. and all I have to say is “ouch”
Philippians 2:14 (NKJV) Do all things without complaining and disputing
Complaining seems to have become the great American past time. We live in a very complaining society. People grip about everything. It’s interesting that the most indulged society is the most discontent society. The more people have, the more they seem to be discontent with what they have and the more complaining they seem to do.
Few sins are as ugly to God as the sin of complaining. The Church at large does much to feed this thing by continuing to propagate their self-esteem, self-fulfillment garbage that feeds discontentment. There seems to be very little thankfulness or gratitude today among God’s people, and very little contentment. How many believers do you know that demonstrate a spirit of contentment? Do you demonstrate a spirit of contentment? Complaining is part of our culture but it sure isn’t anything new. Who was the first complainer? Adam— “the woman that you gave me.” Cain complained about God’s work in his life (Gen. 4:13-14; Moses complained about God’s work in Egypt (Ex. 5:22-23). Aaron and Miriam complained against Moses ( Numb. 12). Elijah complained about Jezebel’s threat (1 Kings 19). Jeremiah murmurs against God (Jeremiah 20). Jonah complained about God’s grace and mercy:
Jonah 4:2 (NKJV) So he prayed to the LORD, and said, “Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.
It is still a popular past time to complain against God. Remember all complaining is against God and his providential will for your life. To murmur, to grumble, to complain against God is a sin and we must see it as such. Romans 9:20 says, “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God?” to answer back to God or to question God.
In Philippians 2:14, when Paul tells the Philippians not to complain, he assumes that they understand the dangers of murmuring as seen in the Old Testament from Israel. Paul uses the Greek word “goggusmos” here for complaining. In the Greek of the sacred writers, it has a special connection, it is the word used of the rebellious murmuring of the children of Israel in their desert journey. The Philippians in the first century might have understood the dangers of complaining, but do we? Do twentieth century Christians living in America know the dangers of complaining? We obviously don’t think too much of it, we all seem to do it. Let’s look at the Old Testament and see just what God thinks about murmuring. As we look at these Old Testament references, let’s remember Malachi 3:16 “I am the Lord, I change not.” We now live under the New Covenant which is radically different than the old, but God’s moral principles have not changed.
The children of Israel had been in bondage to Egypt for over 400 years when Moses led them out of Egypt through the miraculous power of God. They had just seen the hand of God in the plagues against Egypt, but they still didn’t trust God.
Exodus 14:10-12 (NKJV) And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD. 11 Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? 12 “Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?’ For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.”
The children of Israel had just left the bondage of Egypt carrying with them Egypt’s wealth through the mighty working of God. But as soon as they have problems, they start complaining. Shouldn’t it have been clear to them that God was leading them?
Exodus 14:21-22 (NKJV) Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.
Despite their griping, complaining attitude, God delivers them and destroys their enemies.
Exodus 14:27 (NKJV) And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and when the morning appeared, the sea returned to its full depth, while the Egyptians were fleeing into it. So the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.
Exodus 15:1-2 (NKJV) Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the LORD, and spoke, saying: “I will sing to the LORD, For He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea! 2 The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.
Here they are singing and praising God for his mighty deliverance.
Exodus 15:22-24 (NKJV) So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea; then they went out into the Wilderness of Shur. And they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah. 24 And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”
Here is the same attitude, they’re complaining again, “Where is our water?” They had just seen God destroy the whole Egyptian army and three days later they’re complaining again. God graciously leads them to water.
Exodus 15:27 (NKJV) Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees; so they camped there by the waters.
God provides for their needs and gives them water.
Exodus 16:1-3 (NKJV) And they journeyed from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came to the Wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they departed from the land of Egypt. 2 Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complainedagainst Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 And the children of Israel said to them, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
They were slaves in Egypt and they make it sound like a picnic. They had forgotten how bad their slavery was. Whatever God does, it’s not enough; part the red sea, provide water, but it’s just never enough. God responds to them in:
Exodus 16:4 (NKJV) Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not.
God graciously provides them with manna every day. The manna is a picture of Christ incarnate. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” He is the true bread that came down from heaven. This is a physical picture of God’s provision. In the midst of their sin, God provides manna for them. Let’s go on.
Exodus 17:1-3 (NKJV) Then all the congregation of the children of Israel set out on their journey from the Wilderness of Sin, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped in Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 Therefore the people contended with Moses, and said, “Give us water, that we may drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the LORD?” 3 And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”
They never stopped complaining, and notice that Moses says that they were tempting God with their complaining. It was God who was leading them with his presence, and in the pillar of fire, he was ordering their circumstances and their complaining was against him. This would be funny except for the fact that we see ourselves in them. Aren’t we just like them? We see God’s work in caring for us, but we soon forget.
In verses 5-7, God provides water:
Exodus 17:5-7 (NKJV) And the LORD said to Moses, “Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel. Also take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river, and go. 6 “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”
Moses smites the rock, which is a picture of Christ crucified. In the end of verse 7, they ask, “Is the Lord among us or not?” How could they question God’s presence with them??? After all they had seen; the plagues on Egypt, the Red Sea parting, water in the desert comes out of a rock, manna comes from the sky, and they still questioned God’s presence.
It seems that up to this point, they seemed to get away with all their murmuring, but in the book of Numbers, every time they murmur God judges them why? What happened between what we have seen in Exodus and what we will see in Numbers? Mount Sinai and the giving of the Law. In what we have seen in Exodus they had not yet entered into a covenant with God. But from Sinai on we see a different story. I think that the children of Israel coming out of Egypt is a picture of salvation. After God had given them His law He disciplined them for the sin of complaining.
Numbers 11:1-3 (NKJV) 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. 2 Then the people cried out to Moses, and when Moses prayed to the LORD, the fire was quenched. 3 So he called the name of the place Taberah, because the fire of the LORD had burned among them.
God’s judgement falls upon them for their complaining and yet they keep on complaining.
Numbers 11:4-6 (NKJV) Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: “Who will give us meat to eat? 5 “We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; 6 “but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!”
Because of their complaining, God’s judgement falls again!
Numbers 11:18-20 (NKJV) “Then you shall say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the hearing of the LORD, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat? For it was well with us in Egypt.” Therefore the LORD will give you meat, and you shall eat. 19 ‘You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, 20 ‘but for a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have despised the LORD who is among you, and have wept before Him, saying, “Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?”‘
Numbers 11:33 (NKJV) But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was aroused against the people, and the LORD struck the people with a very great plague.
You would think that they would learn. Next, the spies return from searching out the promise land with an evil report.
Numbers 14:1-2 (NKJV) So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness!
It seems like every time they had a trial they were wishing they were dead. So, God grants them their wish.
Numbers 14:27-29 (NKJV) “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me? I have heard the complaints which the children of Israel make against Me. 28 “Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the LORD, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you: 29 ‘The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above.
The whole generation from 20 years old and up will die in the wilderness. Why? Complaining! A couple of million people die because of their complaining. In Numbers 16, we see the rebellion of Korah, he doesn’t like Moses’ leadership.
Numbers 16:28-35 (NKJV) And Moses said: “By this you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, for I have not done them of my own will. 29 “If these men die naturally like all men, or if they are visited by the common fate of all men, then the LORD has not sent me. 30 “But if the LORD creates a new thing, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the pit, then you will understand that these men have rejected the LORD.” 31 Now it came to pass, as he finished speaking all these words, that the ground split apart under them, 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods. 33 So they and all those with them went down alive into the pit; the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the assembly. 34 Then all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up also!” 35 And a fire came out from the LORD and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering incense.
Israel’s response to this judgement is fascinating: rather than fear, they murmur.
Numbers 16:41 (NKJV) On the next day all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron, saying, “You have killed the people of the LORD.”
They are blaming Moses for their judgement. If they thought that Moses did that, they sure shouldn’t have murmured against him. God responds again to their murmuring;
Numbers 16:45-49 (NKJV) “Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.” And they fell on their faces. 46 So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a censer and put fire in it from the altar, put incense on it, and take it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them; for wrath has gone out from the LORD. The plague has begun.” 47 Then Aaron took it as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the assembly; and already the plague had begun among the people. So he put in the incense and made atonement for the people. 48 And he stood between the dead and the living; so the plague was stopped. 49 Now those who died in the plague were fourteen thousand seven hundred, besides those who died in the Korah incident.
14,700 people died, think about that! Complaining is a serious sin. They weren’t being judged for adultery or Idolatry or murder, all they did was complain.
Now in Numbers 21 this is forty years later, a new generation with the same attitude.
Numbers 21:4-5 (NKJV) Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.”
Most of them would not have even remembered Egypt but they had heard their parents complain so they followed the example of their parents. In verse 6, we see God’s response.
Numbers 21:6 (NKJV) So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.
Why serpents? In Romans 3:13, speaking of the depravity of man, it says, “the poison of asps is under their lips.” through the mouth of the serpent the poison is injected. You are spreading poison by your mouth by complaining and it is very destructive. The history of Israel is summed up in:
Psalms 106:24-26 (NKJV) Then they despised the pleasant land; They did not believe His word, 25 But complained in their tents, And did not heed the voice of the LORD. 26 Therefore He raised up His hand in an oath against them, To overthrow them in the wilderness,
We are told in 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 to learn from Israel’s history. If you read the whole chapter, you will see it is an overview of all we have just read. But let’s look at:
1 Corinthians 10:10-11 (NKJV) nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
All we have just looked at of Israel’s history is an example that we too are to learn from. This is how God feels about murmuring and complaining. God controls our circumstances, so all complaints about our circumstances are directed against God. Do you see how serious a sin complaining is?
Complaining is a symptom of a deep seated spiritual problem, a failure to trust God and a failure to be submissive to His providential provision in your life. God hates murmuring and complaining.
Philippians 2:14 (NKJV) Do all things without complaining and disputing,
The Greek text reads, “All things do with out complaining and disputing.” Look at the context of this verse. In verse 12-13, they are called to work out their sanctification, or their spiritual maturity. Then in verse 14, he gives them the attitude they are to have as they are working out their maturity; remember maturity comes through trials. We can be outwardly obedient to the word of God and yet not have an obedient attitude:
1 Peter 4:9 (NKJV) Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.
We are to demonstrate hospitality to one another and not murmur or complain when you are taken advantage of. They were doing the right thing with the wrong attitude.
We are to be submissive to God, and the token of our submission is to be an attitude of life that does things without murmuring or disputing. Your children might obey you, but is their attitude one of murmuring or disputing?
The word used here for “complaining” is “goggusmos” it means: “sullen discontent, murmuring, criticism.” It is an onomatopoetic word, a word that sounds like its meaning such as hiss, buzz, hum, or murmur. It describes the low, threatening, discontented muttering of a mob who distrust their leaders and are on the verge of an uprising. It is always associated with rebellion. Goggusmos signifies an emotional rejection of God’s will and providence. Emotional rejection of the circumstances that God has chosen for your life and the requirements that he has for your conduct. I’m sure that you’ve seen this in your children when you tell them to take out the trash, go to bed, or clean up their room. As they do what you have told them to, they grumble all the way. This is rebellion and it is sin.
The Greek word used here for “disputing” is dialogismos it means: “questioning, criticisms, intellectual debate.” It refers to inward reasoning of the mind, we get our English word dialogue from this Greek word. Dialogue has become a popular word in our day, and we think well of it between men, but it is not a virtue between men and God. God does not want to argue with men. He wants men to listen to Him and to do what he says.
Goggumos is emotional rejection of God’s will and dialogismos is intellectual debate with God. You want to argue with God about why things are the way they are. You want to argue with God about why you have to do this or that, or you want to argue with God about the circumstances you’re in. Whether it be your job, marriage, children, singleness, divorce, death, sickness. You debate with God because you have a better idea, a better plan for your life– this is pride!
The bible says “Do all things without complaining and disputing.” Now, most Christians do somethings without complaining or disputing. The problem is to do all things without complaining or disputing. The word “do” is in the present tense, which signifies that we should be without complaining or disputing at all times and in all circumstances. Calvin said, “To do all things without complaining is the fruit of humility to which he had exhorted them in 2:3-4.
Complaining is something we tend to take it very lightly, evidenced by the fact that we do it so often. But God hates complaining. Let me give you three reasons why God hates complaining:
1. Complaining denies or attacks God’s Sovereignty.
Exodus 16:7-8 (NKJV) “And in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD; for He hears your complaints against the LORD. But what are we, that you complain against us?” 8 Also Moses said, “This shall be seen when the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening, and in the morning bread to the full; for the LORD hears your complaints which you make against Him. And what are we? Your complaints are not against us but against the LORD.”
They had just been delivered from Egypt, which was a demonstration of God’s sovereignty. Pharaoh asked, Who is the God of Israel that I should obey Him?” The ten plagues were his answer. The sovereign God of the universe shows his power. The Israelite leave Egypt wealthy and go through the Red Sea on dry land, and God kills their enemies. Their success in entering the promise land depended on the Sovereignty of God, so when they murmur against Moses and Aaron, they are calling to question God’s ability to carry out his will. Was God using Moses? Yes or course!
We see the same thing in Philippians 2:14, which immediately follows verse 13 (I discovered that on my own), which is one of the strongest verses in the NT on the Sovereignty of God.
Philippians 2:12-14 (NKJV) Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now 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 do for His good pleasure. 14 Do all things without complaining and disputing,
Verses 12-13 tell us that God is sovereign in our sanctification — therefore don’t complain or dispute about the circumstances you are in because God is using them to sanctify you for His glory. He controls all of our circumstances, and it is through them and His Word that he works out our practical sanctification. Every complaint against our circumstances, every grumble about the weather, about the way people treat us, about the daily trials of life, is directed against the One who works all things after the counsel of his own will (Ephesians 1:11). Paul, in Acts 16, is in a Philippian jail we don’t see Paul complaining, but rejoicing. He trusted God’s sovereignty. Complaining is the opposite of rejoicing.
1. Complaining denies or attacks God’s Sovereignty.
2. Complaining disrupts Christian unity.
Philippians 2 is all about Christian unity.
Numbers 13:30-33 (NKJV) Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” 31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” 32 And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. 33 “There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”
They were in effect saying, “We can’t do what God has told us to do, it’s too hard, the people are too big.” Would you say that verse 33 is an exaggeration? That is about a 300 to 1 ratio. Have you ever done that, exaggerated your problems?
Numbers 14:36 (NKJV) Now the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation complain against him by bringing a bad report of the land,
The spies started the complaining and the whole congregation picked it up. This sin is so contagious that it spreads like wildfire. You get one disgruntled complainer and it won’t be long before it spreads to many. Whenever a person murmurs, he is finding fault, and when you find fault, you must blame someone (never yourself). When this happens, some will agree with the complainer and some won’t and now you have a faction which leads to disunity. The theme of Philippians 2 is unity and complaining and disputing leads to disunity. When people grumble, pay attention to the pronouns they use, “Why did ‘they‘ do that?” Who are “they”? It’s someone other than me. So, it’s us and them, and that is disunity.
1. Complaining denies or attacks God’s Sovereignty.
2. Complaining disrupts Christian unity.
3. Complaining discredits our Christian testimony.
We talk about God and how much we love Him and how good He is, but we often live like atheists murmuring and complaining all the time. We fall apart in the midst of trials and the world says, “Where’s their God?” Paul and Silas must have been a tremendous testimony in that Philippian jail. What if they would have been murmuring and complaining and griping about their situation? What if Silas would have said, “Paul, you big shot, you had to show off and cast the demon out of that girl. Now look at the trouble we’re in. Why couldn’t you just have left that demon possessed girl alone?” And then Paul fired back, “Listen Silas, why didn’t you tell them we’re Roman citizens and they wouldn’t have beaten us. But, no, you had to keep you’re mouth shut.” If that had been going on between Paul and Silas do you think the jailer would have asked, “What must I do to be saved?” I doubt it! He probably would have said, “What must I do to stay away from this Christianity thing?” Remember, our testimony is important, So important that God uses our lives to influence the people around us, we need to watch our complaining.