Praise and gratitude should be the refrain of the Christian heart. In fact, Christians are commanded to give thanks. Throughout the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms, the people of God are commanded to give thanks to the Lord. In a series of exhortations to the church at Thessalonica, Paul says, “…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18). It is God’s will that His people give thanks to Him in all circumstances.
Lately, I have been contemplating what grumbling and complaining are. To grumble is to protest something in a somewhat muted ill-tempered way. To complain would be a more vocal ill-tempered protest. Given these understandings, are Christians ever justified when they grumble or complain? To answer that, careful consideration needs to be applied when assessing the root of complaining. Grumbling and complaining are both rooted in dissatisfaction. So can Christians ever be dissatisfied about anything? Certainly. Because of the fall and the pervasive spread of sin, we should be dissatisfied when we see acts of sin being committed or celebrated. We should be more than dissatisfied. We should lament (Lk. 19:41; Jhn. 11:35). We should be righteously indignant (Jhn. 2:13-17; Lk. 19:45). To show such dissatisfaction is to be in step with how our Holy God feels about sin.
But when are our expressions of dissatisfaction unwarranted? I believe when our grumbling or complaining is rooted in a desire to obtain or preserve our comfort and satisfaction, we have wandered over into sinful grumbling and complaining, which is usually accompanied by an ill temper. It’s an exasperated expression of selfishness. One of the strongest biblical cases for this is highlighted in Exodus and Numbers concerning Israel’s deliverance and journey to the promised land, Canaan. Let’s look at the events-
- (Ex. 2:23-25) Israel cries out to God for rescue from being enslaved in Egypt and God heard their cry.
- (Ex. 3 & 6:1-13) God commissions Moses to be His instrument of Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage.
- (Ex 7:14-12:32) God displays His power over the Egyptian gods via ten plagues that culminates with the death of every firstborn male, including Pharoah’s son, in Egypt whose home was not marked with the blood of a sacrificed lamb. God’s wrath passed over those houses who had the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and the lintel.
- (Ex. 12:33-40) Israel begins to leave Egypt.
- (Ex. 14) Israel crosses the Red Sea on dry ground as God miraculously drove the sea back via Moses’ outstretched arms. As the Egyptian army tried to pursue Israel, the waters came back down on them and they were consumed.
- (Ex. 15:1-18) Moses and the people of Israel sing a song of praise to God for His deliverance.
- (Ex. 15:22-27) Israel grumbles about the lack of good water and God provides water.
- (Ex 16) Israel grumbles about food and God gives them manna and quail.
- (Ex. 17:1-7) Israel quarrels and grumbles against Moses for water and tests the LORD by inquiring if He is really on their side or not.
- (Num. 12:1-2) Moses’ sister and brother, Miriam and Aaron, disapprove of Moses’ marriage to a Cushite (dark skinned) woman and questions his leadership, which was appointed by the LORD.
- (Num. 14:1-4) After hearing the report by the spies, many people in Israel grumble against Moses and Aaron accusing them of bringing them out into the wilderness to die by the hands of the enemy. They also desire to raise up a leader who would lead them back to Egypt.
- (Num. 16) Korah institutes a rebellion against Moses and Aaron, which was a form of rebellion against the LORD since the LORD had appointed Moses and Aaron to be leaders of Israel. The LORD brought judgment on Korah and all the insurrectionists via death.
- (Num. 20) The remaining Israelites quarrel with Moses about water and accuse him of leading them to the wilderness to die.
Israel repeatedly grumbled and quarreled about food, drink and God’s appointed leaders. Warranted judgement befell a remnant of Israel. Essentially, they were questioning the love of God. Although they had been the recipients of God’s covenantal love and saw mighty acts of His deliverance and provision, they grumbled and quarreled against God because they were dissatisfied with how God was ordering the events in their lives. Their dissatisfaction was rooted in unbelief and resulted in grumbling, quarreling and rebelling against God.
Aren’t we just like Israel? We often think the events of our lives ought to go as we would like. When they don’t, we end up being dissatisfied and grumble against the Lord. Instead of recalling God’s past faithfulness and being thankful, our selfish short-sightedness only looks at the present and doesn’t factor in that God is working out all the events of our lives according to His will for His glory and for our good (Rom. 8:28). God is not obligated to do things the way that we would like them to be done. He is obligated to carry out His perfect will to achieve the most amount of glory and He will do just that while at the same time conforming us to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29). Oh how we need to recall God’s goodness toward us, which is primarily evidenced in salvation through Jesus Christ. A heart filled with trust, praise and gratitude has no room for grumbling and complaining.
Has God saved you? Give thanks! Is God keeping you? Give thanks! Does God promise to bring you to himself through Christ for all eternity? Give thanks! Is God good? Give thanks! Does His mercy endure forever? Give thanks! Does creation testify to His glory? Give thanks! Has Christ defeated every sin and death? Give thanks! Is God’s love toward His people unmovable and unshakable? Give thanks! Has God not given us His Spirit? Give thanks! Has God not given us His Word! Give thanks!
We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds.