In Philippians 2:14 we read, “Do all things without complaining and disputing.” No action is left out of the purview of this command. All things are to be done without grumbling or arguing.
However, complaining appears to be one of our favorite activities. As the weather turns from winter to spring we rotate our complaints from grumbling about the cold temperature to the amount of precipitation. As summer sets in, undoubtedly conversation will venture toward complaints about the heat. A study done at Carnegie-Mellon estimated that we average about one complaint per minute. Thirty to forty percent of our conversations center on complaining.
Consider for a moment a people who, much like us, reveled in complaining. After crossing the Red Sea in Exodus 14 until they first reached the Promised Land in Numbers 13-14, the children of Israel lodged numerous complaints. In Exodus 15:24, just three days after watching God part the Red Sea for their escape, the people complained, “What shall we drink?” After just a month of leave from Egypt, Exodus 16 records in verses 2-3,
“Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 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.’ ”
On their first attempt to enter the Promised Land, again the people complained in Numbers 14:2-3,
“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! Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?’ ”
Do you suppose God looked down on His children and said, “What a faithful lot, my joyous people!” We see instead that He had no pleasure in them. Numbers 14:11-12 records God telling Moses:
“How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them.”
God stated that these people did not believe, and therefore would no longer be His children. He would disinherit them.
Nothing about their complaining reflected the spirit of a child of the Almighty Creator. They did not think He could provide for their needs. Yet He provided abundantly through spectacular signs showing His great power and presence in their lives. They did not believe God had the power to overcome the giants standing in their way. Yet He was giving them a victory already attained (Genesis 15:18). They denied His power and lost their inheritance.
Philippians 2:15 explains why we should do all things without complaining or disputing, “that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” Like Israel, we are God’s children, also having been promised a victory that has already been attained (1 Corinthians 15:57). If God so disdained the complaints of His people in Numbers 14 that He refused to let anyone over forty except Caleb and Joshua enter the Promised Inheritance, what do you suppose He will do to us who have a better covenant established on better promises (Hebrews 8:6)? 1 Corinthians 10:10 warns, “as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer.”
Therefore, let’s show thanksgiving to God for this tremendous covenant. Instead of complaining about the weather, let’s be thankful for God’s creation which He promised would remain as long as the earth shall endure (Genesis 8:22). Instead of complaining about our infirmities, let’s be thankful that we are only in a tent, ready to be swallowed up by life (2 Corinthians 5:1-4). Instead of complaining about our bare fridge or empty closet, let’s be content with the blessings we receive without measure (1 Timothy 6:8). Let’s put aside our complaints so that we might reflect the blameless and harmless spirit of God’s child.
We are reflective lights, and our actions are noticed by the world. Does this crooked generation see God in you? Philippians 2:13 states, “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” God could not work His will through the grumbling children of Israel. Their complaining hampered His ability to shine His power for the world to see His will. Is it possible that you have been placed in this very moment, when complaining might feel just right, so that God’s hand might work through you? We do not know who may be watching, looking to see how we will respond, in order to learn a little bit more about God. How do you react when you are treated unjustly? Do you complain when the cashier hands you the wrong change, or do you show politeness, mercy, and understanding? The world is taking note. We are a bright light in a world that cannot stop complaining. As His children, let us always reflect the goodness of our Father, not the grumblings of our displeasure.
The world may like to complain. It may be one of their favorite activities. Let us not join them in that flood of disappointing dissipation. Trust that God can and will take care of your needs (Matthew 6:31-33). Trust that through His saving grace you already stand victorious in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 2:5-6). Through that faith, let all your actions be done without complaint. Your light will shine ever brighter each day, and God will work His wonderful will and good pleasure through you.