14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars among the universe 16 as you hold out the word of life.
On January 8, 1956 Jim Elliot, missionary to the jungle people in Ecuador was killed in a misunderstanding of their role. He and five others paid the ultimate price for their work in bringing the gospel to the indigenous people. Jim left behind a wife and a young daughter.
It would’ve been understandable if Jim’s wife had taken their daughter and moved back home to the US where it was safe and where she could fully grieve. Instead she eventually moved into the jungle to live with the same tribe that killed her husband and continued to preach the gospel to them, raising her daughter in their midst.
While most of the world saw this indigenous tribe as “natives” and “murderers,” for Elizabeth and her daughter there were many redeeming qualities. One of the most notable to me is that in the Waodani culture there does not exist the concept or the practice of complaining. It just isn’t there. After Elizabeth’s daughter grew up her husband was shocked, “She doesn’t complain about anything!”
How much our lives would be different it we were devoid of complaining?
A number of years ago a group put out a purple bracelet and a 21-day challenge to live complaint free. If at anytime you complained about anything, you had to switch the bracelet from one wrist to the other. The goal was 21 days of no complaining. Sounds easy, right?
I decided to give it a challenge. It was so far beyond any other challenge that the best I ever got was 1 day. Many others had the same experience. Complaining is just such a part of our culture.
And in recent years arguing has really increased in intensity. Just check the national news station of your choice, doesn’t matter. It’s intense. You wake up to people trying to talk over one another, as if that ever does any good.
The Cost of Complaining
Complaining is a serious matter in the sight of God. The Israelites complained bitterly after the Exodus when they left Egypt. God rescued them again and again until he said enough. They would not go into the promised land, although their children would.
Are there “promised lands” that we miss out on because we complain so much?
Paul says, “Do everything without complaining or arguing.”
Those words are pretty stout to stay when you are locked up in chains in prison facing possible death. He had much to complain about but did not. Instead he found much to praise about.
I remember at a family center I used to work one thing that was taught to parents was to be firm on not allowing your children to whine or complain. Why? Because whining and complaining leads to self-pity, self-pity leads to depression, and depression leads to dangerous territory in all things.
Complaining to God
It’s sad but true but sometimes I find myself complaining to God. “Why, God did everyone receive this blessing but not me?” “Where are you to protect my heart when I need it?” “How come I don’t get the easy open doors that others do?”
Complaining. Even to God.
It’s a serious matter. There is a place in our lives to pour out our hearts to God, “Cast your cares upon me” (1 Pet 5:7) and even to our friends, but there’s a warning flag that we must be careful of complaining. It’s very subtle but it’s a matter of the heart.
“Do everything without complaining or arguing”
The Crux of the Matter
Complaining at its core is discontent. It’s rooted in selfishness and lack of faith. It’s fruit is sadness. It stands as the enemy of praise.
It’s interesting that Paul connect living without complaining and arguing as the pathway to being blameless and pure. Complaining is like muddy water and when mixed with fresh water, it reduces the purity.
The truth is we hate complaining in others, but fail often to observe it in ourselves.
Being cognizant of our complaining is a first step, but stopping it is a whole other matter. Take the challenge. Take one day and see if you can make it without complaining. Put a bracelet on your wrist and if you complain, switch sides. Tell all those in your life to let you know if they hear complaining.
And let’s work at this one. To have our mouths filled with gratitude and even our thoughts filled with praise. The beauty of it is this:
It puts us on the path of becoming blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generations, shining like stars in the universe as we hold out the word of life.