How many of us have this verse highlighted in our Bibles? “Do all things without grumbling or disputing” (Philippians 2:14). Complaining implies an impatient criticism, an open, audible grumbling. The word in the original Greek is gongusmon (read that as: “gong-goose-moan”). It is a graphic, onomatopoeic word. Onomatopoeic means: it sounds exactly what it describes. There are a lot of people like that including church goers. When was the last time anyone heard them say anything positive or appreciative about their church? They are gong-goose-moan-ers.
‘Disputing’ in Greek is dialogismon, from which we get “dialogue.” For us, a dialogue is an unbiased discussion usually, but in Greek it referred to haggling, confrontation, or litigation in a court. The focus is on the heart attitude. This person loves an argument.
The language here suggests a lot of what we read after the exodus. Only in a matter of days out of Egypt, Israel began to murmur about their provision and grumbled against Moses and Aaron (See Exodus 15:22-27). To grumble or complain shows ungratefulness. It means you are not thankful to the Lord.
It is the way of an unbeliever. Someone like this is never happy and can never be pleased. He starts the day grumbling. He complains about breakfast. He gets angry about the snow plow that has blocked his driveway with snow. Or he complains about the heat. The last words on his lips before he goes to sleep are grumbling. He is boiled up inside. What a sad life – and how devastating the consequences on the rest of the family. They can never please him. They always do things incorrectly. He never speaks an encouraging word in support of them. They follow his example. They complain about school, homework, chores, and the weather. Even after they are given every modern gadget and screen toy possible. They find other things to complain about.
Are we grumblers? Sinclair Ferguson writes, “A complaining or arguing spirit is an expression of ingratitude to God’s providence, and of lovelessness and pride towards others. It is a denial of grace; it is working against salvation rather than working salvation into every aspect of our lives” [Let’s Study Philippians, p. 57]. You cannot live a healthy spiritual life like this.
Our temptation in reaction to someone like that might be something like: “do you want some cheese with your ‘whine’?” Instead we all ought to consider God’s Word and remember that this addresses all of us on this score:
- Remember and do not forget. God’s people were forgetful. As the psalmist later wrote: “When our fathers were in Egypt, they gave no thought to your miracles; they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.” (Ps. 106:7)
Here the lesson is obvious: “Do not grumble, as some of them did” (1 Cor. 10:10). Philip Ryken says: “It is not a sin for us to bring God our problems. He invites us to talk things over with him through prayer. What is a sin, however, is to have a complaining spirit that poisons our communion with Christ and thus robs us of the joy of serving God” (Saved for God’s Glory, p. 441) We can bring our laments to the Lord, but never with a complaining heart.
The wilderness was Israel’s teacher. Charles Spurgeon described it as “the Oxford and Cambridge for God’s students. There they went to the University, and he taught and trained them, and they took their degree before they entered into the promised land.” We too are in a wilderness: aka Wilderness University. We’re pilgrims in training. And God is testing us.
- Turn to God for His remedy: His mercy. God’s grace is so amazing. He still provided for all those whiners. When Israel complained days after their deliverance at the Red Sea, God still cared. He gave the water at Massah and Meribah (Exodus 17). They drank from the Rock – that Rock is Christ. He blessed them with manna (Exodus 16) – that Manna is Christ. And on and on the types and shadows and symbols show us our only hope of redemption: the Lord. So repent of your sin today, turn to God for His remedy and preach that gospel of grace to yourself. Find your hope again in the Lord Jesus.
In Christ, Pastor Rich Anjema