Since practically the dawn of the human race, complaining has dominated our species. I think it is woven into our fallen DNA, because it is a constant. Students complain about their classes, voters complain about politicians, kids complain about food, adolescents complain about rules, spouses complain about each other, and employees complain about work. And practically all complain about the weather!
The Israelites are infamous for their complaining. They complained about not having enough to eat; they complained about having little water; they complained that Moses had disappeared and they were tired of waiting on him; and they complained about facing the “giants” in Canaan. But they weren’t the only biblical folk to complain. You can add to that list Job, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Jonah, and the early Christians. And today, believers complain about the pastor’s sermons, the length of the worship service, the way money is spent, the various programs, and about other believers. You name it, it has probably drawn complaints.
What is it that leads us to complain so easily? Is it perhaps a lack of gratefulness? Do we become so easily fixated on the moment that we forget our lives in general—the proverbial not seeing the forest for the trees? The Israelites complained about particular moments, ignoring what the Lord had already done for them. It was the classic attitude that we often have—what have you done for me lately? When we complain about the weather, do we forget all of the days where the weather was wonderful? Or when we complain about things in our churches, do we forget about how the Lord has birthed us in a country where we can believe and worship relatively unscathed with little threat of bodily harm? When we complain about our government, do we forget the many things it provides, such as roads, garbage collection, and water?
I confess that I can be a complainer because my bent is toward negative thinking, but what has helped me is being grateful for what I do have in life. I am far from perfect at it, as my wife can attest, but I know it is what I need to do if I am to reduce my complaining.
Paul tells the Colossian believers very directly and simply: “Be thankful.” (3:15b) I think he does this because he is well acquainted with human nature. He knows their bent toward complaining and the remedy.
Think about how different our world would be if people were more grateful. The vitriol on social media would be reduced exponentially because people would feel less aggrieved. Greed would lessen because we would be more content with what we have. There would be less discord because people would not always have to get their way.
I am not naïve to think the people of the world are suddenly going to stop complaining, but is it too much to expect that followers of Jesus would begin taking stock of their lives and being grateful for all the Lord has given them? Are not we to set the example, as opposed to being like everyone else? The remedy is simple, if we will only begin to apply it.
© Jim Musser 2019