This post is part of the series on unintentional sins, looking at wrong things we do without really thinking. Sins we commit almost unintentionally.
Think back on your day. How many times have you complained? A late train or bus, someone annoying you, a boring lesson, some problem that you hadn’t expected, the weather, your situation in life? I could go on, and I’m sure you could add many items to the list!
Complaining about things comes naturally to us. We live in a society which encourages us always to be pursuing happiness and pleasing ourselves. So when life doesn’t measure up (as it never will, naturally speaking), our instinct is to complain. But is this ok? Is it something a Christian should be doing?
The Bible teaches clearly that we should ‘be content with such things as [we] have’ (Hebrews 13:5) and that ‘godliness with contentment is great gain’ (1 Timothy 6:6). God understands that things can be tough for us at times. He knows that we are human and our nature wants to grumble. Yet, he encourages, even commands us to contentment and joy. This may seem like a big ask, but our complaining reveals discontent, envy and covetousness, all of which are sinful. We should not be indulging these thoughts, even less speaking them out. It’s certainly not a good witness to non-Christians around us.
Think about how God dealt with the Israelites who complained in the wilderness (Numbers 11) – and I’m sure they had a lot more hardship to complain about than most of us do! In contrast, remember that Paul and Silas sang praises to God while they were in prison, after having been unfairly beaten (Acts 16) – again, a worse situation than many of those about which we tend to moan. Also the example of the Lord Jesus ‘He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth‘ (Isaiah 53:7).
Paul himself tells us that ‘all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28). So in fact, every time we complain about anything, big or small, we are showing that we do not believe God’s promises.
There is a lovely old hymn about prayer which says:
Have you no words, ah! Think again;
Words flow apace when you complain,
And fill your fellow-creatures’ ear
With the sad tale of all your care.
Were half the breath thus vainly spent,
To heaven in supplication sent,
Your cheerful song would oftener be,
‘Hear what the Lord has done for me.’
So next time you find yourself in a situation which you would usually complain about, take it to the Lord in prayer. Ask him for a spirit of contentment in your circumstances. Pray for patience or tolerance or whatever else you feel to be lacking. And pray for the ability to refrain from complaining to the next person who is an available listening ear: ‘Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.’ (Psalm 141:3)
And in the words of another hymn…
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
See also in this series: