Tag Archives: complaining

Complaining and the Christian — Stephen Hughes

When I was a teenager, I hated doing chores. My parents would tell me to clean my room, wash the dishes, or mow the lawn. I would eventually do it, but I would grumble and complain the whole time. The problem is I did not fully appreciate Paul’s exhortation: “Do everything without complaining and disputing” (Phil. 2:14, NKJV). Unfortunately some Christians ignore this exhortation, too.

The purpose for doing things without complaining and disputing is so “that [we] may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom [we] shine as lights in the world” (Phil 2:15). We need to be bright, shining beacons of God’s truth in this world. When we complain and dispute amongst ourselves, we tarnish that light and threaten to put it out—this harms our evangelistic efforts immeasurably. In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus also tells us that we are lights to the world, a shining city on a hill, and that we should shine our light before men for the purpose of glorifying God in heaven. We cannot do this if we are complaining and disputing.

Earlier in that passage, Paul says that we should be humble toward one another, fulfilling his joy by being like-minded (Phil. 2:1-4). As we continue reading, Paul calls to mind the example of Jesus since “in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8). When we get to Philippians 2:14, Paul has already exhorted us to be humble, and the image of Jesus’ perfect humility is fresh on our minds. If our Lord can be humble and not complain as He is being led to the cross to suffer and die, then we also can be humble and cease our complaining and disputing in our lives.

When we complain about things, we send a message to those who hear it. It shows a lack of humility and a lack of respect for those in authority. Peter offers his own exhortation in regard to church conduct: “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Pet. 5:5). With pride comes a lack of humility. When we complain and dispute with those in authority, whether it be in our local congregations, our jobs, or even our government, we are in danger of losing the grace of God.

Such an exhortation is not limited to New Testament times. The Israelites in the desert after their exodus from Egypt constantly complained and disputed with Moses and the Lord. Paul tells us about his ancestors, “Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not … complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer” (1 Cor. 10:6,10). Throughout the books of Exodus and Numbers we see how much and how often they complained to bring about their destruction.

There are six main instances in these books, three in Exodus and three in Numbers, where the Israelites complained and disputed. On the fourth occasion in Numbers 11, Moses found it difficult to continue as their leader through the desert since he had to bear the brunt of their constant complaining. This time they were complaining that they only had manna to eat—manna that they did not have to plant or harvest, but that the Lord provided for them. This trap of ungratefulness and taking things for granted is unfortunately easy to fall into; I am sure many of us would feel the same way if we had only one thing to eat for several months. In the very first verse of Numbers 11, we see the Lord’s anger was kindled due to their complaining. “Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp.”

Even after Moses pleaded on behalf of the people to cease this destruction, their complaining did not end. They craved meat despite their constant supply of manna. We see in Numbers 11:11-15 just how much the people had driven Moses to anger and despair, to the point of praying for his life to end. As a result of his pleading, the Lord told Moses to set up a group of seventy elders to handle the day-to-day affairs of the people, to take the bulk of the burden off Moses’s shoulders. One wonders if this is a reason for a plurality of elders governing the church today.

Regardless, God sternly granted the Israelites’ prideful demands. “You shall eat [meat] … until it … becomes loathsome to you, because you have despised the Lord who is among you …’” (Num. 11:19, 20). We see in this passage that God did this, not because of their complaining, but because they despised the Lord. Therefore we can conclude that the Israelites despised the Lord through their complaining.

After the Israelites complained again and threatened to stone Moses, Aaron, and even Joshua when they heard a negative report from ten of the twelve spies sent into Canaan, the Lord appeared to Moses and said, “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?” (Num. 14:11). Once again, we see that complaining is not mentioned here, but rejection and unbelief. The Lord equates such complaining and disputing with rejection of God and a lack of belief and trust in Him.

The Lord then said, “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me?” (Num. 14:27a). Those who complain against God are called an evil congregation. A few verses later, God informs Moses and Aaron that because of their complaining and disputing, because they have despised and rejected the Lord, because they do not believe and trust in Him, and because they are an evil congregation they will be forced to wander the desert and never enter into the Promised Land. No one twenty years old or older will be allowed to enter, except for Joshua and Caleb, the two spies who offered a favorable report of Canaan.

Sometimes, however, the Israelites complained for very legitimate needs such as food and water, but they did not make their requests humbly and respectfully. There will be times when we may have a legitimate need that we must take before the elders. In Acts 6:1, we read, “Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.” Here we see that the Hellenists had a legitimate need, and that they presented it to the Twelve, who did not chastise them for this complaint, but instead tended to their needs (Acts 6:2-6). It is not recorded how the Hellenists made their needs known, but because the response was not like that of God to the Israelites when they complained, we can conclude that there is an acceptable way to make a complaint.

If a congregation has qualified elders, they must “be blameless, … of good behavior, … able to teach, … gentle, not quarrelsome, … not a novice” (1 Tim. 3:3-6). These are qualities an elder must possess; therefore if one has a complaint, the elders will listen. If the complaint is just, they will follow the example of the Twelve by tending to one’s needs. If the complaint is not just, they will be able to teach the individual gently why it is not just. It is each elder’s responsibility to “[hold] fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Tit. 1:9).

When we complain and dispute with our elders and those in authority, we must not do so in the manner the Israelites complained to Moses, with a lack of humility and respect. If we do, we would be in danger of bringing anger and despair to our elders just as the Israelites did to Moses. We would also be in danger of despising and rejecting God, showing a lack of belief and trust in Him, and being an evil congregation. My brethren, we ought to avoid this at all costs. Sometimes, however, we do have legitimate needs that must be heard. These must be made humbly and respectfully before the elders, and we must adhere to their scriptural decisions.

slhughes315@gmail.com

Advertisements

“For Men Shall Be…Blasphemers…” – Jon Mitchell

The apostle Paul warned Timothy, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers…” (2 Tim. 3:1-2, ESV, emp. added).

“Blasphemers” comes from the Greek term blasphemos, which literally means, “speaking evil, slanderous, reproachful, railing, abusive.”  So Paul was warning of those who would speak evil, who would be slanderous and reproachful, who would be railing, people who would be abusive.

The enemies of Stephen used this same word to falsely accuse him of blasphemy against the law of Moses, God, and the temple…and in doing so they were ironically guilty of the very thing they accused him of doing (Acts 6:11, 13).  We therefore see how it is possible to blaspheme men, to slander or speak evil of others, to be reproachful of brethren or to rail against them, and to be verbally abusive towards them.

Paul also used this same word to describe himself before he was converted, when he was a blasphemer and persecutor of Christ and the church.  By doing so, he shows us how it is possible to blaspheme God as well.  Normally that’s what we think of when we think of blasphemy.  I would like to challenge the reader to consider how we can blaspheme our fellow man as well, especially in the context of discussing church leadership in keeping with the theme of this issue of the Carolina Messenger.

Our Lord commanded us to put away “slander,” along with anger, wrath, malice, obscene talk from our mouths, and lying (Col. 3:8-9).  Slander (blasphemia) literally means, “slander, detraction, injurious speech, to another’s good name; impious and reproachful speech injurious to divine majesty.”  It is no coincidence that it is listed right alongside of anger, wrath, malice, obscene talk, and lying.  Why would we slander someone, speak reproachfully and detractingly about them, or try to injure them with our words?  Why gossip about them, or unrighteously criticize them and spout off at them?  Why insult them?  Because of anger, wrath and malice.  We’re mad at them.  We hate them.

Brethren, we’re Christians.  And as Christians we are called upon to be different from the world.  We are commanded to let no “corrupting talk” come out of our mouths.  Instead, we are to allow only such as is good for building up…that it may give grace to those who hear (Eph. 4:29).  Do we really want to be the type of Christians condemned by James, people whose tongues are proven to be “a restless evil, full of deadly poison,” who use our tongues to bless God one minute and curse each other the next?  (James 3:8-10)  Because if we ARE that type of Christian, we need to know that our religion is “worthless” in the sight of God (James 1:26).

This brings me to Titus 3:1-2:  “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”  “To speak evil” (blasphemeo) literally means, “to blaspheme, revile.  To hurt the reputation or smite with reports or words, speak evil of, slander, rail.”  Notice how God lists the command to avoid this sin right alongside the command to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient and ready for every good work, to avoid arguing, and to be gentle and show perfect courtesy to everyone.

You know, it is very easy to speak evil of rulers and authorities rather than be submissive and obedient to them when we disagree with them.  We currently have many leaders in our government who act in very ungodly ways and promote many ungodly things.  As Christians, we are obligated to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29) and oppose all ungodliness while exposing it for what it is (Eph. 5:11).  If the President, Congress, or the Supreme Court command us to do something that violates God’s Word, we are not obligated to obey them.  That said, many Christians seem to think that having a blatantly ungodly man in office gives them a free license to not only speak out against what he’s promoting that is ungodly, but also to blaspheme the man personally by insulting him as a person.  Yet, God inspired Paul to tell Christians who were living under the rule of Nero, a man for more ungodly than any American president, governor, or congressman, to be submissive while speaking evil/blaspheming no one (Tit. 3:1-2), and to be subject to the governing authorities while giving respect and honor to them (Rom. 13:1, 7).  Not only is it possible, it is also commanded for Christians to still show respect and honor to a governing authority while at the same time actively standing against whatever policies he promotes which are ungodly and/or with which we disagree.

This not only applies to the government.  Take the leadership in the church and in the home.  Wives are commanded to submit to their husbands AND respect them (Eph. 5:22-24, 33).  Children are commanded to obey AND honor their parents (Eph. 6:1-3).  Christians are commanded to obey the bishops of the church and submit to them (Heb. 13:17) AND respect them and esteem them very highly in love (1 Thess. 5:12-13).

In these cases, the principle of Acts 5:29 also applies.  Wives are not obligated to obey their husbands in something sinful.  Children are not obligated to obey their parents if their parents want them to disobey God.  Brethren are not obligated to obey elders if the elders are promoting false doctrine.

However, what about when husbands, parents, and elders ask of us something that is completely scriptural…but we just happen to disagree with it and have a different opinion about it?  Over the years, I’ve observed more and more Christians blaspheme these authoritative figures in their lives and not even know it.

In more and more homes wives are either refusing outright to submit to their husbands or they’re doing so with a complete lack of respect…and in either case they blaspheme – speak evil against – their husbands while doing so.  Wives, that’s not respecting your husbands (Eph. 5:33).  That’s blaspheming your spouse!

More and more children are either outright refusing to obey their parents while blaspheming them, or else they obey while refusing to honor their parents by slandering and grumbling against them.  Children, that’s not honoring your parents (Eph. 6:2).  That’s speaking evil against your parents who brought you into this world!

And in the church, friends…even in doctrinally sound churches which promote healthy teaching about the gospel, worship and morality…there is a growing problem of blaspheming the eldership, speaking evil and railing against them when brethren disagree with them over a matter of expediency, opinion, and personal judgment.  Christians, that’s not respecting those who are over you in the Lord and esteeming them very highly in love because of their work (1 Thess. 5:12-13).  That’s not letting the leadership of the church keep watch over your souls with joy and not with groaning (Heb. 13:17).  No, that’s blaspheming your fellow brothers in Christ who are trying to keep watch over your souls and help you grow spiritually!

American brethren, I know we value our freedom of speech and expression…but the Constitution doesn’t trump the New Testament!  It’s one thing to disagree with the government, one’s spouse, one’s parents, or an eldership with respect and love.  It’s quite another to do so while blaspheming them.  To disagree with respect and honor is a sign of maturity, love, self-control, and having the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).  To disagree blasphemously by speaking evil against them and railing against them shows nothing but worldliness, spiritual immaturity, and that you’re on a road you don’t want to be on…a road that leads to hell.

What’s especially terrifying about this is that we don’t realize that we blaspheme GOD when we blaspheme our brethren in the church, whether they be elders or not!  Look at Paul.  He referred to himself as a blasphemer before he became a Christians…but what was he doing during that time?  He was persecuting the church.  Yet, according to Jesus Paul was actually persecuting HIM (Acts 9:4).

Therefore, we are blaspheming and hurting GOD when we purposefully blaspheme and hurt our brethren.  Think about that for a minute.  We speak evil against the elders or that brother or sister we don’t like and in the process blaspheme our Lord and Redeemer…but that’s not all.  We are also causing division and contention in the church, something which God hates (Prov. 6:16-19) and causes the church to become weaker before breaking the congregation apart completely.  And because we spend our time doing that, guess what we’re NOT doing?  We’re NOT shining as lights in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation because we’re too busy grumbling and complaining (Phil. 2:14-15).  We’re NOT spreading the gospel in this lost world because we’re too focused either starting or putting out small fires of pettiness in the home and in the church, and we wonder why the church isn’t growing and our country and world is growing farther and farther away from God…

            And Satan is laughing and laughing and laughing…

What’s the solution?  How are we to react to blasphemy against us or our brethren?  How are we to repent of our own blasphemy should we be guilty of it?

We must keep our conduct excellent and let our light shine among everyone with whom we come in contact, both in the church, outside of the church, and in the home (1 Pet. 4:12; Matt. 5:16).  We must consciously choose to treat EVERYONE the way we would want to be treated (Matt. 7:12); if everyone in the church did that, no blasphemy, gossip, or backbiting would exist and the gospel would be proclaimed to every single person on earth.  We must hold fast to God’s Word in all aspects of our lives and in our relationships with everyone rather than grumble or complain (Phil. 2:14-16).  When we encounter a brother or sister who speaks evil against someone, we must gently correct them rather than joining in or keeping silent (Gal. 6:1-2; 2 Tim. 2:24-26), and if need be withdraw fellowship from them (1 Cor. 5:11-13; Matt. 18:15-17).  Do this, and we WILL shine as lights in the middle of this dark, blasphemous world!

jonandelizabethmitchell@hotmail.com