This past Sunday at church our senior pastor spoke via simulcast to all the regional campuses about the vision for the church. One aspect of the vision challenged the six congregations to make 10,000 disciples. Disciples making more disciples. It’s a gigantic vision.
With that fresh on my mind, immediately after the service I grumbled to the pastor’s wife that the adult class ran over. I rambled on about having the kids a few extra minutes on top of the 15 minutes that was added to the Sunday school hour at the beginning of the year.
Nice Sally. This Jesus follower is complaining about spending more minutes teaching the next generation how to become disciples. So much for being “all in” on the big vision. I didn’t even make it five minutes and failed.
It’s not hard to find something to grumble about these days. How about the college and NFL coaches or teams? My home state of Tennessee has found plenty to complain about in that area. What about the weather? Politics? Taxes? Your latest meal? Oh yes, there’s plenty of material to grumble about.
But my blather on Sunday rattled me. Honestly, I’ve never taught a children’s class so mature in their spiritual walk as this one. I’d call this group of kids a dream class for any Sunday school teacher. So, after wrestling with God about the reason for my grumbling I went next to the question: “Is it ever okay to complain?”
The Bible makes a distinction between grumbling and complaining. David poured out his complaints before the Lord in many of the Psalms with gut-wrenching appeal.
Answer me when I call (Psalm 4:1 ESV).
Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my groaning (Psalm 5:1 ESV).
Why, O Lord, do You stand far away (Psalm 10:1 ESV)?
How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever (Psalm 13:1 ESV)?
It is quite appropriate and necessary to pour out our complaints and tell our troubles before Him (Psalm 142:2). The key phrase here is “before him.” God wants us to come to Him with our complaints and filter them through His wisdom, grace, and mercy. He will then guide us to our next action or allow us to continue to wrestle with the situation in His presence.
The early church encountered this. When a group of men noticed that widows were being neglected by the church, they complained. I believe there was a fire in the spirit of some these leaders after learning that widows were ignored so preaching could continue. It was right for the men to speak up. The church resolved the problem by assigning another group of men to take care of the widows so the others could continue preaching. Both jobs were of equal importance in God’s eyes.
When is complaining bad? This is referred to as grumbling in the Bible. In the Old Testament, God’s people grumbled over the food. Even though God provided them with daily food they did not work for, they looked back fondly at their days of slavery and desired the Egyptian food — fish, cucumber, melon, leeks, onions and garlic. Bread from heaven? Boring! They grumbled at God, rejected His provision, and forgot His rescue of them from slavery. Their grumbling spewed from their ungrateful hearts.
Grumbling says God can’t provide, help, be present, act, or work in the situation; but complaining is an honest expression of a broken soul groaning to be heard. We ought to complain about the injustices of the marginalized, abused, and persecuted. Anguish should stream from our hearts over these injustices.
But grumbling. That’s different. That’s sin.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing (Philippians 2:14 ESV).
My grumbling on Sunday was sin. God convicted me so I confessed it to the pastor’s wife. She accepted my confession. I’ve moved on. I will probably grumble again, and I will need to confess it again. But in the meantime, I will work on having a grateful heart instead of a grumbling one.
But complaining, we can continue to pour out our complaints to Him until all the wrongs in this world are righted.