When a person complains, he is expressing dissatisfaction with something or someone. It can involve finding fault with an action taken (or a failure to act). There are instances when it is appropriate for a person to make a complaint if it is done in the proper manner. For example, if I am verbally abused and treated inhumanely by a law enforcement officer, I would have every right to express my dissatisfaction/complaint to that person’s superiors.
On the other hand, it is possible for one to fall into the trap of being a person who seems to complain about everything and everybody. His outlook becomes pessimistic, nothing is ever good enough, he is never satisfied, and he appears to be unhappy about something all the time. And, he is not afraid to voice his dissatisfaction to anyone who will give him a listening ear. Such people are constant complainers.
Call it what you will. Griping, bellyaching, grumbling, murmuring, or complaining: we know it when we see and hear it. Again, there is such a thing as raising a legitimate concern/complaint. That is far different from being a person who seems to be consumed with ceaseless complaining about practically every aspect of life.
Moses had to deal with complainers in Israel. Not long after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, they began complaining against Moses because they found no water (Exodus 15:24). When the water issue was resolved, the whole congregation complained about being hungry (Exodus 16:2,3). Again, in a different location when they feared that they would not have any water, they complained against Moses (Exodus 17:3). Moses learned in a hurry that when you are a leader, you sometimes have to deal with complainers.
After Israel left Mount Sinai, the complaining returned and the Lord sent a fire which consumed some of the people (Numbers 11:1). After the twelve spies returned and gave their feedback about the land of Canaan, then “all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron” (Numbers 14:2). As a result, the ten faithless spies were killed in a plague and Jehovah pronounced that the Israelites would be forced to wander in the wilderness for a total of forty years (Numbers 14:33-37).
When Korah stirred up a group of rebels to complain against Moses, Aaron, and God, it was on that occasion that the earth opened up, swallowed, and consumed two hundred and fifty men (Numbers 16:3,11,31-35). Amazingly, the next day the whole congregation was back at it, complaining against Aaron and Moses, and again the consequences were deadly: over fourteen thousand Israelites lost their lives in a plague (16:41,49). The Spirit guided Paul
to write about the Israelites’ rebellion in the wilderness, reminding all Christians about Israel’s constant complaining: “And do not . . . complain as some of them also complained and were destroyed by the destroyer” (1 Corinthians 10:7,10). Remember, it was right after that that Paul stated, “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition . . .” (10:11). In a nutshell, when God’s children complained in the wilderness, to say the least, it did not turn out well for them.
Like Moses, Jesus also had to deal with complainers. Some Pharisees and scribes complained about Him, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2). Others did not like how He demonstrated His authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-10). Jesus refused to allow complaints and criticism to distract Him from carrying out His mission. We need to learn from Jesus’ persistence!
God’s message for Christians is, “Do all things without complaining and disputing” (Philippians 2:14). Despite that, some members of the church are well-skilled in complaining. About what do some modern-day Christians complain? About some aspect of the church building, the teachers, the preaching, the deacons, the elders, the singing, the praying, the bulletin, the time of services, the noisy kids, the slow-moving elderly members, and on and on the list could go. Sometimes we want to say to Brother Constant Complainer, “Listen to yourself, brother! All you do is gripe! You sound like a little kid, did you know that?”
Perhaps it would profit me to ask myself some questions. When I talk, are my words almost always negative and pessimistic? Am I known among the saints as being a constant complainer? When is the last time that I complimented someone on the way they did something? When is the last time that I said something positive and encouraging to my spouse? When is the last time that I said something upbeat about the congregation of which I am a member? When is the last time that my communication with the leaders of the congregation was positive and included encouraging words for them? When is the last time that I bit my tongue and refrained from complaining?
Satan destroys some local churches with false teaching or immorality. In others, he tries constant complaining. Brethren, if we have legitimate concerns, let us express them with meekness. But, let us not be a bunch of constant gripers. It simply is not healthy to do so. It is not healthy for us, not healthy for our family, and not healthy for the church.
— Roger D. Campbell