1 Corinthians 10:10–13 (CSB) — 10 And don’t grumble as some of them did, and were killed by the destroyer. 11 These things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall. 13 No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to bear it.
Very few sins are as toxic and stealthy as the sin of complaining. Grumbling is the reflexive response of the flesh when it perceives even the slightest bit of discomfort or inequality. We are naturally predisposed to resist suffering because our survival depends on our ensuring that our general well-being is taken care of and secure. The more secure our basic needs become, the broader our sense of “basic needs” becomes, until we feel a general sense of entitlement to more and more comforts that causes us to resist any degree of discomfort. Likewise, we do not tolerate inequalities very well because the more advantages someone else has, the more likely I am to be deprived because of the basic law of scarcity. In essence, the rules of “Nothing is more important to me than protecting my well-being” and “You having something means that there might not be any leftover for me” guide the grumbling heart.
All this and more causes us to be oblivious to the sin of grumbling because the basic mindset of complaining frames our entire outlook on life by the deficiencies and difficulties that we are experiencing in the moment. Put another way, the mindset of grumbling can’t see past the hardships of the moment.
Over and over again I have seen how the mindset of complaining invites the destroyer into people’s lives and wrecks havoc on everything good that they had going for them. In the same way that fire sucks all the oxygen out of a room, so complaining sucks all the energy and life out of everything that we do.
In the spiritual vacuum of darkness created in our souls by grumbling, we will begin to see an even deadlier spiritual poison begin to enter our life: “bitterness”. Grumbling is the spiritual foundation of bitterness. In the absence of light, having decimated our heart of thanksgiving, joy, and peace, we will see bitterness take hold of our hearts, rotting the foundation out from under our “love”, “gentleness”, “kindness”, “goodness”, and “holiness”. It turns the disposition of our heart cruel, and sharpens the edge of our tongue, causing our words to pierce and wound our family, friends, and coworkers.
I have seen careers, friendships, marriages, and ministries destroyed by the bitterness that came about from years of cultivating the heart of complaining.
Indeed, many lives have been destroyed by grumbling, and yet very few people are aware of this deadly toxin.
How does a Christian resist, confront, and overcome this sin?
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (CSB) — give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 5:11 (CSB) — Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them.
Galatians 5:16, 22-23 (CSB) — 16 I say, then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.
The spiritual discipline of gratitude is our first line of defense.
Having resisted the heart of grumbling through the discipline of thanksgiving, we must expose it by the light of truth, being sure that neither our hearts nor our minds be deceived by a philosophy of grumbling.
Having resisted and exposed the heart of grumbling, we ultimately overcome it by walking in the Holy Spirit, who produces in us the fruit of eternal life!