By John White
(Reproduced from Good News published by Timberland Dr. Church of Christ)
As I reread the account of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness, I was impressed again with how fiercely God responded to grumbling. Paul too, warns Christians to learn a lesson from the wrath that fell on Israelites who grumbled: “Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer” (1 Cor. 10:10). Why such strong condemnation?
Grumbling denies God’s ability to provide. Pressed against the shore of the Red Sea with the Egyptians closing in, many Israelites grumbled against Moses. Forgetting what they had witnessed of God’s power against Pharaoh, they lost their courage and lashed out at the most convenient target.
Grumbling may be an attempt to intimidate. In Exodus 16, the Israelites grumbled, pressing Moses to return them to Egypt rather than proceed into the wilderness.
Grumblers debilitate God’s leaders. In Number 11, the Israelites pushed Moses to the point that he wanted God to take his life. Many church members view grumbling as normal church behavior. There is a need to point out the harm grumbling may inflict upon individuals and upon the church.
Complaining replaces prayer. Prayer, not grumbling, is the way God intends to change things.
Grumblers earn a bad reputation. In a church that values community, agitators will find themselves ostracized.
Grumbling seduces people away from Jesus’ model for handling conflict. An issue that could be put to rest quickly through one-on-one conversation (as Jesus taught in Matt. 18:15-17) can be kept alive indefinitely by grumblers.
Grumbling weakens a congregation’s confidence in its leaders. While grumbling too often comes naturally to us, it is unhealthy to believe negative, unfounded reports about others to presume guilt rather than innocence. Healthy churches, like emotionally healthy individuals, will assume the best rather than the worst.
Guardian of Truth XL: 2 p. 9
January 18, 1996