The Age of Complaint

The Age of Complaint
Philippians 2:14-18
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing.”

It is easy to fall into its trap.  We don’t want to, but it just seems to come out.  We desire to be known as a positive person; it is just so hard to avoid complaining. The hardest thing to do is remain silent when we feel we have been mistreated, disrespected, or not given the service we think we deserve.  It does not matter what the circumstances are; we complain if we feel we are mistreated or our views are not given proper consideration.  If the service is poor, we complain.  If the product is faulty, somebody needs to pay.  If we are disrespected, we will make it known that our rights have been violated.  Fights break out in stadiums become someone feels that someone else has disrespected them or intruded into their territory.  As the poem “Complainin’ Jack” by Shel Silverstein recites, “Complain, complain, that is all he did, I finally had to shut the lid.”

In this passage, Paul begins with a command that seeks to reorient our attitude. First, we are commanded to stop complaining. The word refers to whispering complaints or talking negatively about someone else or about actions they are performing. Our natural tendency is to see the faults and failures of others, especially when it is directed at us.  When things are not meeting our expectations, we voice our displeasure and disagreement.  However, tragically, we do not complain just about others; we complain about what God is doing or allowing to happen in our lives.  When we do so, we set ourselves over God as though we have the right and authority to critique his activities.

Second, Paul warns about “disputing.”  However, the word has a much broader meaning than arguing and conflicts.  The word refers to any time we are entering into a discussion in which we seek to advance our agenda and/or oppose the actions of others.  A better translation might be ‘questioning or doubting.’  We tend to think that our way is the best and when others do not follow us, we start to question their wisdom and, even worse, we begin to question their motives.

Paul goes on to point out that the issue of grumbling against others and always questioning others is not just a relational issue; it is a heart issue.  It reveals that we are not walking in obedience to Christ, who calls us to build up one another and encourage one another.  It is the opposite of “being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” that he had encouraged us to manifest in verse 2. Complaining, criticizing, and questioning others undermines the unity of the church.

So, how do we change our perspective?  The answer lies in verse 18.  The opposite of complaining is being joyful.  This involves being joyful and positive in our interactions with others and our trust in God.  When joyful, we look for the positives in others and express gratitude for what they have done.  We are willing to suffer a wrong rather than demand our rights be upheld.  When we become encouragers rather than complainers when we support others rather than critique others. We build others up rather than belittle them. By doing so, we become a light in a crooked and perverse generation (vs. 15).  As Thomas a Kempis pointed out, “Christ was willing to suffer and be despised, and darest thou complain of anything?”

Make it your goal today to be an encourager. When things do not go your way, find avenues to compliment instead of complain.  When your “rights” have been violated, remember Christ set aside his divine rights so that he might serve us (vs. 6-7). Nothing is more draining than a complainer who constantly questions everything, but there is nothing more edifying than a person who always praises and encourages others. A positive person is a joyful person who shares that joy with others (vs. 18).  Make it your goal today to be that person.              

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