In regions of Mexico, hot springs and cold springs are found side by side, and because of the convenience of this natural phenomenon the women often bring their laundry to the springs. They boil their clothes in hot springs, and then rinse them in the cold springs. A tourist watching this procedure commented to his Mexican guide: “They must think Mother Nature is generous to freely supply such ample, clean hot and cold water.” The guide replied, “No, senor, there is much grumbling and complaining because she supplies no soap.”

Complaining has become a way of life

Isn’t that the way of life? We constantly are blessed by God for what he provides but all we see is what He doesn’t supply – and we grumble and complain – and who likes being around people that complain all the time about everything? And yet, complaining is so common that for many it is a way of life. Right now you can probably think about someone you avoid being around because of how much they complain. We complain about teachers, minimum wage rates, bosses, traffic, taxes, people in government offices, our pastors and church leaders, spouses, children, home repairs, health, and troubles of all kinds. No matter how common complaining has become in our world, doesn’t make it right.

Complaining is a sin

The Bible makes it clear that complaining is a sin in the life of His people. In Numbers 11, we find the nation of Israel complaining and the tragic consequences that follow. But does this apply to Christians today? 1 Corinthians 10:11 tells us that these things happened to them as an example and they were written down for our instruction. Philippians 2:14 tell us that we are to “Do all things without murmurings and disputings.” So let’s look at Numbers 11 and find out what Israel had to complain about.

What Did Israel have to complain about?

The nation of Israel was on their journey through the wilderness after God brought them out of slavery in Egypt. They had already had the stop at Mt Sinai where God gave them the Ten Commandments. They are now moving towards the land of Canaan, the land God had promised to them. All along the way they grumbled and complained. They complained as soon as the Egyptian army began to catch up with them, so God parted the Red Sea and they travel across to the other side on dry land. They complained because there was no meat, so God sent them quails and manna. Then they complained about the lack of water and God miraculously provided water out of a rock.

By the time we get to Numbers 11, the people were just complaining about the general problems of the journey. There wasn’t any big problem going on here. It was more like the child in the back seat who asks every five minutes on the family vacation, “Are we there yet?” Perhaps they were complaining about having to lug around their tents, or the same scenery day in and day out – sand, sand, sand. Maybe they complained about how hot it was out there in the wilderness. Or maybe it was the sand getting in their sandals.

God is sick and tired of complaining

But in Numbers 11:1, God (and probably Moses too!) is just sick and tired of their complaining. As a result God disciplines them severely with some of them actually losing their life. The very first verse of Numbers 11 makes it very clear about how God feels about complaining – it angers Him. But like them, we are just as guilty of complaining. We complain about the teacher who grades unfairly, the boss who scored unfairly on the annual review, the amount of work dumped on us at work, the irritating habits of your spouse, or not having anything to wear as you gaze into a closet full of clothes, the people who don’t appreciate you, the lack of money in the bank, the luxury car you don’t have even though you have a new car. Even if our complaints are due to a true hardship, we shouldn’t complain. Instead, we should trust God and thank Him for how He provides for our needs each and every day.

Don’t hang out with the complainers

As we read Numbers 11, we find that God directs his anger to “some in the outskirts of the camp.” Why those people? If you think about where the complainers hang out, it’s rarely in the midst. Instead they hang out at the copier or water cooler. Or maybe the supply room or behind the office building. But if we remember from the first few chapters of Numbers, God gave very precise instructions on the order the people of Israel were to camp and march. It is very likely that the complainers were out of formation and hanging out in the outskirts together and feeding off each others’ complaints. The loudest complainers are usually hanging out together on the sidelines refusing to be compliant and mouth-off at every opportunity.

Why does complaining anger God?

So what is it about our complaining that angers God? Complaining demonstrates our unthankfulness for the gifts God gives us as well as our inability to trust Him. So when we find ourselves complaining, we need to stop and ask ourselves, “Am I content with what God has provided for me?”

God had provided for the nation of Israel manna to help sustain them in the journey through the wilderness. It had all the nutrients they would need. But anyone would agree that manna flakes for breakfast, manna sandwiches for lunch and manna burgers for dinner can get old really quick. It would be like having scrambled eggs for breakfast, egg salad sandwich for lunch, and omelets for dinner – every day. How long would it take before you never wanted to see another egg again? But if eggs is what God has provided, then we should be thankful that God has provided food for us to eat and we are not starving.

Am I Satisfied with Jesus?

Not only is there a physical application to learn from, but there is also a spiritual application. In John 6, Jesus said that He is the true Bread of Life. Manna provided the physical and life-sustaining nourishment they needed, but Jesus provides the spiritual and eternal life we need. So when we find ourselves complaining, we need to also ask ourselves, “Am I satisfied with Christ?” Often our complaints are evidence that we are not. The Bible teaches us that our joy is full in Christ. However, many times, we long for the things of the world and fall for Satan’s lie that money, relationships, careers, becoming a parent, or having name-brand possessions will make us happy. Any time, we begin to long for things of this world, then we’ve taken our eyes of Christ and are looking back to the life from which Christ rescued us. As a result, we lose sight of all that we have in Him. Where are your eyes focused – things of this world, or on Christ and things that are spiritual?

Be careful what you complain about

In responding to Israel’s complaints, God gave them exactly what they had complained about not having. In fact, He gave it in such an over-abundant amount that it would “come out of their noses” and become “loathsome” to them. So be careful about complaining because you may just get your wish and more than you can stand. Psalm 106 14-15 tells us, “They lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert. And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their souls.”

Complaining is a surface symptom of a deeper problem

So the next time you find yourself complaining, remember that our complaints are merely a surface symptom of a much deeper problem: the sin of discontent. Whenever we complain, we provide the verbal evidence of our dissatisfaction with God’s provision and our lack of trust in Him. As soon as you realize you are complaining, stop right then and confess your sin to God. Acknowledge that He always knows what’s best for us and accept that fact that He has given everything we need. Ask him to help you be content and look for how He is providing for your every need. Turn your complaining into thankfulness.


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