Complaining is an activity all of us have participated in at one time or another. Most of us utter complaints without even thinking. It seems almost natural to vocalize our displeasure when things don’t quite turn out as we think they should.
If you have occasion to watch the evening news, you get the idea that complaining has become the national pastime. It seems that the largest portion of the news is devoted to the discussion of who is upset with whom. The reason the newscaster has to throw in a story with a happy ending at the end of the newscast is to avert nationwide depression.
The Bible has much to say about the practice of complaining. The Scriptures tell us not only what people complain about, but also how it affects others and how God responds to it. We may not take our complaining seriously, but God does.
I have had to learn the hard way that God takes complaining, grumbling, murmuring, criticizing, whining, nagging, objecting, and fault-finding very seriously.
It is interesting to note that the antonym for complaining is praising!
Numbers 11 gives us a good idea of just how serious the sin of complaining is before the Lord. When it is all boiled down, complaining is an accusation against God. Complaining accuses God of unjust treatment.
There are several reasons God has contempt for complainers and grumblers. One of the main reasons is because…
Complaining Reveals Our Ingratitude for God’s Care.
“And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp.” (Numbers 11:1)
The type of complaining we’re dealing with here isn’t merely the recognition of obvious problems. The Hebrew word for complain, anan means, “to mourn.” Their complaining was a whining that stemmed from self-pity.
This type of incessant whining and mourning for the way things used to be “displeased the Lord.” This reveals God was exceedingly grieved and hurt by the complaints of the people. It stirred up the Lord’s righteous indignation. Wow!
The People Complained About What They Didn’t Have.
“…and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?” (Numbers 11:4b)
Well none of us have ever done this? Right?
These folks here were not the first to complain about what they didn’t have. We too will not be the last to complain about what we do not have. But we do need to know and understand how God feels about those with a spirit of ingratitude.
The point is we need to appreciate what God has provided before we start contemplating upon what is missing from our lives. If not… it may led us down a dark, dark alley of ingratitude.
The People Complained About What They Used To Have.
“We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic:” (Numbers 11: 5)
I have never lusted after “leeks, onions and garlic” but that is not the issue here. Egypt and the things from Egypt are reminders of our old lost condition. The Israelites were complaining that their old life was better than their new life.
Some Christians have said, “I never had this many problems before I got saved!”
The Israelites’ choice of words, when describing what they used to eat in Egypt, sounds a lot like today. They said, “…we did eat in Egypt freely…” They seemed to have conveniently forgotten about the fact that they were in bondage in Egypt.
Egypt is easy. Sin is easy. There is no discipline there. There is no self-denial. It’s hard to imagine these people ever actually regretted leaving a state of bondage because it meant self-denial on their part.
The People Complained About What They Had.
“But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.” (Numbers 11:6)
“But now our appetites are gone, and day after day we have nothing to eat but this manna” (NLT)
Wasn’t it a crying shame? All they had to eat was the heavenly food sent down to them from the very hand of God. But God’s supply was old hat now. They wanted something new and exciting. They wanted T-Bone! (with leeks, onions and garlic of course)
How long was this manna situation gonna last? (6-9 months) Remember, they will be spying out the land in the next couple of chapters. Now all these complaining, murmuring, criticizing spirits will cause them to eat manna for 40 years.
The statement that “there is nothing at all, besides this manna” was a gross exaggeration (v. 6). Yes, the Israelites could not have used/eaten their flocks brought out of Egypt on a daily basis without depleting them. The truth is they did get to eat meat at certain special religious ceremonies and on other occasions.
When you totally focus upon what you don’t have, you quickly forget that which you do have. What you do possess loses all value.
Andrew Carnegie, the multimillionaire, left $1 million for one of his relatives. In return, he cursed Carnegie thoroughly because he left $365 million to public charities and cut him off with just one measly million.
Samuel Leibowitz, criminal lawyer and judge, saved 78 men from the electric chair. Not one ever bothered to thank him.
Many years ago, as the story is told, a devout king was disturbed by the ingratitude of his royal court. He prepared a large banquet for them. When the king and his royal guests were seated, by prearrangement, a beggar shuffled into the hall, sat down at the king’s table, and gorged himself with food. Without saying a word, he then left the room.
The guests were furious and asked permission to seize the tramp and tear him limb from limb for his ingratitude. The king replied, “That beggar has done only once to an earthly king what each of you does three times each day to God. You sit there at the table and eat until you are satisfied. Then you walk away without recognizing God or expressing one word of thanks to Him.”
Ingratitude denotes spiritual immaturity. Infants do not always appreciate what parents do for them. They have short memories. Their concern is not what you did for me yesterday, but what are you doing for me today. The past is meaningless and so is the future. They live for the present.
Today you are either appreciative of the Lord’s provisions or you are not appreciative. If you have not praised and thanked the Lord today for all His blessings, then you are living on the edge of ingratitude. The real question is whether your complaints or your praise reached the throne of God?