Awareness of my grumbling showed me where I desire my kingdom, rather than God’s kingdom, to flourish. That is always the issue. When I grumble in response to circumstances, I am stating that the values of my kingdom matter more than the values of God’s kingdom. I am stating that people should work better for my sake, that systems should function in certain ways for my benefit, and that the weather should conform to my particular desires. I am the focus of my life.
Last week, in preparation to preach from Philippians, I began tracking how often I grumble. How often do I complain either out loud, under my breath, or in my mind? I’m ashamed to say it was far more than I would have suspected.
Paul says we should do all things without grumbling or disputing (Phil. 2:14). He then goes on to describe four characteristics of what we will become when we do so: blameless, innocent, children of God, and above reproach. He’s not talking about salvation with these terms; that was accomplished by grace through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ. He’s instead talking about how others will perceive us. He’s talking about an outward revelation of an inward reality.
I’m a little surprised by Paul’s description of this outward revelation. Why not focus on bigger issues? Wouldn’t our salvation be better evidenced by things refraining from lying or stealing or murdering our neighbor? Actually, no. Societal pressures can limit all of these things, even in non-believers. But what comes out of my mouth when things don’t go my way indicates whose kingdom I serve.
In the context of that chapter, Paul has been talking about Jesus’s self-sacrifice and willingness to put others first. Paul encourages us to model this example with a humble mindset and unselfish behavior. But selflessness can be a rather abstract idea, and our loophole mentality can cause us to weasel out of considering the importance of others. So Paul offers us a practical, though nearly impossible, task: Don’t grumble. About anything.
Why We Must Stop Grumbling
Don’t grumble about anything? Even traffic? Even the long line at the DMV? Even the weather? Even politicians? Even that annoying church member? Yes, even those things. By not grumbling we shine light in the world for a crooked and perverse generation.
Is Paul really saying that if I quit grumbling about things, I will appear as a light in a dark world? I admit I was a bit skeptical. But I really do think that’s what he meant, since for me to stop grumbling several things have to happen.