Grumbling grows because it hardens our hearts. Grumbling presumes to put God to the test. It scrutinises God. It questions his goodness. We become the judge and God is in the dock. Grumbling puts God on trial and finds him guilty. “He has failed to deliver the life I want … I deserve more than this … I need better than this.” Think about that for a moment. When you grumble, you are judging God. Is that really what you want to be doing?
People who moan really annoy me. People who go on about their petty problems or the failings of the government or the state of the roads or the behavior of young people—or old people. Don’t they realize how privileged they are? It really annoys me. The worst are those people who moan about people who moan.
Let me make my irony explicit. As I grumble about grumblers, I turn out to be the biggest grumbler of all.
But, of course, that’s what we often do. We think of grumbling as something other people do. What we do is make justified complaints or offer constructive criticism, but we don’t grumble. We make ourselves the exception—but the reality is that most of us grumble and some of us grumble most of the time.
And the section of Exodus in chapters 15-17, out on the eastern shore of the sea, is about grumbling. We get three examples of it:
“ So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?” (15:24)
“ In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.” (16:2)
“ But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses.” (17:3)
Three days from rioting
It’s sometimes said that most Western societies are three days of empty shelves from civil disorder.