Complaining = Mutiny in the Heart
Complaining and murmuring is the preset disposition of the natural man, and too often it becomes the preoccupation of our hearts as well. The Old Man is prone to complain because his entire life is built around the acquisition of idols and the gratification of lusts. Discontentment defines who he is and grumbling gives voice to his discontented heart. This is why the Bible provides so many clear warnings about the spiritual dangers of complaining:
“Then they despised the pleasant land, having no faith in his promise. They murmured in their tents, and did not obey the voice of the Lord. Therefore he raised his hand and swore to them that he would make them fall in the wilderness, and would make their offspring fall among the nations, scattering them among the lands” (Ps 106:24–27, ESV).
“Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins? Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!” (Lam 3:38–40, ESV)
“We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer” (1 Cor 10:9–10, ESV).
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain” (Phil 2:14–16, ESV).
“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Pet 4:9, ESV).
When we succumb to the temptation to complain about our circumstances we not only fall back into the unbelieving behavioral patterns of the Old Man, we rebel against the providential rule of God in our lives. Thomas Watson reminds us that, in addition to expressing discontentment, complaining represents rebellion:
Murmuring is no better than mutiny in the heart; it is a rising up against God. When the sea is rough and unquiet, it casts forth nothing but foam. When the heart is discontented, it casts forth the foam of anger, impatience, and sometimes little better than blasphemy. Murmuring is nothing else but the scum which boils off from a discontented heart (Watson, The Art of Divine Contentment, 18).
The next time you find yourself complaining and murmuring remember, grumbling is the overflow of a heart that is dissatisfied with God and rebelling against His reign. A heart that is satisfied with God and trusts His provision does “all things without grumbling or disputing.”
Paul Shirley is a graduate of The Expositors Seminary and has served as the pastor of Grace Community Church in Wilmington, Delaware since 2011.