The Understandable Sin – Grumbling

The Understandable Sin- Grumbling

“We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 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. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” 1 Corinthians 10:9-11

Grumbling or complaining is a sin that is understandable since most times the complaints are valid. If it’s to cold outside I might complain and grumble about it. Just because something is understandable doesn’t mean it is godly or right. Grumbling is an understandable sin that is unacceptable before our God. Sexual immorality is a sin that most Christians would agree have devastating consequences, but in the above passage God equates the sin of grumbling as just as deadly. Paul writes to the church in Corinth that grumbling puts Christ to the test and that the grumblings of the Israelites in the Old Testament were written as an example for us. What is grumbling? How do we identify and deal with it when we hear the rumblings of grumbling in the church? God has an awesome plan to deliver us from a grumbling spirit and to find satisfaction in him and in the church.

The Greek word for grumble is goggyzō.

Defined: to murmur, mutter, grumble, say anything against in a low tone

    1. of the cooing of doves
    2. of those who confer secretly together
    3. of those who discontentedly complain

Grumbling usually comes when a genuine need is not being met amongst God’s people. Sometimes it is a strong disagreement with a leader in the church. It could be a feeling of being overlooked in the church. Maybe someone was sinned against and there is a complaint and distrust towards the offender. “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…” (Philippians 2:14-15). The Spirit makes it clear it is possible to do ALL things without grumbling. If we have deep convictions on God’s view towards grumbling/complaining and practice how to deal with complaints in a biblical manner, we will shine as a congregation in all of New England!

How Does God Deal with Grumbling? (Exodus 16:1-12)

God’s people immediately after being delivered from slavery in Egypt began to grumble against God’s chosen leaders Moses and Aaron. What started their grumbling? They were hungry (maybe you can relate when church goes long!). Hunger is a real physical need that at this time seemed to be being overlooked by Moses. This shows us that grumbling is usually understandable. It wasn’t that the need wasn’t valid, it was how the people decided to deal with it that was ungodly. Though it is understandable to grumble, it is unacceptable. They allowed themselves to become ungrateful for the deliverance God had provided. They listened to Satan’s voice that told them Moses did not care about them and brought them out to the desert to die. Now they began to romanticize their slavery convincing themselves that it was better in Egypt! The Bible makes it clear their grumbling was not against Moses and Aaron, but against God. “…For what are we, that you grumble against us? And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the LORD has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him-what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD.” (Exodus 16:7-8). To grumble against God’s leaders is to grumble against God himself.

Consider how God deals with grumbling in the following instances:

  1. Numbers 11:1“And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.”
  2. Numbers 12- Aaron and Miriam (Moses’ sister) oppose Moses and complain. God strikes Miriam with leprosy and Moses pleaded for Aaron which probably protected him from getting struck also.
  3. Numbers 13-14- Twelve spies are sent out to explore the Promise Land which God had promised to give his people if they would just go and conquer it. Ten of the twelve spies come back with a fearful and faithless report grumbling against Moses (v.2). Their grumbling and fear spreads like a plague to all of God’s people with only Joshua and Caleb having the faithful report. God will not allow this generation to enter the Promise Land but only Joshua and Caleb and the second generation. Grumbling can spread like a plague in the church. Having strong faith in God’s promises frees us from a grumbling spirit.  
  4. Numbers 16– Korah leads a rebellion of 250 leading men against Moses. He complains about how Moses sets himself up as leader and questions his ability to bring them to the Promise Land. God ultimately would open the ground and swallow Korah and his family into the earth for their grumbling and rebellion and a fire would take out the 250 men with him.
  5. Numbers 21:4-6- “From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.”

A survey of the book of Numbers looking at the events listed above shows us God’s displeasure towards grumbling. Grumbling often comes from impatience, fear, suspicion of leadership, or thinking there is a better way to do something as seen in the above examples. Grumbling forgets God’s call to submission and humility (Ephesians 5:21, Hebrews 13:17). It doesn’t trust God or his sovereign plan. God will ultimately deal with grumbling in the church.

How Does Spiritual Leadership Deal with Grumbling? (Acts 6:1-7)

The church in Jerusalem was growing rapidly in the above passage. At this point there were well over 5000 disciples (Acts 4:4). The Hellenistic Jews arose against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked and neglected with a daily distribution to help meet their needs that the Apostles had instituted. The Hellenistic Jews were Jews from Gentile lands that had adopted Greek culture whereas the Hebraic Jews were those from Palestine who followed the law more rigidly. It was the Hebraic Jews who were doing the grumbling about a real need. How does spiritual leadership deal with this issue?

The Apostles understand that they can’t get distracted from the ministry of the word of God and prayer in order to meet physical needs in the church (v.2). Seven men are chosen who are known to be spiritual to take on this ministry of meeting the widow’s needs. Interestingly, the seven men who are chosen all have Greek names, meaning they were Hellenistic Jews (the ones who were doing the complaining!). Spiritual leadership is solution oriented and calls upon those dissatisfied or complaining to become part of the solution. This often helps them feel heard and believed in eliminating the grumbling. They choose seven Hellenistic Jewish men to meet this need and the proposal pleases the whole group (v.5). The result was the word of God spread and the church grew even faster (v.7).

We learn that in a fast growing congregation there will be times when ministries or people are overlooked. Sadly, many forget that the church is full of people who sin and with grumbling often times unknowingly. Spiritual leadership works with people and is attentive to the needs of the congregation. Even though grumbling is a vicious sin, God hears the grumbling of his people desiring to meet their needs and it follows then that spiritual leadership needs to be attentive to the needs as well.

How Does a Disciple of Jesus Deal with Grumbling? (Galatians 5:22-23)

What should you do if you’re the one being overlooked? If you feel like your spiritual, physical, or emotional needs aren’t being met in the church? We need to get a conviction that grumbling and complaining is never the answer. God himself is the only one who can ever truly meet all of our needs. Secondly, rebellion and bad attitudes are always sinful and displeasing to God. As seen earlier, it can even impact others around us and spread like wild-fire rumbling through the church. God will hold us accountable for every careless grumbling word we say (Matthew 12:36). What do we do though if we can’t shake the bad attitudes, quiet reservations, or bitterness that could potentially turn into grumbling?

  1. Bring it to God- Philippians 2:6-7 teaches us to not be anxious about anything but in every situation to bring it to God in prayer. When we pray and pour out our hearts to God, a supernatural peace encamps around the heart to protect us from lashing out in an ungodly way. You must get to a place where the fruit of the Spirit fills your heart: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This is what it means to be spiritual. No one is going to listen to an unspiritual grumbler. Moses eventually tired of all the complaining and grumbling (again about real needs such as hunger and thirst) and lashed out in anger himself! God punished him by not allowing him to enter the Promise Land (Numbers 20:9-11). What if the people would have been filled with love, peace, forbearance/patience, etc. when they presented to Moses their needs? Are you a solution oriented disciple or known as a complainer? Do you have godly attitudes that are faithful about any challenges in the church or do you listen to Satan’s voice? Satan’s goal is to always pull disciples away from the body of Christ and bitterness is one of his main tools (Hebrews 12:15). Once you have a spiritual attitude and mind-set presenting your need to God, the next step is to present your need to man.
  2. Bring it to the Right Person- Matthew 18:15-20 teaches that if we feel sinned against by someone in the church, that we must bring it to that specific person before going to anyone else. Sadly, Christians can talk to everyone about how hurt they were pulling other disciples into the grumbling instead of addressing the right person to protect the purity of the church. What if the issue is simply a need being neglected in the congregation? Bring the need to the church leadership (Shepherds in training, Region Leaders, the Evangelist, or Women’s Ministry Leader). Ephesians 4:11-16 shows us that leadership has the role of equipping the disciples to be prepared for works of service. Leadership is to bring unity in the congregation having every ligament (disciple) work together. Stay humble and be willing to be discipled if need be or taught. Sometimes what we perceive as a need in the church, isn’t so much a need as it is a want. Whatever decision is made by leadership, if it is not agains the Bible needs to be submitted to and obeyed regardless if we received the change we desired to see in the church or not (Hebrews 13:17). Not bringing our grievances in the church to the right person can have devastating consequences and shipwreck the faith of many. Decide today to spiritually handle all situations by bringing them first to God and then to the right or appropriate people. The goal is that every disciple can go home satisfied! Understanding how the church operates can help.

Exodus 18:13-23 – Moses was trying to meet the needs of every one (most estimate 2 million people at this point!). Moses’ father in law Jethro tells him that what he is doing is not good. He will wear himself out and not be able to effectively lead. It is not possible for one person to meet every person’s ministry needs. God through Jethro advises Moses to choose capable leaders to be in charge of groups of 10s, 50s, 100s, and 1000s. This way the needs could be met by each groups leader and only the difficult cases would be brought to Moses. Thus, everyone would go home satisfied (v.23). Jesus uses a similar principle in feeding the 5000 in the New Testament. He has everyone sit in groups of 100s and 50s to feed everyone.

2018 promises to be an amazing year as a congregation. Using Jethro’s advice found in Exodus we have groups around 10 (Bible Talks), and now will be dividing into two groups of around 50 (Regions). God has given us capable men and women to lead these groups in order to better meet the needs of everyone in our congregation. An understanding of how this works is vital to know who to bring your needs to in the church. When the rumblings of grumblings start flowing through the congregation we must simply come back to these biblical principles in order to please our mighty God. There is no excuses for having a bad attitude in God’s church. Let us advance in our maturity eradicating this understandable sin by God’s Spirit as we deal with issues and continue to meet the needs in our great city and New England with the gospel!