We are totally dependent on the precious blood of Jesus for our salvation. "All my sin, all of my hidden shame, died with Him on the cross; eternity won for us!" Yet when it comes to our responses to facing trials, it is down to our own choices. We can choose to count it all joy and cultivate an attitude of gratitude, or grumble and complain and play the blame game. Neutrality is not an option. So what will it be? The uncomfortable truth is that God hates grumbling and complaining, and I know I can be all too guilty of this myself. Wherever would we be without his grace?
On their journey to the Promised Land, the Israelites constantly complained about the leadership of Moses and Aaron and turned against them. Whenever they faced difficulties they grumbled and rebelled against God, testing his patience. The Lord saw their grumbling as treating him with contempt.
God performed the miracle of causing Aaron's staff to sprout leaves, blossoms and almonds, for one reason only: "I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against Moses and Aaron by the Israelites … and put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die" (Nm 16:11, 41, 17:5, 10).
On their refusal to enter the Promised Land, we read: "I [Moses] said to you, 'You have now reached the hill country of the Amorites that the Lord our God is giving us. Look! He has placed the land in front of you. Go and occupy it as the Lord … has promised you. Don’t be afraid! Don’t be discouraged!’ … But you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God and refused to go in. You complained in your tents and said, 'The Lord must hate us. That’s why he has brought us here from Egypt – to hand us over to the Amorites to be slaughtered" (Dt 1:26-27).
How does the New Testament see their ingratitude, murmuring and complaining? It sounds a clear warning! "Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did [wanting to return to Egypt through cowardice, unbelief and disobedience] … We should not test Christ, as some of them did – and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did – and were killed by the destroying angel" (1Cor 10:6-10). "Don't grumble against each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged" (Jm 5:9). "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling" (1Pt 4:9).
Jesus always promoted contentment and opposed entitlement. "When [the vineyard workers] received [the pay they had agreed to] they began to grumble against the landowner [because he had paid the same to those who had not worked as hard]" (Mt 20:11). "Suppose one of you has a servant ploughing. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'? Won’t he rather say, 'Prepare my supper … after that you may eat and drink'? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We have only done our duty'" (Lk 17:7-10).
When referring to Cain, the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, Balaam, Korah and the false teachers that had infiltrated the early church, Jude describes them all as "grumblers and fault-finders; followers of their own evil desires; boasting about themselves and flattering others for their own advantage" (Jude 16). Let's beware.