“Do everything without complaining or arguing…”
Thoughts… Christian author Evelyn Underhill writes that a well-trained sheepdog will lay at the shepherd’s feet, looks intently into his eyes, and listen without budging until the dog has understood the mind of his master. Then the dog jumps to his feet and runs to do it—and all the while, the dog never stops wagging its tail.
That’s really the believer’s call to joyful obedience, as well. As Paul says, we are to do everything without complaining or arguing; we are to be ceaselessly grateful and boundlessly joyful!
Do you realize how unlike that most of us are? We’re a grumpy, dissatisfied race of people living in a culture of complaint. We’re the most indulged society in the history of the world, yet we’re the most discontent. The more we have the more we seem to be discontent with what we have and the more we complain about it.
I read some intriguing sociological research recently about this culture of complaint that tied our discontent, particularly among the younger generation, to the trend toward small families. The thesis is that in a materialistic society where families average two or less children per household, there you will breed self-indulgent kids.
Think about it: When you have two kids, mom asks them as they’re getting ready for school what they want in their sack lunch. One kid says he wants PBJ and the other says she wants a tuna-salad sandwich. So mom makes them their made-to-order brown-bag. As she drops them off at school, she asks what they’d like for dinner. One wants this; the other wants that. The kids are making the choice. They’re given a great deal of input in family decisions, big and small: Not only what they want to eat, but what clothes they want, where they want to go to school, even what church they want to attend.
Now if you were raised a generation ago and/or were in a large family, how much choice and control did you have in your home? If you were like me, mom gave you two choices for dinner, and everything else: Take it or leave it. Do you know what the difference is? Where you had larger families, the child bent toward the needs and values of the family. But for 50 years or so there’s been a sea change with small families and family systems that tend to bend toward the needs and wishes of the child. As a result, child-centered parenting and child-controlled families characterize the home in today’s society!
Social critic Christopher Lasch has observed that “every age develops its own peculiar forms of pathology which express in exaggerated forms its underlying character structure.” What is our culture’s exaggerated form? How about a pathology of Narcissism! Narcissus, you’ll recall from Greek Mythology, was the handsome youth who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Narcissism is self-love and self-indulgence—the double-pneumonia of our day.
What happens when the child finally leaves his or her child-centered home into a society that doesn’t bend to that now adult-child? They find a world where they don’t get to be in control; where they are not indulged; where people don’t bow to their needs and wishes. As a result, what that breeds is what sociologists call “moody discontent”, a society full of sullen, discontented complainers. That’s our world today! Just look at the surveys. Poll after poll shows how richly blessed but increasingly unhappy we are—and willing to loudly express it!
Did you realize that few sins are uglier to God than complaining—especially among people who claim to belong to him. Just read Exodus and Numbers if you don’t believe me. The word for “complaining” here in Philippians, which means murmuring and giving voice to your discontent, is the same word used in Exodus and Numbers of the complaining Israelites. Do you remember what happened to them? God punished them severely. The second word Paul uses, “arguing,” actually referred to getting into an intellectual debate with God. It means to express joylessness and displeasure in the circumstances you are going through. In reality, that is to call into question the sovereignty and wisdom of the God who allowed you to go through those circumstances for his purposes. Both arguing and complaining have no business among God’s people.
On the other hand, few graces are more pleasing to God than joy and contentment. Why? While discontent and complaint exposes your lack of trust in God’s sovereign control, joy and contentment express complete trust that God is working things out for your benefit and for his glory.
Think about this: Both complaining and contentment reflect your theology—what you believe about God. I trust that your joy and contentment are making the people who watch want to follow your God. And if you are whining and complaining, call a stop to it right away. God deserves better representation than that.
So at all times, keep your tail wagging today!
Prayer… Lord, forgive the whining and complaining that I sometimes fall into. I have so many reasons to rejoice. From this time forward, I pray that everything that comes out of my mouth will be only that which brings praise and pleasure to you.
One More Thing… “Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor.” —Benjamin Franklin