How often do you realize you are complaining? How many times a day do you find yourself grumbling? If you are like most people grumbling and complaining come without thinking. They are similar to breathing, the brain just does what it does and we don't have to think about it. I don't have to tell myself to take a breath or let it out. Breathing comes naturally. Unfortunately so does complaining. Think about your drive to work this morning, or your fellowship with believer's at church yesterday. Did you cuss at the driver who cut you off and then gave you the finger when you beeped at them? Did you grumble to your spouse after you left church that you were asked to be on another committee or teach another Sunday School class? How about the last time you went out to eat? Did you complain about the service, or like my Dad during his last years of life, grumble that you no longer got a spoon with your meal? Complaining and grumbling come all too easy!
There are many things in life that we do or don't do that we don't give a whole lot of thought to. However, when your life begins to look toxic because you spend more time ornery and cantankerous it might be time to evaluate what is going on and what needs to be changed. I can just hear you now, "It's not me that needs to change! It's all those idiots out there." Funny, they may be thinking the same thing about you.
The Bible says, no, commands that we do all things without grumbling or disputing. Disputing is also translated as arguing. I know what it is to argue. We as wives do this without a thought. I am speaking to wives here, just because I can identify. Your spouse makes a suggestion and you question. He makes another suggestion and you balk. I know, I've been there. We can explain it away, "Well, I wasn't arguing, I was just trying to say my piece." "I was just trying to get the facts", or "I just wanted to be heard." All of those things are true, but the essence of grumbling and arguing is not in what is said, rather in the way it is said.
Let's look back to what is said, previously in this 2nd chapter of Philippians.
Doesn't complaining and arguing stem from selfishness? I know I wrote on this topic a few weeks ago (see that post here), but our selfish tendencies don't usually just disappear. In fact if we feed them they grow. When we don't get our own way, we grumble. When we are inconvenienced we complain. The world is not making me happy and I'm going to let everyone know. But to what end? Grumbling and complaining,usually, does not get us what we want and rarely does it increase our joy factor.
If you look carefully at the above passage, it says that it is by having the same attitude as Christ, that Paul's joy was going to be made complete. He wanted the early church to follow Jesus. To follow His example, which surely wasn't one of grumbling and complaining. He also knew that being of the same mind as Christ would involve doing nothing from selfishness, but by being humble.
The passage continues with the very purpose for not complaining and arguing:
We are to be examples of Christ-likeness. We are to be above reproach. In other words we are to be acting, talking and being people of whom others cannot disapprove. Wow! That's a pretty big order. We might as well board up the windows in our houses, go inside, lock the doors and never come out! Ha, ha. But really, we are to appear as lights in the world, so I guess that means we can't board up the windows!
This may seem like an impossibility, but the whole point of Christ giving us His Spirit is so that He can do it. He can shine through us, even when we feel dark and gloomy. He can love through us, even when we don't feel like loving. He can spread joy through us, even when we feel like grumbling and complaining. The key to all of this is to let Him! Once again, that idea of control. We want to have control. But even on our best days we might love and give and spread joy for a while, but we will at some point crash and burn. At least I will.
I have learned that in these littlest details of life, the words we speak, the steps we take, I must let Christ work in and through me. So, I will continue to try to give up the grumbling and complaining and work out my salvation....for His glory!