There are various people in the Bible who had problems with grumblers. I want to say Moses had the biggest problem – I feel sorry for him beset by grumblers for 40 years in the desert, but then I read this comment from Paul, “And do not grumble, as some of them did — and were killed by the destroying angel” (1 Corinthians 10:10).
Wow – I think Paul is saying that “God hates grumblers!” I get the feeling that Paul was pretty fed up!
But what is grumbling? In the New Testament the Greek word is gaguzo which appearently means “To express one’s discontent or complaint in low tones of condemnation. To murmur.” And let’s face it – we all do this sometimes, it comes from a place of anger or frustration. We can’t help feeling angry or frustrated – these are important emotions, they tell us something about ourselves and the world. Anger can be the impetus for change, unjust systems would never fall unless someone got angry about them. But grumbling isn’t the right way to work, Paul says, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” (Phil 2:14)
So if we are angry what is the right way to act? Well there are a lot of Biblical Principles we can draw on:
• Getting the log out of our own eyes first. (Matthew 7:3-5)
• Overlooking minor offenses (Prov 19:11)
• If we have a problem with someone we talk to them, not about them (Eph 4:29)
• We make charitable judgements towards each other, believing the best in them (1 Cor 13:7)
In Matthew 18, Jesus gives a step-by-step suggestion for resolving conflicts without resorting to grumbling:
• If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone.
• If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
• If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.
Or perhaps in the case of an Anglican congregation if the member refuses to listen then write to the PCC! Conflict in churches is both inevitable and good – it shows that people care, that they are passionate about their church.
So what is so bad about grumbling? For me it poisons the atmosphere, takes away all the joy and hope and peace. In fact a small number of people grumbling can poison a large group. And Moses, when he got fed up of grumblers said: “You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD” (Exodus 16:8). Grumbling shows a lack of faith in God and a lack of gratitude for what God has provided.
Much better to rejoice, to thank God for all that God has given us and to take any concerns through proper channels, without dampening the joy of the community.