The Sin of Complaining

Intro: 1 Cor 10:1-6Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. 5 But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. 6 Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted…

I. Learning from the Past – One of the benefits of looking into the past is being able to learn from others’ mistakes. Paul is hoping to capitalize on that approach in this passage. He takes the Corinthians back to an O.T. event – one that we have been studying ourselves -the Israelite journey out of Egypt.

9:25-27 – He reminds them that they are running a race, and working toward a reward (prize, 9:24). They need to be serious about this pursuit and run so as to obtain. They need to discipline themselves if they expect to receive the “imperishable crown” God has to give them

10:1 – So he takes them back to their fathers (“I do not want you to be unaware”) experience in the wilderness journey.

All Hebrews were the physical descendants of Abraham. But to truly be God’s children they also had to be his spiritual descendants. “For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel… That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants” (Rom 9:6, 8). Abraham was father of all the faithful (Rom 4:11; Gal 3:29), and in this sense Paul’s reference to our fathers could be addressed to Gentile as well as Jewish Christians, for they were spiritual descendants of all who believed.

In verses 1-4 Paul emphasizes the oneness of Israel as a corporate community of God. They shared in common experiences that typified this oneness. “All” is used five times in those four verses to indicate that oneness in experience and blessing.

  • They all had enormous spiritual and physical privileges; under the cloud of God’s protection and guidance;
  • they all passed safely to the other side of the Red Sea;
  • they were all immersed into the blessings and leadership of Moses as they journey over on dry ground;
  • They were all fed by God (ate the food supplied by God’s Spirit, drank the drink supplied by God’s Spirit) and even were participating in the spiritual blessing of the Messiah, Jesus.

A. v. 5 “But with most of them God was not well pleased…” – despite the fact that God brought them together and blessed them with deliverance, most of them failed spiritually. It is possible to have great spiritual privilege and still not be saved. What a tragedy. How could they be so foolish and rebellious? We like to think that we would not do the same thing, or end up in the same condition. But is that true?

B. Consider the sins these people were guilty of – the clear evidence that they did not please God. Begin reading again in 1 Cor 10:6:

We should not lust after evil things as they also lusted…

7 And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.”

8 Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell;

9 nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents;

1. We would recognize all these things are disqualifiers and clear evidence that these Israelites were going to lose their position before God. These are ALL sins.

2. But then there is v. 10… “nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. While most Christians would never dream of lusting after evil, bowing down to an idol, fornicating, or tempting Christ, many of us are often heard complaining.

II. The Sin of Complaining: James said that the tongue is “a world of iniquity” (James 3:6). Indeed, there are numerous sins that can be committed by our tongues, and we see these illustrated in the world every day. But when we think of the sins that are committed with the tongue, he often thinks of things such as lying, speaking blasphemies, using profanity, and gossip. However, we rarely consider complaining to be a sin.

A. A culture of criticism: We are blessed with the freedom of speech and we exercise it with passion. We think little of speaking up and voicing our criticism or complaint about many things – how the fellow in the other lane is driving; how fast our waiter brings our food; the picture on the HD TV; the price we pay for what we get; even whether we think the umpire made the right call at the plate…We even have careers that are based upon the practice of criticism (restaurant critic, movie critic, etc.). Our society abounds with criticism. For this reason, some Christians have a difficult time viewing complaining and criticizing as a sin.

B. “They were destroyed by the destroyer” – although delivered from the destroyer who took the life of the firstborn of Egypt, they were punished by the same God for being complainers. We need to take this seriously. What does God teach us about this?

• 1 Peter 4:99 Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. (lit. – murmuring)

• James 5:9 – 9 Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door! – The word for grumble here is also translated as murmur, or voice a grudge. The Judge is “at the door,” and He hears the way that we talk about one another.

• Phil. 2:14-15 – Paul said, “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” “All things” is very inclusive. It lives us no wiggle room to justify our consistent complaining, even it is about things that others are also complaining about, or in times when we have been treated unjustly.

If a Christian who refrains from complaining is “blameless and harmless,” then what does that say about the Christian who is complaining? Refusing to complain is a mark of distinction from the world.

• Jude 1:16“These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage” (Jude 16). Jude said that the heretics of his day were characterized by grumbling and complaining. Complaining is characteristic of those who are wicked, not those who are righteous. It is characteristic of those who God destroys, not those who receive His blessings.

II. Why is Complaining a Sin? Nobody likes to be around a negative person, who is always complaining about things. But our discomfort or the socially negative impact is not what makes this activity wrong.

A. Legitimate complaints: Acts 6:1 – Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. The word for complaint here is the same word used by Peter in 1 Pet. 4:9. It would appear that this was a legitimate complaint, and the apostles did not condemn those who were voicing the complaint. They took steps to correct the injustice and make sure that it never happened again. Many times Injustices need to be exposed in order to be corrected. It is not a sin to point out faults and errors so as to bring about repentance. But most of our complaints do not fall into this category.

B. Complaining about others displays a lack of forbearance and love: We studied about forbearance recently from Eph. 4:2. What is our first response when someone displeases us? Often our first move is to complain to others. We impugn motives and make judgments, without even considering the call to forbear.

• Ephesians 5:1-2Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. … 1 Cor. 13 – Love suffers long and is kind… Love does not envy… does not rejoice in evil, but rejoices in the truth.

C. Complaining about circumstances impugns the goodness of God and displays ingratitude. Those who live life with a negative perspective on everything are showing the world what they think about their God. Many would never complain about another person, but constantly complain about the circumstances of life, as though there in no harmful message in that behavior.

1. I have met some people who meet every blessing with a “yeah, but…”

a. Isn’t the weather nice today? Yeah, but I hear it is going to rain tomorrow. Or yeah, but it is cold where I live”

b. I hear you got a raise? Yeah, but it still in not enough to pay my bills.

c. “I see you are doing better” Yeah, but I still can’t sleep at night, my back hurts, the insurance won’t pay all my bills, etc. Woe is me!

d. Take notice how you react to blessings next time they are pointed out to you. James 5:13-14 gives us our options… James 5:13-14Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.

D. Complaining (or a negative spirit) displays a lack of contentment.

• Philippians 4:11-13 – 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Brother Albert read this whole context earlier. Notice that Paul urges them to think on good things and meditate on the blessings of God. If we spent more time giving thanks to God when we would be able to overcome our complaining spirits.

• Hebrews 13:5-65 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we may boldly say:”The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

E. Complaining displays selfishness: There are so many sins that are rooted in selfishness. It is why people steal, lie, cheat on their mate, are negligent in their duties to God, and even refuse to become Christians in the first place. But it is certainly why people complain!

1. Our first thought is – what about me? These two verses go together: one leads to the others. Have you ever seen a happy complainer? A rejoiceful murmurer?

• Philippians 2:44 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

• Philippians 4:44 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

Conclusion: Deuteronomy 1:26-2726 “Nevertheless you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the Lord your God; 27 and you complained in your tents, and said, ‘Because the Lord hates us, He has brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us. We are found making the same mistakes as our fathers. We are seen by the Lord and the world around us as sitting in our tents, complaining, instead rising up and following Him where He leads. Israel was showing others an attitude about God – God hates us. This is the opposite message isn’t it? How would we show that God loves us? STOP Complaining!

1. Attitudes are so crucial. We often give attention to outward actions, and fail to inventory our attitudes. We rationalize our sin, as though God has never seen this before.

2. Do not overlook the goodness of God. We must be thankful, arise and obey Him.