22 January 2011 (Shibi'i/Sukkot)|
Day #312, 5934 AM
The Unmixed Man
How Complaining Pollutes the Soul
Continued from Part 2
A couple of days ago I accidentally came across a discussion between two Christians who were arguing as to whether complaining was a sin or not. They agreed that it was hard not to complain for there was indeed much to complain about in this world. We have all done it. It was quite an interesting discussion, actually, and one I felt needed resolution, so it is that I feel led to do today.
"Do all things without complaining (murmuring) and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of Elohim (God) without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Messiah (Christ) that I have not run in vain or laboured in vain" (Phil.2:14-16, NKJV).
In our opening passage of scripture today Paul sees the issue very plainly indeed: complaining shows a lack of humility, sets a bad example, and negatively impacts our witness. Theologians of all ages seem to be more or less in agreement as to the meaning of this passage: we are to be "quiet, peaceful and inoffensive" in our relations one with another as believers (Barnes). The reasons for this are indeed many, including maintaining a humble heart and esteeming others as better than ourselves (Phil.2:3-5):
And the purpose? So that the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) might be manifested. In other words, the Ruach does not manfest through a complaining heart. Rather, the Ruach leads us to do everything in a quiet and gentle manner and to avoid every species of strife. There can be no doubt that this was Paul's consistent theme:
"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself" (Phil.2:3, NKJV).
Paul also issues a warning about the grave spiritual dangers about complaining by reminding his readers of this grave Israelite sin committed in the desert against Moses and therefore Yahweh:
"Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as Elohim (God) in Messiah (Christ) forgave you" (Eph.4:31-32, NKJV).
If the consequence of complaining or murmuring is destruction then it's pretty obvious that complaining is a major sin. In the case cited, the children of Israel complained because Yahweh was not getting them fast enough to their destination, the Holy land, as they supposed.
"Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Messiah (Christ), as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer" (1 Cor.10:8-10, NKJV).
One of the discussants argued that Job complained a lot because of what he thought was unjust suffering. He felt he disn't deserve it. But that, of course, depends how you look at life. If simply doing right was all that Yahweh required of us, well, then there might be just cause for complaint. The point that Yahweh eventially gets over to Job, though, is that as Sovereign Creator it is entirely up to Yahweh what He does if it will bring Him glory. Job needed to have his perspective changed. You all know the story.
Jeremiah complained too, as did many others of Yahweh's servants. Not that it got them anywhere. David complained as well, but he too had to learn right perspective. What of the parable of the unrighteous judge and a widow, because she complained the judge finally ruled in her favour. So is there here an exception? Those who ought to be Yahweh's right-ruling elohim may indeed expect to have complaints levied against them if they are not just. However, there is a line we are not to cross, and once you cross it, you can go no further and Yahweh will not listen. That line is usually the one that separates humility from pride, to give but one example.
Those who are habitual complainers and grumblers normally have serious issues to deal with. For Paul, the main thing was remaining "blameless" and "harmless". You can be right about something that is complaint-worthy but you can so quickly end up in a spirit that is antichrist, however 'right' your complaint might be. To avoid the risk of crossing that line, which is all too easily done when we get puffed up with self-righteousness, Paul gives an absolutist answer: "Do ALL things without complaining..." "All" does not mean "some", "most" or "nearly all". 'ALL' MEANS 'ALL' the same as it does elsewhere in Scripture.
So how, then, do you communicate a grievance? You do so gently, quietly and humbly without raising your voice, without being snappy, without being aggressive. That is a fruit of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). The opposite is a fruit of the flesh:
Complaining is detrimental to to the peace, joy and patience that come from the Ruach. For the believer, complaining is destructive and debilitating to the one being complained to, teaches children wrong habits and attitudes, and makes our witness to the unsaved all the more difficult. As one commentator noted:
"But the fruit of the Ruach (Spirit) is love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal.5:22-23. NKJV).
As believers we are not to give others the occasion to accuse us of having done wrong. We are to be "harmless", which translates a Greek word (akeraios) meaning 'unmixed', or in other words, pure. This is a most interesting image for what Paul is saying is that the true believer is "artless, simple, without guile" (Barnes). Yah'shua uses the same word in a parallel admonition to us:
"Who...would be attracted to a religion whose adherents are dissatisfied with life and who continually grumble and complain?"
This "unmixed" way of being which is brought about by an authentic life in Messiah is one devoid of all the 'sophistries' of the pagan - cynicism, sarcasm, rudeness, arrogance, and even cleverness. These things must not be "mixed in" becausre they spoil that simple purity of the religion which is built on the faith of little children:
"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves" (Matt.10:16, NKJV).
If we complain and grumble it simply demonstrates how worldly we are:
"For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple (unmixed) concerning evil" (Rom.16:19, NKJV).
Why do these people have their prayers unanswered? It is either because they do not ask or because they "ask amiss", or in other words, they ask in the wrong way, with a wrong heart, with mixed, impure spiritual currents that contain sinful dispositions such as complaining and grumbling. Read the rest of that chapter in James' epistle and you will see that it is so.
"Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures" (James 4:1-3, NKJV).
We are everywhere surrounded by what the Bible calls a "crooked and perverse generation". When we mix in perverted sentiments, feelings and habits of our minds, hearts, words and actions with the child-like purity which is the fruit of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), we not only quench the Ruach but bear witness of Satan by our deeds. "Those who are disposed to complain and find fault; those who will take every occasion to pervert what you do and say, and who seek every opportunity to retard the cause of truth and righteousness" (Barnes) demostrate by their actions who owns their hearts. How can such a person shine for Christ and attract seeking souls to Him? On the contrary, they will repell those who are "unmixed" and simply convince the unbelievers to remain as they are. Instead of being lights for vessels in distress they instead become detrius for flies.
To be "blameless", as Paul admonished, requires a careful and guarded walk in the tavnith or pattern of emet (truth). The tongue is not easily tamed which is why it must be bridled and harnessed for Christ. It will not serve well unless it is seized and broken in to righteousness, That the Ruach may use it to bless, edify and do good. A complaining spirit inevitably leads to fighting, quarelling and alienation because complaints come from unfulfilled desires which then lead to envy and strife. Was that not the root of the problem with Joseph's brothers who, because of his dream, finally decided to dispose of him? (Gen.37:3) It is a murderous spirit no less.
In conclusion, while it is never wrong to complain to Yahweh with a right heart-attitude it is always wrong to complain about Yahweh. Those that did so in history met with His wrath. The same is true of those human elohim (leaders) placed by Yahweh in authority. What happened to Miriam when she complained to her brother Moses about his Ethiopian dark-skinned, plural wife and his patriarchal authority over her and all Israel (Num.12)? What happened to Korah and Dathan when they too challenged that authority (Num.16)? What happened to Michal when she complained about her husband David's dancing? (2 Sam.6:20ff.) Those who complain against Yahweh or against those whom Yahweh has placed as His agents as heads of households or of His covenant nation never fare well. They are punished with disease, death, sterility or otherwise have His blessings removed from them. This is divine tavnith or pattern and it is both folly and hazardous to rebel against it.
Should we ever complain? Yes! We should complain about our own sinfulness! Then we may obtain cleansing and forgiveness in abundance (1 Jn.1:9), not to mention a new heart, one which will only ever allow us to rejoice and which will ever forbid us to complain. Now that surely is worth having?!
Now go and do the same and be filled with the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit)!
"I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban" (Job 29:14, NKJV).
Continued in Part 4
 What Does the Bible Say About Complaining?
Comments from Readers
"I think part of why complaining is sin (including in complaining about our situations) is that it may deny that Elohim is good, and that what He is allowing or giving or ordained will be used to His glory and our good - that it is good. I think sometimes it may also deny Elohim's justice or righteousness - of falsely accusing Him of having done wrong or sinned against us... Also, of where complaining is mostly rooted in self-entitlement? And how, with the ungratefulness of complaining, somewhere we are denying His grace - His grace to us and what He did in saving us (that we deserved His divine wrath, yet granted Yah'shua that we could be saved), and also, the grace He is showing in allowing that thing (even if we do not understand how then)? Of where complaining is not rooted in faith, in trusting and dependence and Yah's tavnith, His Way? Another thought that came up with this of Job and when he complained, and when Elohim revealed Himself and spoke, that Job spoke, saying that he was repenting in sackcloth and ashes - if he was repenting for his complaining and possibly even accusation against Elohim?" (DP, South Africa, 23 January 2011)