In the Book of James, we do well to note the emphasis on the tongue, precisely on keeping it in check. We are told toward the end of the Book not to grumble against each other as God’s people. Since the Judge is standing at the door. But we also read in scripture that we’re to beware of grumbling against God. Time and time again under Moses, Israel grumbled about their lot in the wilderness, on the way to the Promised Land. Ultimately such a spirit kept many of them from entering the “rest” God had for them. And actually, as Moses pointed out to the Israelites of old, to grumble against people is really grumbling against God.
I wonder about us. I wonder about myself. When life doesn’t go like we would want, or expect. We may grumble about this or that circumstance, and grumble against people, or an entity that we think is not doing well enough by us. But in so doing, are we not actually grumbling against God?
God’s sovereignty is a powerful theme in scripture. I may want to avoid that theme because of what I think are theological aberrations of it within Christianity, something like I avoid future things because of “left behind” theology. But we should do neither. The reality of God’s sovereignty over all of life should give us more than pause over our tendency, over my own tendency to grumble when things are not going well, or we meet inconveniences and difficulties.
God’s sovereignty over all of life is about his greatness and goodness. God is in control always, even though we know God does not choose to control everything. And yet he works in everything for good. The nature of our existence in this life includes suffering as a way to glory in Jesus. That is in terms of our following of Jesus in a world which not only does not understand, but will not accept all that involves, or at best only tolerates it. Other suffering ends up for our good as well coming in the form of trials or testings to develop us in our character.
And above all, not only is this a matter of faith in God, and in God’s greatness and goodness at work in his sovereign hand. But it’s also a matter of love. Do we believe in the God who is love, showing us and the world that love in Jesus? And do we respond with love, so that we want to be careful not to grumble against our God and supreme Lover? Do we see life in this way? Or is it about us, and what we want, and think is best?
I once knew a man older than I, a professing Christian, who seemed to grumble about everything. Most all the time something was wrong, and he let his unhappiness be known. Life for him seemed to be cast in a mold that was not good, even no good. Yet he professed to believe and follow the God who has revealed himself in Jesus. But the prevailing theme in his life was not about God, but about this or that which was wrong.
I don’t want my life to emulate that. When people see me, I hope they see one who repents of grumbling when I do so sin, but also one who is characterized by a grateful attitude in life, word and deed–to God. Even though I am not like the friend just mentioned, I know I can fall into this sin all too easily. May those closest to me see me grow in Jesus in this way. The way of thanksgiving to our God as the faithful and loving God who is for us and for the world, in Jesus.