One of my previous employers use to host a Friday afternoon social that consisted of some drinks and snacks. The snacks would vary depending on which team member had done the shopping, but one thing was consistent; there was always a nice bottle of wine with a few cheeses and usually a loaf of sour dough and olive oil dip. The afternoon provided a way to wind down at the end of the week, debrief and catch up with colleagues that you had been too busy to speak to earlier and otherwise relax before heading off into your weekend. It was something to look forward to, particularly if the week had been a little long. At 4:00pm each Friday, it was “tools down” and time to push away from the desk and gather in the break out area for a drink. My wife and I also enjoy an occasional wine and cheese night at home with a movie. The idea is pretty much the same, relax, wind down and enjoy a small treat.
But there is another type of “whine” that isn’t so enjoyable or relaxing. You know, the whiner, the martyr, the cynic, the perfectionist – they just can’t seem to talk without complaining about someone or thing. They have the un-delightful talent of making any interaction painful.
What does God’s word have to say about dealing with this habit of complaining? In Philippians 2:14-16, Paul says,
Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
How do I do that? It is not achieved by a mere act of will power. It is an effect or result of living out the inner reality of the gospel of Jesus in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit (spoken of in verse 12 & 13).
When we are truly meditating upon and believing the gospel of Jesus Christ, our complaining is undone. Our complaining says, ‘I am entitled to better than this.’ Whereas the gospel says, ‘I am entitled to be judged for my sin and sent to hell for eternity. Thank God for his grace and mercy to me.’ When we put the gospel first, we will gladly sacrifice all types of ‘complaining’ for the sake of the salvation of others.
When Paul says the result of not complaining is we “shine as lights in the world“, he is alluding to Daniel 12:3, “Those who are wisewill shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.”
The point he is making is that people believing the gospel, will react differently to the circumstances in life. A complaining Christian is speaking and acting as though the gospel isn’t true.
How do you make a positive impact so that the world takes notice? Not by whining. Instead, speak the word of life, sacrifice your own agenda and give yourself to Jesus (v.16-18).
Choosing not to complain is an act of self-sacrifice. It is a loving decision to enter into personal suffering, loss and inconvenience for the sake of Jesus and others. Jesus entered our broken lives and pain and took it upon himself to give us life. He chose not to exercise his entitlements and instead died for our sins, in our place and we are called to sacrificial service for the sake of others coming to faith in Christ.