“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 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” (Philippians 2.14-16).
While at a restaurant recently, I saw a sign that hit me right between the eyes. Not literally, but because the words on it spoke deeply to me. It said, “Be humbly grateful, not grumbly hateful.” The truth is, we are either one or the other. We choose the positive or the negative, the complimentary or the insulting, the opportunity or the obstacle. Let me give you a few examples:
Family—Often I hear people complain about their families (some times I hear this from my own two lips). We will complain about our in-laws visiting and how inconvenient it will be. We will grow frustrated when things aren’t going well.
Marriage—Sometimes these complaints center in on the marriage. Men complain that women aren’t respectful, that they try to run the home and won’t listen to their opinions. Men will argue that they aren’t getting enough in the bedroom or that their wives are always too tired for them. Women will complain about their husband’s one-track minds, or that their husbands don’t pitch in enough around the home. They will complain that their husbands don’t make enough money or that they aren’t being good enough fathers.
Children—Other times family complaints can focus on the children, their lack of obedience, their sense of entitlement, their struggle with school or hard work. Fathers will often speak of their children’s lack of respect and mothers will often speak of their children’s unruliness.
Homes—We will sometimes blame our family woes on our physical homes. They aren’t big enough. They aren’t nice enough. There isn’t enough space outside for the kids to run around and get their energy out. It’s not clean enough. There’s too much stuff. The complaints are endless.
Church—Likewise, we will find things to complain about in our church. The worship is boring, or too long, or too ugly sounding, or too academic, or too simplistic, or too unemotional. We will argue about others, whether they are strong enough, or if they are worth our time. We will fight silently, holding grudges and despising secretly.
Work—Many people will struggle with negative attitude at work. Bosses are unfair. Coworkers are lazy and don’t pull their weight. Work is meaningless. Paychecks aren’t worth the amount of labor put into receiving them. Time is wasted in meetings. Breaks aren’t long enough. The schedule is conducive to others things you want to do outside of work.
Helping others—I even often hear people complain about helping others. I’ll hear people argue that they should have saved for this disaster and been prepared, or that they should have family to go get help from and not have to ask friends or church members. We will complain about the amount of money spent digging others out of holes when we’ve “made it all by ourselves” and never had to ask for help.
No matter what area of life we’re dealing with, it’s easy to find complaints to focus on. It is easy to find the negative to dwell on. But this isn’t the way God desires us to think or exist. This is “grumbly hateful.”
When we complain, we are proclaiming two things:
(1) The blessings God has given to us aren’t enough for us! God has given us our families, our church, our homes, our jobs, and people in our lives to help. God blessed us with all of those so we could honor Him and enjoy them. There should be joy in our homes. There should be excitement in our work. There should be happiness in helping others. These are blessings we are complaining about.
(2) We would prefer to act like the world of which we are not a part. Notice in the verse we started this article with, the way to stand out and be different than the world is to stop complaining and arguing. Those are actions the world loves to do. The world is negative place, and rightly so, because the world has no hope and no joy outside of this physical life. We Christians are different. We have hope. Therefore we have nothing to complain about.
So let’s turn all of these complaints around for a minute and see if we can look at these same areas of life with a positive spin.
Marriage—God has given us a marriage that can cause us to grow. Sometimes, that means a you and your spouse can grow together, with God, as you develop as Christians. In some cases, that means you have an opportunity to teach your spouse the Gospel and help them find redemption. In either case, God has given you a built in best friend, someone you can confide in and trust. Someone you can love without barriers. Someone you can depend during hard times and enjoy during good times. Someone with whom you can satisfy your flesh in a God-honoring way. Marriage is a blessing!
Children—Children are an opportunity to grow closer to God, because in raising children, we learn more about our relationship with God. Having kids is also a great lesson in the automatic unconditional love you can feel for others, which helps us learn how God can love us so freely. Watching children grow up, learn, and mature is a great blessing. Letting them stretch their wings and fly from the nest is rewarding. Getting to know their individual personalities, and helping them succeed in life and hard work, but it has to be one of the most fulfilling works that exist in the world. Children are a blessing!
Homes—Our homes are gifts from God, no matter how quaint or abundant. The fact that we have roofs over our heads, especially walls to our sides, in which exist plumbing and electricity, makes us some of the richest people on earth. Mankind has invented our every need and it is at our fingertips. Our homes, when dirty, are dirty because they are full of activity and fun. Our homes, when clean, remind us that God has given us the ability to work hard and care for the blessings He has given us.
Church—Churches, and worship services, are small tastes of the glory of Heaven. Nothing lifts a depressed heart more than coming together with God’s people, opening our mouths in praise, singing joyfully. It is especially wonderful if you close your eyes while singing and imagining actually standing at the throne of God in worship and praise. Our relationship we can grow with one another and we have the opportunity to grow unearthly relationships. Because that’s what they are, eternal, unearthly, supernatural relationships where you can connected in heart and soul. Our church family is a blessing.
Work—We work because God designed us for work. This began with Adam and Eve and has continued until today. God doesn’t want us to loaf around. This work, which keeps our minds and hands busy is a blessing. Instead of finding the obstacles, see each struggle as an opportunity, a puzzle to solve, a test to pass. And work so hard that God is glorified in your labor. Work is a blessing.
Helping Others—Even helping others is a blessing because it allows us to be blessed (cf. Acts 20.35). It allows us to be a blessing to them instead of just a receiver of blessings. It’s not about their worthiness but about our worthiness to give. It’s about our ability to be giving to them like God is giving to us. It gives us an opportunity to mimic our Father.
It doesn’t matter the occasion, or the area of life, we are left with whether we see it as a blessing or a curse. We can choose to be humbly grateful instead of grumbly hateful. We can choose the best instead of seeing the worst.
Make your choice today. “Be humbly grateful, not grumbly hateful!”