Grumbling Stomach, Grumbling Soul

stormIt’s embarrassing to have your stomach grumble in public, that’s why church potlucks are so important, they help keep that from happening! I got to thinking recently that not only can my stomach grumble but often my soul grumbles too!

I grumble about the people I serve in my church. I grumble about the people who I think should be attending and aren’t. I have caught myself grumbling about serving God in a small way in an out of the way place (my perception of my situation).

While working on a sermon recently I was reminded of the seriousness of the sin of grumbling (sometimes I don’t even consider it a sin). The Israelites who were led out of slavery in Egypt never survived the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness and had to leave possession of the promised land to their descendants. The reason? God told them, “In this desert your bodies will fall – every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me.” (Numbers 14:29)

When I think of the times I’ve succumbed to grumbling I realize that frequently it’s a disguised complaint against God. My grumbling is ingratitude for something in my circumstances that’s a part of my calling.

So, I confess as sin my grumbling. I also rejoice in God’s grace and goodness toward me even when I’ve allowed my soul to grumble!

A Case of the Grumbles

Under my breath I’ve found myself muttering “Grumble, grumble.” Sometimes I don’t actually mutter, but I’m grumbling nevertheless.

I grumble against other people, especially the sheep of the flock I’ve been called to tend. The apostle James makes it clear I shouldn’t be doing this. “Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged.” (James 5:9) O…..K, that sounds serious to me!

But I fear my grumbling is not just against the sheep of God’s pasture I serve but also against the Good Shepherd I serve. When I complain about the lack of results I see, the problems I have to deal with, and the seemingly insurmountable challenges that are before me in ministry, am I not really directing much of this against God?

It’s important for me to be reminded just how serious an offense it is to grumble against God. Such a reminder comes from the account of the Israelites in the wilderness and what God said to them. “In this desert your bodies will fall – every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me.” (Numbers 14:29) The psalmist wrote of this that “they grumbled in their tents and did not obey the Lord.” (Psalm 106:25) Substitute “parsonage” or “pastor’s house” for “tents” in this last passage to drive home the application.

I’ll confess I don’t always see grumbling as a serious issue. I should; it’s quite clear in scripture that grumbling is a sin. I suppose, as far as sins go, I see it as a “white collar” type of crime, but a crime is still a crime; a sin is still a sin.

When I give some thought as to why grumbling against God is wrong, is sin, is serious sin, I come to the conclusion that in grumbling I question God’s goodness. I’m strongly hinting that He is not playing fair with me.

So, OK, grumbling is serious sinning, but I also know that the psalmists were often brutally honest in expressing their feelings to God; that’s why I enjoy reading the psalms so much. An honest pouring out of the heart to God is good, this is what I counsel my hurting parishioners to do, and I do it myself. What I’m realizing is that I need to ask for the Lord’s help in discerning between honest-to-God praying and grumbling.

The bottom line is that this grumbling needs to go! I must take the apostle Paul’s admonition to the Philippians to heart when it comes to the work of my ministry. “Do everything without grumbling…” (Philippians 2:14)