Wednesday, December 05, 2012

A Culture of Complaining


I Cor.10: 10 Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.
11 Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

Phil.2: 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings:
15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;

I have fellowshipped with people from many different parts of Africa. I have been with Haitians and people from Central and South America. I have also met with people from China. The one thing I think they seem to have in common that makes them quite different than people who live in America is that they do not seem to complain, or at least on the same scale as do Americans. It is quite unique, especially considering some of them would have a lot to complain about. They seem genuinely thankful for small things.

But here in America complaining, or as the Scriptures say it “murmuring”, is almost an art form. Americans complain about almost anything. I remember a few years ago when one of the administrators of a “discernment” blog was ranting about the gay agenda and she made reference to the inconvenience she had suffered because she had to wait in a traffic jam because the gays were holding a parade. Can you imagine such a thing? Instead of sitting in her car and praying she was irritated because she had to wait, and then she used that inconvenience as another way in which gays adversely affect her western lifestyle.

In fact this same woman, a professing believer, was not treated well in some department store as she was checking out. So she called the manager and told her all about the seemingly bad attitude the checkout girl had. This believer threatened to take her business elsewhere if she had to put up with such treatment. You see, it’s the American way. Jesus would not have put up with bad treatment either.

But if you listen, and not very carefully, you will hear believers complain about a wide range if issues. Let’s face it, it has become a redundant element in our attitudes and speech, and so much so that we do it without any real though. It has become a natural expression from our heart. In Bible school one night I was fellowshipping with some friends in the dorm and we were getting a little loud. The student down the hall opened the door and yelled, “You cotton’ picken’ turkeys be quite - I’m trying to have devotion!!” I hope you can see the paradoxical nature of his statement along with his approach.

We complain about gas prices.

We complain about noise.

We complain about our cars.

We complain about grocery prices.

We complain about our health. We complain about our jobs.

We complain about liberals.

We complain about the government.

We complain about the heat.

We complain about the cold.

We complain about the rain.

We complain about the lack of rain.

We complain about the President.

We complain about having to go to the store.

We complain about the poor.

We complain about taxes.

We complain about unbelievers.

We complain about restaurant service.

We complain about moral decline.

We complain about medicine.

We complain about teenagers.

We complain about our clothes.

We complain about our spouses.

We complain about congress.

We complain about our lives in general.

We complain about our teeth.

We complain about our backs.

We complain about having to wait.

We complain about the referees and umpires.

And on and on and on it goes. We live and participate in a culture of complaining. We expect to have certain things, and we expect to be treated in a certain way, and when they do not meet our expectations we complain about it. And when we practice complaining our hearts begin to change and our flesh begins to rule our minds. While we complain about entitlements and those who we believe think they are entitled, we ourselves exhibit the spirit of entitlement. We deserve better and when we get any less our lips rush to communicate our displeasure.

But just think about the greater picture, even in the natural. When I was young and we complained about having to eat certain foods, our mothers would say “Little boys and girls in China are starving”. Of course that meant as little to us then as it does to us as adults now. All truth is local and if it does not affect us directly then it does not move us. As an elderly woman who has been a believer for over 50 years said to me when asked about the inconceivable conditions in Darfur, “We don’t live there”. Although her statement is more stark and less buffered than most, it still exemplifies how most believers think and act. But think about it in the natural. How can we complain when there really are children who will die this day of starvation and dehydration? I mean what kind of self absorbed hypocrites are we when we complain while living in abundance while even brothers and sisters in Christ suffer greatly and even live with their lives in great danger? Is it not repulsive to you?

But it is habitual and addictive, and we have learned it from the heathen. We have learned it from a capitalist culture that has embraced a hedonistic lifestyle and demands a certain level of consideration and demonstrably reacts to almost any inconvenience. It is almost second nature to complain. I can remember when the drive-thru lanes at fast food places were first introduced. It was so wonderful when you didn’t even have to get out of your car in order to stuff yourself with all kinds of non-nutritious food! But here we are 40 years later and if you are sitting in your nice, air conditioned vehicle, listing to your amazing stereo, and the car in front of you takes too long to order or too long at the food window we get an anxiety attack. And heaven forbid if we get to the food window and we get the dreaded “Please pull up over there and we will bring your food to you.” That deserves a level of complaining that borders on going berserk!

We have bought into the system and now the system owns us. We can complain on the way to church and on the way home from church and even while we sit in church. Wow, we have become experts at complaining. Here we are claiming to have eternal life and yet we act like the Princess and the Pea. The littlest inconvenience elicits some form of complaint. In fact, many believers listen faithfully to all kinds of talk shows that are dedicated to complaining. Hour after hour and day after day they feed their listeners a steady diet of complaints about people and policies. And believers absorb such things and naturally live a life of complaining. And we call that following Jesus?

It is no unlike our Master. It is antithetical to the call of a disciple. It is so carnal and self centered. It is an open expression of fallenness and far from being an expression of Christ. Complaining presents a falsehood in the eyes of the lost. Here is a metaphor.

Suppose a man wins a billion dollar lottery. He gathers his family and they get into the car to drive to the capital of that state to claim their winnings. The excitement is palpable. But after a couple of hours he pulls into a gas station and while the car is being filled with gas he reaches into his pocket for the five dollar bill he knew he had. He wants to go inside and get a drink. But to his surprise his pocket is empty. Now he was sure he put five dollars in there, so he begins to look around to see if it dropped out.

The man becomes so agitated that he begins to exert great effort to search the inside of his car looking for that five dollars. He begins to accuse his family of taking it, and he screams at everyone to help him find it. He tells his oldest son to help him take out the car seats so he can look under them completely. It becomes a spectacle. He yells and complains about how people touch his things and do not respect his privacy. A woman exits the convenience store and asks the wife what her husband is doing. She explains to her about the five dollar bill. The woman cannot believe someone would act that way over a five dollar bill. The woman asks the wife,

“Where are you headed?”

“Oh, we won the billion dollar lottery and we are on our way to collect”.

Now I ask you, not only does that make the man’s actions even more bizarre, but will that woman even believe that they have won the lottery? Based upon the man’s actions the woman may conclude the whole family is unbalanced, but I doubt she will be convinced they are now billionaires. And when we claim to have been given eternal life with Christ and yet complain about things in this world, what do you think the unbelievers think? They surely are not convinced we even believe what we say. And they have every right to think that. Now all our complaining is an open practice of disobedience to Scripture and the life that projects the light of Jesus Christ. But, sadly, that no longer matters to the church.

I challenge you personally. See if you can go one month without complaining about anything or anyone. I suggest you begin with one day. Hint: If you do not praise God and worship Christ throughout the month, you will fail.

Phil.4: 8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.


Teresa said...

I was thinking about this very thing last night. A few years ago I was in Mexico, in a very poor area where there is a huge amount of Drug Cartel activity and the Christians suffer greatly. These folks were the most joyous, gracious people...and some of them owned one or two shirts and not very many had decent shoes. I was never so humbled, ashamed and embarrased by the way I had acted, and the things I took for granted at home. I am so thankful to have read this today, I needed it so badly. It's so easy to take our minds off of Christ and get caught up in this kind of behavior. Thank you for sharing your heart here Brother, it's something I really need to read or think about every day.

Deborah said...

Well said and yet I would add can we go one month without complaining about falling short believers and church goers as well. Don't get me wrong. I believe much as you do about the state of the church. However, continually "ragging" or complaining about it's present condition is just as unproductive as the other complaints you mentioned. We are called to be living epistles, known and read of all men, known by our love for one another. Be careful that you don't become one who is known as that guy who is always complaining about the condition of the church. Your love for Jesus is evident and very obvious, but what of your love and grace for His people. There is an edge I hear in your writing that leaves a question in my heart.

Rick Frueh said...

I understand your caution, Deborah, however there is a great difference between criticizing unbelievers and speaking correction within the body. The New Testament is filled with correction to the church, and Revelation gives quite an assortment of indictments. This is not "ragging", this is the corrective voice of the Spirit.
However as you suggest we must never become obsessed at the expense of our own personal relationship with the Master.

Rick Frueh said...

Deborah - you asked about the author of the post "The Ministry of Being Wrong". All but one post among the almost 1500 here are my words and I sincerely hope God's words as well. I suspect that my track record on that is less than 100%.

Anonymous said...

Yes, and yes.

As soon as I start to complain, I remind myself how thankful, every day, I should be.

It's however sometimes a bit funny to hear people in church complain. I remember going with a group of ladies to a church worship event, special anointed speaker and all. This church was out of town for us and when we arrived, it was a big crowd and people were milling about looking for seats. We chose a pew and the 4 of us sat down. Few minutes later, an elderly lady pokes one of us in the back, asking us to move because it's her and the 3 other elderly people's seat. She told us, "We always sit here, it's our seat".

So we get up and move to another pew. Go figure.

If we can't handle changing seats, we may not be in good shape for things to come.

JMD said...

A while back I read an entire book on this subject that was directed at Christians (who knew). Anyway, once I started paying attention to my words I found myself beyond guilty of the offenses. Sigh. You are right, some of us didn't realize we had developed a very bad habit.

Anonymous said...

This shoe fits me--I'll wear it. I was convicted of this exact sin recently; your post confirms that this is serious from the Lord. It has become a habit I fall into especially with my sister, but others too; sometimes because I want to be perceived as being compassionate toward them when they complain. Wrong response in any case. I confess my transgressing in complaining and I repent. Please pray with me for quick conviction over this BEFORE I speak, a guard over my lips, and victory that will be a witness and glory to my Saviour. All our words are to be seasoned with salt so as to bring grace to the hearer, and to edify.