“Do everything without complaining or arguing.”
– Philippians 2:14
The story is told of a little girl who wanted more than anything to become a great pianist. Unfortunately, no matter how much she practiced, the only tune she could play was “Chopsticks.” Her parents saved their money and arranged to have a great maestro give her lessons. A few days later they arrived at his mansion, and the maestro’s butler escorted them to the parlor where the little girl sat down at the grand piano and started playing her most enthusiastic rendition of “Chopsticks.” Her parents almost died of embarrassment as the maestro walked into the room. But to their surprise, he quietly sat down on the piano bench beside their daughter, placed his hands on the piano keys and began adding chords, runs and arpeggios. In all their lives the parents had never heard such a beautiful duet, and amazingly enough, the central theme of the music was still “Chopsticks.”
The maestro reminds me a lot of Jesus. You see, God created our lives to be harmonious duets. So, unless we allow our heavenly Maestro, Jesus Christ, to place his masterful hands on our lives and shape us, our character will never become more and more like his. He is the only true Virtuoso who can make our lives sing. Without him, our lives will be an embarrassing, monotonous tune of “Chopsticks.”
Speaking of monotony, there are few things in life more monotonous than grumbling and arguing. In Philippians 2:14, God’s Word urges us to “Do everything without complaining or arguing.” Now, that’s a tall order! We live in a culture where, in the view of many, complaining is as American as apple pie. We grumble and complain about our boss. We grumble and complain about our kids. We grumble and complain about our pastor. And we grumble and complain about our President. Whaaa! Whaaa! Whaaa!
We can’t be growing Christians and, at the same time, live lives marked by complaining. The Greek word translated as “complaining” in Philippians 2:14 can also be translated as murmuring or grumbling. Time and again in both the Old and New Testaments we find evidence that God hates complaining. One of the clearest examples of this reality is found in Numbers 14. As God was leading the Israelites to the Promised Land of Canaan, they broke out in a chorus of grumbling: “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt? We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
God was infuriated by Israel’s complaining, and His punishment was severe. Except for Joshua and Caleb, not a single adult Israelite who was delivered from Egypt was allowed to enter the Promised Land forty years later. Every single adult died in the desert. Only the younger generation entered “the land flowing with milk and honey.” So, is complaining a big deal to God? You bet it is! Especially when God is the target of our complaints. When we murmur against God, it demonstrates an emotional rejection of His good plan and provision for our lives. That being the case, complaining can be an attack on God’s character. And that’s a serious offense for anyone, especially for a Christian.
Similarly, we can’t be growing Christians and, at the same time, live lives marked by arguing. The Greek word translated as “arguing” in Philippians 2:14 can also be translated as disputing or criticizing. Sadly, many Christians are known for being argumentative and critical. Why is that? If we are commanded to love our neighbors and consider their needs more important than our own, how can we allow ourselves to become our neighbors’ greatest critics? When we criticize our church, don’t we realize that we are indirectly criticizing the Lord who spilled his blood for our church? And when we criticize our spouse and kids, don’t we realize that we are indirectly criticizing the One who gave us our families? Without a doubt, many of us criticize our Good Provider and malign His character without even realizing it. That is unacceptable.
It is a sin of the mind and heart to level self-centered criticism against God. When we criticize the Lord, we are implying that He is not good or trustworthy, and we are proclaiming to a listening world that His plans are flawed. Therefore, like complaining and grumbling, it is an attack on God’s character. Once again, the people of Israel serve as an example of what not to do in this regard. They were perpetual God-critics, and they paid dearly for their criticism.
So, if you choose to partner with God to transform your character, that’s fantastic! But don’t sabotage your good efforts by making a habit of complaining against or criticizing God or people. Even when the hands of our Maestro are hard at work in our lives, the music of our lives will be unpleasant if our mouths are seeping verbal sewage. There’s no way around it. We can’t be growing Christians and at the same time be grumblers and critics. Our community is chock-full of men and women who can play “Chopsticks.” What we desperately need are Christians whose lives make beautiful music with the Maestro.
Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit www.fccvv.com and join us for worship Sunday at 10 am.