Destroy Complaints

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Destroy complaints before they destroy you. You have plenty of things to complain about, but none of them are valid; so stop.
Ok, I’m talking to myself, but you can keep listening if you like.
I have plenty of experience with complaining - too much. Some of it is classic, easy to recognize, bold, out loud. “Mom, I don’t like collards.”
But much of it is undercover in my thoughts or masqueraded as a valid observation. “This sermon is much too long.”
Sometimes complaints slip out through body language or sarcastic comments or a criticism framed as a joke. Do you know what I mean?
Insidious complaints creep into my consciousness one deceitful building block at a time. “I’m not getting what I deserve. I wish I had better health. I want a nicer vehicle.” Many times I don’t even recognize them as complaints.
Meanwhile, my shortsighted, selfish vision creates a demeaning culture of greed and negativity. My complaints incite others to dissatisfaction. Unsatisfied people talk to other dissatisfied people, creating a snowball that too often grows to a glacier: icy, rocky, and loveless.
Let me throw in a few qualifiers that help define complaints. Not every dissatisfaction that I vocalize is evil. Sometimes poor circumstances warrant negativity. For example, a parent must correct erring children. A foreman should point out his coworker’s mistakes. A dentist must hear about his patient’s toothache.
Perhaps complaints are best defined by stories. I like Numbers 11 because it so clearly shows God’s involvement in the world. God is, in many ways, the main character. As I read this story, it is good for me to consider how God is involved in my story. Have I seen God’s work in my life recently? Have I been grateful for His goodness even if it may not be exactly what I wanted?
“And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick: But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, besides this manna, before our eyes" (Num 11:4-6). Am I sensing exaggeration or self-pity? Could the Israelites be complaining?
Moses doesn’t want us to be fooled by the Israelites. He skillfully inserts the truth about manna. “And the manna was as coriander seed, and the color thereof as the color of bdellium… and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil” (Num 11:6). Exodus 16:31 adds that “the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.” Think of a smooth buttery texture with a hint of sweetness. Should a helpless group of people in the middle of a desert expect better?
“And the LORD said unto Moses… Say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, who shall give us flesh to eat? For it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the LORD will give you flesh, and ye shall eat. Ye shall not eat one day…, But even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the LORD which is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt” (Num 11:16a,18-20)?
Isn’t it a bit odd? God is giving them what they wanted! What is going to be the moral of this story? Complain until you get what you want?
“And Moses said, The people, among whom I am, are six hundred thousand footmen; and thou hast said, I will give them flesh, that they may eat a whole month. Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them, to suffice them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to suffice them? And the LORD said unto Moses, Is the LORD'S hand waxed short? Thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not… And there went forth a wind from the LORD and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day's journey on this side, and as it were a day's journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth. And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails: he that gathered least gathered ten homers: and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp. And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD smote the people with a very great plague. And he called the name of that place Kibrothhattaavah: because there they buried the people that lusted” (Num 11:21-23,31-34).
God hates complaints. I get that. But let’s not just make a surface analysis of the story. Look at how God solved the Israelites complaints. God skillfully demonstrates that the Israelites weren’t just struggling with negative comments. God’s methodology deals with underlying problems such as their doubt, shortsightedness, selfishness, and ultimately idolatry.
Think about it. Why didn’t God just plague the people right after they first complained? Why give them quail before destroying them?
First, they no longer had any basis for doubting God. True, they didn’t have much reason to doubt God’s ability beforehand, but it seems that they questioned it regardless. Consider even Moses' astonishment when God told him that He would supply meat for all the Israelites for a month. God squashed this doubt with another miracle - millions of quail. He could give them anything He wanted, but He thought it best to give them manna.
Also, God showed the Israelites that simply getting what they wished for doesn’t bring happiness. Notice that by the end of the month of quail that God said that they would consider the quail to be loathsome. Based off of many cycles of experience, I know He was right. How is it that I become so foolishly shortsighted to think that just one more change will make me happy? How can I forget the thousands of previous, failed wishes?
God taught the Israelites how to be thankful. He showed them that He did care for them and that He was actively giving them what was best for them.
God also gives me good gifts. How dare I criticize His omnipotent plan! How dare I complain about His perfect gifts?
I can only draw one conclusion about complaining. It points to a serious problem – idolatry, self-worship. Go back with me to the part of the story where God announces to the Israelites that He will give them quail to eat for a whole month. He makes a startling statement about their complaints. “Ye have despised the LORD which is among you.” Really! When I complain, I despise the Lord? I am an idolater just because I tell God that He isn’t good enough to me, He isn’t making the right choices for me, and I deserve a better life?
This does sound idolatrous, especially when I consider this verse: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
Lord, help me to deny self, take up my cross, and follow Christ.