Complaining is a universal currency in our world. Almost without fail, it provides a point of connection for even the most casual interactions.
Paying at the grocery store? Just grumble about how cold (or hot) the weather has been recently, and you and the checkout clerk will quickly form an alliance. Filling your mug at the office coffee station? Point out how horribly weak (or strong) the brew is today, and your co-workers will vigorously nod their heads in agreement. Late to a party? Mutter about the traffic, and every guest in earshot will have their own gridlock lament to contribute.
Sports fans coalesce around the mistakes of referees, mothers bond over the high price of groceries, and employees commiserate about the quality of the paper towels in the office bathroom. There’s seemingly nothing we won’t complain about, and seemingly no one who won’t join us when we do.
As Christians, we know we shouldn’t complain. Every Sunday school child can quote Paul’s directive: “Do all things without grumbling or arguing” (Phil. 2:14).
We might not, however, be as familiar with the reason why we should be content. Paul follows his command with a surprising motivation: “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” (Phil. 2:14–15).
God wants us to stop complaining for the sake of evangelism.
When everyone complains, the one person who doesn’t stands out. In a world where grumbling over the weather and the state of the roads is just ordinary conversation, a contented Christian shines with gospel radiance.
In a world where grumbling over the weather and the state of the roads is just ordinary conversation, a contented Christian shines with gospel radiance.
Jesus said “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16); when we refuse to join the office pity-party, we publicly exalt Christ in at least three ways.
1. We Testify That God Is Good
Most of us would tell our neighbors that God is good. But our dissatisfied grumblings are a jarring contradiction to what we say we believe. A tongue that’s used for both blessing and cursing “ought not to be so!” (James 3:10).
Belonging to Christ radically changes everything about how we understand the world. Because we know that God does all things for our good and his glory (Rom. 8:28), because we rest secure in his love for us and our union to him (Rom. 8:38–39), and because we’ve been given the indispensable help of his Holy Spirit (Phil. 2:13), we aren’t like the murmuring unbelievers around us.
God is good whether we’re rich or poor, full or hungry, on vacation or in debt. As the redeemed of Christ, we can use every circumstance as an opportunity to proclaim our wholehearted confidence in God’s unchanging goodness.
2. We Testify to an Unshakeable Hope
When Job’s wife encourages him to curse God for the trials in his life, Job replies, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). By his sinless response, Job testifies to his wife that he has faith in God’s eternal purposes whether his outward circumstances appear rosy or grim.
Alongside our unbelieving co-workers and friends, we experience the same trials of daily life. It rains on our weekend just like it does for everyone else. But, as children of God, we understand that God has bigger purposes in the unexpected thundershower.
Everything that happens in our lives is designed by God to make us more like Christ (Rom. 8:28–30). It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that Peter calls us to “rejoice” in our trials (1 Pet. 1:6). Broken relationships, financial stress, or physical illness aren’t pleasant, of course. But our contentment rests in the fact that God is using those things to do a priceless work in our souls—something much more lasting than even gold.
Our unbelieving neighbors might be unsettled by potholes and politics, but we already know what God is doing.
3. We Testify to a Deeper Reality
If our conversations with unbelievers are taken up by the minutiae of life’s inconveniences, we act like this world is all that really matters. We don’t actually think the long line at the grocery store is the most important thing in the universe, but our strident complaints seem to tell a different story.
Instead, we ought to take every opportunity to point to deeper—and more lasting!—spiritual realities. Imagine your typical day minus complaining—no moans about the weather, no groans about the boss or the kids, no sighs about the busyness of your schedule. For many of us, the absence of complaints would leave us with lots of conversational air time. What if we used it to talk about Christ?
Brothers and sisters, let’s stop complaining. The “great gain” in our contentment (1 Tim. 6:6) may just be our neighbors’ eternal salvation.