Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Grumbling at Grace

“Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD."
- Exodus 16:8

“But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, ‘Do you take offense at this?’”
- John 6:61

“Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.”
- James 5:9

“Murmuring is but as smoke of the fire: there is first a smoke and smouldering before the flame breaks forth; and so before open rebellion in a kingdom there is first a smoke of murmuring, and then it breaks forth into open rebellion. But because it has the seeds of rebellion, it is accounted before the Lord to be rebellion.”
- Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, p. 140

“Grumbling may seem like a little thing—a little sin—but I would like to propose to you that grumbling is a pollutant in the waters of your heart. It will kill life.”
– Paul Tripp, JBC, #18, “Grumbling, A Look at a ‘Little’ Sin”, p. 48

“Jesus answered them, ‘Do not grumble among yourselves.’”
- John 6:43

Dear Christ Our Redeemer Family and Friends,

I am more familiar with some sins than others. If there were an Olympic medal given for grumbling and complaining I think would receive the gold. I am more aware of this sin now than I’ve ever been, and when I see it in my own heart and hear it from my own mouth God has been gracious to bring me increased conviction of this sin. Grumbling is like soul cancer. It is like a can of black spraypaint that begins to shade everything around us. Grumbling calls into question the ever-benevolent character of God. The psalmist declares that God’s faithfulness endures forever (Psalm 117:2), but the grumbler takes issue with the psalmist, and then takes issue with God Himself. When I grumble and complain I am indicting the character of God and making a judgment about His all-inclusive and ever-charitable mercies in my life. I am declaring God’s rule insufficient and flawed and then equally I’m declaring my perception of how best to order the world as being superior. This is consummate rebellion and the apex of arrogance.

The orginal Greek word carries the sense of muttering in a low tone. It is as if we voice our complaint just out of earshot. As I looked at different passages about grumbling I noticed a couple of things. 1) Jesus knew that his disciples were grumbling (John 6:61). They may have thought they were out of earshot, but He knew their hearts. He heard their grumbling in spite of their attempts at concealment. This is a sobering realization. And, 2) In both the case of Israel grumbling and the case of the disciples grumbling both instances were preceded by incredible grace and providence. For Israel, they had been been fed manna in the wilderness by an extraordinary act of God and yet they grumbled. And then in similar manner, when Jesus performs a miracle and then begins to discuss Himself being the true manna from heaven, the disciples grumble. Jesus is directing them to the Cross and they complain. What wickedness in the human heart! God shows grace and the sinner grumbles. Dear friends, we need mercy, because God takes this sin seriously. My sin of grumbling required Christ’s death on the Cross.

I’m grateful for increased conviction of this sin and I’m growing to hate my grumbling more and more. May God bring all of us even more conviction about grumbling and may we begin to exchange grumbling for gratitude, not in low tones, but in loud expressions of thankfulness.


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