At the Heart of Complaining

Legitimate cries to God appear everywhere in Scripture, but perhaps the book of Psalms has the most concentration. Rescue me, get even for me, keep me … those kinds of pleas intermingle with why? where are You?

Some people today use the Psalms as proof that it’s OK to rail at God. I don’t agree. As Nicole said in her comment to yesterday’s post, the difference between crying out to God and complaining is in our heart.

Complaining, I’d suggest, is actually complaining against God. It’s not a request for Him to intervene but an accusation that He messed up.

Back to the Israelites. When they were in legitimate, life-threatening danger from the on-coming Egyptians, they didn’t just say, Save us. They said, Why did You bring us out here to die? We knew this would happen. Didn’t we say that to Moses back in Egypt when he told us the plan?

Same song, second verse when they needed food. Followed by the third verse when they needed water. It was never, God will supply because He brought us here, knows our needs, won’t leave us or forsake us. Rather it was an inference that the people knew better than God what their circumstances should be.

Here I see myself.

And unfortunately, many in my culture. We American Christians seem to have adapted a sense of entitlement, perhaps because we believe in a Bill of Rights. In addition, we say we have been endowed by our Creator with the right to life, liberty, and happiness.

Of course, I changed the wording on that last point, but truth be told, the way I wrote it is exactly what Americans believe, and unfortunately what American Christians continue to hold on to.

So here we are, a day before the USA celebrates Independence, the day before our nation’s birthday, and I think, sadly, we’ve missed the central point of what our founders wanted to establish. Rather than entitlement, we were to be a nation of people responsible for what takes place.

But even that principle, when taken to the extreme, is off base. It can breed political activism instead of prayer. Expectation of governmental solutions instead of God’s answers. Grumbling and disputing instead of contentment.

I can’t get that image out of my head of Paul and Silas, beaten and in chains, singing God’s praises in the middle of the night.

Would American Christians be doing the same? Would I?

Published in: on July 3, 2008 at 10:48 am  Comments (2)  
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2 Comments

  1. Becky, these two posts about complaining are timely and thought-provoking, and challenging.

    Complaining is a way of taking control–or, as you said, a way of stating that we know better than God how things should be.

    Isn’t a desire to be like God what pulled Lucifer from heaven?

    Pride, a sense of superiority and a desire for control, is at the root of most of our sins. Even that sense of entitlement you mentioned finds its father there, a sense that the individual is “owed” something because he “deserves” it. Who makes that distinction? Why is one individual more deserving than another?

    Christians do get caught up in their “rights” while forgetting such godly concepts as grace, mercy, love, sacrifice, work.

    On the other hand, about political activism: I do not think we should sit by and be quiet while our country slowly erodes the rights of Christians to be heard and to practice their faith in public. This is only one example, but homosexuals are trying to shut down any preaching against their lifestyle as “hate speech.”
    Yet they are allowed to say whatever they want? To march naked in the streets during “pride parades”? That’s upside down and backward, and an example of pride/entitlement, some people demanding more rights than others; heterosexuals behaving in such a manner in a parade would be arrested.

    Rather than complain, I do believe we should pray AND act.

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  2. Keanan, thanks so much for the feedback. I’m glad you found these posts timely.

    I admit, here in the US things are a little sticky. I mean, we are supposed to be a government by the people. Consequently, I think we do have responsibilities. Voting and praying for our leaders, even those we may not agree with, seems imperative. But what about campaigning for people we want to see in government. What about involving ourselves in organizations like ACLJ. Or signing petitions, maybe being the point person for said petition?

    I have so say, I am glad someone took the initiative to get the constitutional amendment defining marriage on the November ballot here in Calif. after a judge overturned the law established by the people some six years ago.

    And yet … and yet … was Paul setting up boycotts of the silversmiths or trying to get the temple of Dyonises zoned out of existence? Was Jesus out picketing tax collectors’ houses? The one activist-type activitiy He took part in was overturning the money tables in the temple.

    I wonder … I just wonder, if the Church did what we are supposed to do, if all the political activitism stuff would become unnecessary.

    Becky

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