And No Arguing?

Philippians 2:14 in the NIV says, “Do everything without complaining or arguing.”

I grew up arguing. No matter what my parents said or even the occasional paddling they gave, it seems my brother, sister, and I found something to argue about. Who got to sit in the front seat of the car, who’s turn it was to do dishes, what Monopoly deeds we’d trade, what TV program we’d watch. You name it, we argued about it.

Being the youngest, I learned pretty quickly that my best chance was to become the swing vote, siding with either my brother or my sister as circumstances demanded.

But arguing is stressful, as I’m sure my parents knew. Now I understand that arguing is in direct opposition to what God wants for believers. We’re supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves, and it’s pretty hard to do that when we’re complaining and arguing. I get it, but there are still too many times I don’t do what I get.

Since I started this short series by looking first at our response to God, then to those in governmental authority over us, I thought it might be good to consider another level of authority — that of our church leaders.

I know some Christians hardly think of their pastor or elders as being in authority over them — a sad state in the Church today. Instead, the pastor and worship leader seem to operate more like entertainers, doing whatever they can to keep the people coming. And the people act just like those in an audience. They critique the performance, applauding at times, and … dare I say it? … grumbling at others.

I attend a wonderful church where I receive Biblical teaching and enjoy rich worship. And yet, from time to time, I find myself grumbling in my spirit. After all, the worship leaders and pastors aren’t me, so they don’t always do things the way I think they should. Sometimes it’s a difference in style; sometimes I think there’s a Biblical issue at play.

But who made me worship cop? Who elected me to represent the Holy Spirit? Going into critique mode when I’m in church is part of my argumentative spirit, part of the wickedness James says we need to put off.

Come to think of it, he also has some important words about complaining and arguing.

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. …

Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor? (James 4:1-3, 11-12)

If James says this about judging our neighbor, how does it apply to judging our pastor or our elders or our worship leaders?

Slowly I’m learning that when I find myself bristling about this issue or that, my reaction signals my need to repent.

I can and should pray for the leadership of my church. I’m even free to communicate with them in courteous and kind ways to express my thoughts. I am not free to grumble, even in my heart, or complain and argue about how the leadership is doing things.

I wonder how different church would be if we prayed more and argued and complained less.

Published in: on September 1, 2011 at 5:40 pm  Comments (5)  
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  1. I think you nailed this one….we do sometimes sit in the pew critiqing what is going on before us when, all the while, we should be judging our feelings and thoughts within


  2. Analogous to the church, marriage can be a place for arguing/complaining too. Looking back at my long (now 33 year) and happy marriage, the times I’ve/we argued, like the verse you quoted, have been over selfish desire for our own pleasures. And yes, this can end in murder, the unwarranted ‘hate’ of another. Ironically, repentance brings about a greater pleasure than the one we craved.


  3. Thanks for your feedback, Henry. I don’t know what all is going on in other’s hearts, but I know what God has convicted me of. It’s a shame, I think, when I hear pastors talking about the discouragement of their profession because of all the criticism that comes their way.

    Because what they do is public, of course they put themselves in a place where others can evaluate their “job performance.” But that’s the sad part — church seems to be moving into the realms of business and entertainment.

    We ought not be worried about numbers, I don’t think, but about whether we are proclaiming God faithfully. And we ought not worry about how entertained we are but whether or not we are worshiping God in spirit and in truth.



  4. Bob, great points. I may still do a post about arguing with those in our circles — family and church family, in particular.

    Yes, the “murder” fits because Jesus described the hatred of our hearts as the same as murder.

    The “we are envious so fight and quarrel” part really hits home to me, followed up by “You do not have because you do not ask.”

    How different our lives would be if we prayed as if we truly believed we have a loving Heavenly Father who wants to give us good gifts. Of course, the next phrase then kicks in. Instead of praying according to God’s will, we so often pray according to our pleasures. 😕



  5. […] We’ve also considered that the “all things” of this verse preclude our grumbling against governmental authorities or against our church leaders. […]


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