Grumbling Is Sin?


In the past I’ve been pretty hard on the poor Israelites fleeing Egypt for the Promised Land. They had just witnessed God’s amazing judgment on their oppressors, I reason, and walked out of Egypt a rich people. As if that wasn’t enough, God dried up a path through a sea and wiped out the army of charioteers following them.

And what did they do? They had the gall to complain when they got thirsty. They had the nerve to grumble about heavenly food provided for them on a regular basis.

Despite my judgment of that conflicted historical people group—which, by the way, coincided with God’s judgment of them—I’ve somehow avoided putting all the pieces together to see that MY grumbling, MY disputing is sin. I can see it in ancient Israel. I can’t see it in me. Or don’t want to.

In my post “The Lesson Of The Bee,” I pointed out that the problem of grumbling must first be addressed when we grumble against God. But directly hurling angry words at Him is not the only grumbling that displeases Him.

The passage to the Philippian believers, in which Paul commands them to do all things without grumbling, in no way limits this to their communication with God. In fact, since the point of their not grumbling was so that they might appear as lights in the corrupt and perverse world, it seems to me the lack of grumbling and disputing would have to be true of conduct and conversation in the public arena, not just the church.

In thinking of this command in a hierarchical manner—first don’t grumble against God—my natural second question is, Who is next in line?

I’d have to say, logically, that would be governmental leadership. For us in the Us that would start with … the President.

Ouch! That hurts, doesn’t it? I mean, isn’t it sort of one of the American pastimes to shred the President if we didn’t vote for him? Some, of course, shred all Presidents since they don’t vote, or don’t vote for a major-party candidate. Others “only” go after a President in the “opposition” party.

I know it sounds old fashioned, but I was raised to respect the President because he was … the President. It’s right there in the Bible, after all:

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. (Romans 13:1)

Well, that doesn’t say “respect.” It says “subject.” Can’t we put ourselves in subjection to a leader and not respect him? Paul goes on to say more about our response to those in authority in his letter to Titus:

Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. (Titus 3:1-2)

Since rulers would fall into the “all men” category, I think it’s safe to say the “malign no one” part applies to pretty much every President.

But what if the things we say against a leader are true?

Well, the things Israel said against Moses were true. They didn’t have water, and at one point, the water they had wasn’t drinkable. They didn’t have the strong-tasting foods they’d grown used to in Egypt, and there really were giants in the land.

The reality of those conditions didn’t mean they therefore had a pass to rebel against the man God had put over them. No, they could not stone Moses and return to Egypt because they were out of water.

Peter spelled out what was expected of the early Christians, many who suffered under the persecution of Roman rule, and why:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. (1 Peter 2:13-15 – emphasis mine)

So are we muzzled? Can we say nothing critical about our President?

I think we are free to voice our opinion and even point out when we disagree with the President. I think we can state what we wish he would have done instead. For example, I have no problem saying I think the President was wrong in the decision he made about health care.

That’s a far cry from hurling verbal stones—the kinds of disrespectful invective that come out of the mouths of and onto the screen from many professing Christians.

It’s as if we think we have a better plan than the one God is working. When He said we could be light to a crooked and perverse generation by not grumbling or disputing, we come along with plan B: Grumbling and disputing when it comes to “a bad President” is desirable and to be encouraged. It’s the American’s right, even responsibility, because that’s what you do in a democracy if you get involved. And good Christians get involved.

There’s the insidiousness of this argument. Christians should get involved. But how shocked would our culture be if we disagreed respectfully, without maligning anyone, treating all with gentleness, showing consideration even to those with whom we take issue? Wouldn’t that have the kind of effect that, say, God said it would?

And even if we never see any results from subjecting ourselves to our President, we will have accomplished the greater goal—to please our Sovereign King with our obedience. After all, He’s the one who’s told us not to grumble or dispute. He’s the one we sin against when we disobey.

This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in August 2011.

God’s Kingdom?


voting boothsI believe Christians should be responsible and vote. I believe, if possible, Christians should vote for Christians who are qualified for the office they want to hold. But if all went well, and a Christian managed to become President, if many Christians took office in Congress, the US would not become God’s kingdom, or God’s democracy.

Jesus made it very clear to Pilate just before He was sent to the cross: His kingdom is not of this world. It simply isn’t—not then and not now.

So why make a big thing about the presidential primaries and voting and politics and government? Shouldn’t we just hunker down and wait for the coming kingdom, and not trouble ourselves about the earthly one we live in?

No! God gave us a job to do, and honestly, it’s easier to make disciples of those at home and those abroad if we’re operating in a democratic society with strong Christian values. So it’s right to do our part to create such a place.

It’s right as long as we remember what we’re working for.

First, what we are not working for: we are not working to make this country heaven on earth. It can’t happen and it won’t happen; if we’re working for that, we’re working in vain. We’re also not working so that we can have a nicer home than everybody else (and keep all Those Other People out!!) That kind of selfishness is not something consistent with God’s call on the Christian.

We aren’t working for a place that will put few temptations in front of us and give us many rewards, as nice as both those would be. Temptation is something Jesus faced, so there is no avoiding it here on earth. And rewards or blessings come to those who suffer as much as to those who live in prosperity.

So what should we be working for?

    * freedom of religion so that we can continue to worship God openly and preach the word of God without restriction.
    * life. God created. Our times are in His hands. He condemns murder and makes no exceptions: don’t murder, unless the person you kill is really, really young. Our leaders have a lot of influence in creating a culture of life or not.
    * to preserve the Constitution that declares our rights to be endowed upon us by our Creator. We have slid ever closer to dictatorship. We can vote for those who will uphold the rule of law or who will ignore it in favor of their own way of achieving their own ends.

It reminds me eerily of the choice Adam faced back in the Garden: to do things God’s way, or to do what he wanted to do? Law or desire? God’s way or Man’s way?

That list includes good things, but they will not create God’s kingdom here on earth. His kingdom will only come when Jesus Christ returns and takes the throne.

Until then, Christians are to be on the alert, to be prepared, to work and serve with that day in mind. We are to invest our time and our talent and our money in the things of God. We are to love Him in a sold-out way. We are to love other Christians and our neighbors and our enemies.

The best way to show love is not by giving people stuff to use here and now. That’s a common fallacy lots of people proclaim. We have this idea that we must feed the hungry and clothe the poor, and then when they ask why we’re doing it, we can tell them about the love of God.

Well, the problem is, that’s not what the Bible says. Yes, we are to give to the needy, but what’s with the “waiting until they ask” business? The Bible says, Make disciples. It doesn’t say, Make disciples when they ask why you’re being so nice or sacrificial or helpful or whatever it might be. There should be an unashamed proclamation of the gospel.

Look at Peter and John in Acts 3, when the lame beggar approached them for a handout:

But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” (v 6)

What Peter offered was more than a handout, more than giving him money to feed and clothe himself. No, I’m not saying we should start healing people. I’m saying we should boldly give what we have, which is the gospel.

As a result of this miracle, Peter and John were arrested, not once but twice. They were threatened both times, and then eventually they were flogged. Their answer? Shouldn’t we be doing what God tells us rather than what people tell us?

And what was it God had told them? To preach the truth:

But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 3:19-20)

What was it that they had heard and seen?

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all.

“And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. Acts 3:13-21)

The kingdom is not now, but we Christians have kingdom work to do. Part of our responsibility is to keep the gospel light burning—hopefully in a free society that allows us to reach out to people in other places. But if God, who is in charge of rulers and authorities, sees fit to change the freedoms we now enjoy, we’ll be tasked to work in a rocky field with greater obstacles. But work we must.

In what kind of an environment may be determined by our next election.

Published in: on February 29, 2016 at 5:51 pm  Comments (3)  
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Congress Is Broken


National-Debt-GillrayI don’t know many registered US voters who would disagree that Congress is broken. Our legislative branch has had ten months to deal with our “debt ceiling.” This is apparently our pretend limit on the amount of debt the Treasury can issue. I say “pretend” because it seems no measures are being taken to actually insure that we stay under this limit. And everyone gets quite angry at the idea that Congress isn’t moving that limit higher yet again.

So why do we have it? Apparently the existence of a debt limit is something that Congress passed years and years ago, though they fight over it more and more frequently.

And now there’s the suggestion that President Obama extend the debt ceiling by executive order–another indication of how broken Congress is. Apparently, our legislature has given away some of the responsibilities the Constitution reserved for them, or has turned a blind eye to the encroachment of the Executive Branch into the arena of making law.

But that’s not so surprising since the congressmen don’t seem to take voting very seriously. Another news story broke recently showing representatives voting by proxy. Many of them aren’t present at the reading of bills, and from what we discovered with the recent health care insurance law, they don’t read the bills on their own.

In fact, it’s apparently more important to find out what the particular party position on a bill is than how it will actually impact constituents. Next in line after party leadership are lobbyists who have a great deal of input on the passage of bills. Lobby influence, as far as I see it, is little more than legalized bribery.

But Congress argues about things like cutting education funding and Social Security and the like. They never seem to argue about starting from the top and cutting their own salaries.

Oh, peanuts, some say, as they did to John McCain when he declared during his run for office that he would go after pork belly spending to bring down expenditures. Once, people prized a penny or peanuts. But apparently we’ve gotten too rich to be penny wise any more. Now we are happily pound foolish.

And foolish is a pretty good way of describing the way our government looks.

It’s forcing poor people to buy insurance to cover the costs wealthy corporations aren’t willing to spend in order to provide people with “existing conditions” the insurance they need. Has anyone suggested putting a “profit ceiling” on companies that provide vital services to the public–you know, like hospitals and insurance companies and utilities and oil companies.

I’m not sure why we act so outraged that “free enterprise” would be harmed by “government interference.” Do we think the government forcing people to buy insurance isn’t interference? Do we think welfare or FEMA or education funding isn’t government interference? Do we think the “stimulus packages” that supposedly have been digging us out of the Great Recession weren’t government interference?

If the government is going to get in people’s business, then why not do it in a meaningful way? For example, those bank bailouts back in 2008–why didn’t the government simply give every registered voter a million dollars? Now that could have gotten us out of the recession pretty fast, I’d say.

But I’m off topic. The point is, government, and Congress in particular, doesn’t work the way it was supposed to work. I can’t imagine that it will be long before people will cry for an end to all this nonsense and demand a just and reasonable ruler take over the reins of the whole thing. Already I read today on Facebook a call for revolution. Not violent. But an overhaul of government.

One step closer toward the conditions ripe for a dictator who would rule in the way, say the Bible prophecies the Anti-Christ will rule.

The Christian And Politics, Version 2012


A democracy can be a perplexing animal, at least for a Christian. On one hand, we, The People, are in charge, so when something goes wrong, the buck ought to stop with us, at least to some degree.

Practically speaking, of course, The People aren’t in charge; the politicians are. But that being the case, isn’t our government just like a kingdom or a Pharaoh-dom or a Caesar-dom, subject to the same principles Scripture lays out for believers in an autocratic system? Principles like these: Be subject to your rulers. Pay your taxes. Honor those due honor. Don’t resist authority or you’re in opposition to God’s ordinance. Fear authority only if you’re doing wrong.

The overriding truth is this: “There is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Romans 13:1b).

So God establishes our President, by means of we, The People. We are responsible and therefore should do our best to bring the best into the office — into all the governmental offices, in fact, since we have a three-branch form of government. What good is it to have a strong, godly President if we don’t have a legislative branch that will work with him? And what use is it to have a Congress that passes good laws if we have a court system that overturns them?

But ultimately, God is working through this system of ours and will sovereignly oversee the process so that the “right” leader is in place. This is a hard truth. Hitler was “right”? Chairman Mao? Stalin? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is “right”?

I’m sure the Christians who received Paul’s letter to the Romans were asking the same question. Excuse me, Paul, have you heard the latest about the Caesar and his household? Do you know what he’s planning for us followers of Jesus? And you are telling us, God has put this guy in place and we are to subject ourselves to him?

Actually, Paul said there was more than simply subjecting ourselves. He said, Bless those who persecute you; never pay back evil for evil; do not take revenge; overcome evil with good; so far as it is possible for you, be at peace with those in authority over you (since they are part of the “all men” Paul names).

Peter expands this same principle and its corollaries in his first letter to believers “who reside as aliens” scattering throughout various regions of the Middle East.

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. (1 Peter 2:13-17 – emphases mine)

Nowhere do I see that our treatment of the authorities over us is conditional — we are to honor them, only if we agree or only if they are abiding by God’s law. Rather, Peter’s instructions were to those who had no friends in high places. These Christians were looked at as kooks, at best, and as enemies at worst. Paul was giving direction to believers who faced increasing persecution of a hostile and immoral government.

Bless, don’t curse. Make peace if they’ll let you, give them honor, obey, be subject to them. Why? Because God put them in place. By treating these authorities properly, you’re obeying God and cutting the legs out from under the criticisms leveled at you.

What timely words for the Christian today. How should we do politics? “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” (Rom. 13:7) I take that verse to include fulfilling our responsibility to vote, but that might just be me. One thing I do know, speaking about our President with disrespect is sinful, and by doing so, Christians are giving those opposed to Christ ammunition for their attacks against us.

In short, then, we should do politics the same way we should do all of life: by obeying the dictates of Scripture.

We also would be wise to do so with a healthy dose of thanksgiving for the privilege of living in a country where we can voice our opinion and not fear being thrown in jail because of it. We can moan and groan about the direction our country is going, but we ought to be thankful it hasn’t gone there yet; we ought to pray God brings revival instead.

Published in: on January 25, 2012 at 6:38 pm  Comments (4)  
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Grumbling Is Sin?


I’ve been pretty hard on the poor Israelites fleeing Egypt for the Promised Land. They just witnessed God’s amazing judgment on their oppressors, I reason, and walk out of Egypt a rich people. As if that wasn’t enough, He dried up a path through a sea and wiped out the army of charioteers following them. Then they had the gall to complain when they got thirsty. They had the nerve to grumble about heavenly food provided for them on a regular basis.

Despite my judgment of that conflicted historical people group — which, by the way, coincided with God’s judgment of them — I somehow avoided putting all the pieces together to see that MY grumbling, MY disputing is sin. I can see it in ancient Israel. I can’t see it in me. Or don’t want to.

In my post “The Lesson Of The Bee,” I pointed out that the problem of grumbling must first be addressed when we grumble against God. But directly hurling angry words at Him is not the only grumbling that displeases Him.

The passage to the Philippian believers in which Paul commands them to do all things without grumbling in no way limits this to their communication with God. In fact, since the point of their not grumbling was so that they might appear as lights in the corrupt and perverse world, it seems to me the lack of grumbling and disputing would have to be true of conduct and conversation in the public arena, not just the church.

In thinking of this command in a hierarchical manner — first don’t grumble against God — my natural question is, Who is next in line?

I’d have to say, logically, that would be governmental leadership, starting with … the President.

Ouch! That hurts, doesn’t it? I mean, isn’t it sort of one of the American pastimes to shred the President if we didn’t vote for him? For some, that means shredding all presidents since those complaining don’t vote, or don’t vote for a major-party candidate. For others that means “only” going after the one in the “opposition” party.

I know it sounds old fashioned, but I was raised to respect the President because he was … the President. It’s right there in the Bible, after all:

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. (Romans 13:1)

Well, that doesn’t say “respect.” It says “subject.” Can’t we put ourselves in subjection to a leader and not respect him? Paul goes on to say more about our response to those in authority in his letter to Titus:

Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. (Titus 3:1-2)

Since rulers would fall into the “all men” category, I think it’s safe to say the “malign no one” part applies to them as well.

But what if the things we say against a leader are true?

Well, the things Israel said against Moses were true. They didn’t have water, and at one point, the water they had wasn’t drinkable. They didn’t have the strong-tasting foods they’d grown used to in Egypt, and there really were giants in the land.

The reality of those conditions didn’t mean they therefore had a pass to rebel against the man God had put over them. No, they could not stone Moses and return to Egypt because they were out of water.

Peter spelled out what was expected of the early Christians, many who suffered under the persecution of Roman rule, and why:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. (1 Peter 2:13-15 – emphasis mine)

So are we muzzled? Can we say nothing critical about our President?

I think we are free to voice our opinion and even point out when we disagree with the President. I think we can state what we wish he would do instead of a course of action he’s chosen. For example, I have no problem saying I think the President is wrong in the decisions he’s made about health care.

That’s a far cry from hurling verbal stones — the kinds of disrespectful invectives that come out of the mouths of and onto the screen from many professing Christians.

It’s as if we think we have a better plan than the one God gave us. When He said we could be light to a crooked and perverse generation by not grumbling or disputing, we come along with plan B: Grumbling and disputing when it comes to “a bad President” is desirable and to be encouraged. It’s the American’s right, even responsibility, because that’s what you do in a democracy if you get involved. And good Christians get involved.

There’s the insidiousness of this argument. Christians should get involved. But how shocked would our culture be if we disagreed respectfully, without maligning anyone, treating all with gentleness, showing consideration even to those with whom we take issue? Wouldn’t that have the kind of effect that, say, God said it would?

And even if we never see any results from subjecting ourselves to our President, we will have accomplished the greater goal — to please our Sovereign King with our obedience. After all, He’s the one who’s told us not to grumble or dispute. He’s the one we sin against when we disobey.

Published in: on August 31, 2011 at 7:46 pm  Comments (5)  
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