Sleep on This: Grumblers
Good evening friend!
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing…” Philippians 2:14
I want to hover over this verse fragment for a couple of days. Because there are few things more thermostatic in a season such as this than the way we choose to speak. Like that dial on our wall with which we control the temperature of our home, the things we say… or don’t say… have an enormous impact on our spirits in a time of uncertainty or crisis.
“Do all things without grumbling…”, says Paul. And let me remind you, Paul had EVERY reason to grumble! He was in prison, awaiting his own execution. If that is not grumble-worthy, I’m not sure what is. But he forbade it. For himself…and for others. “Do all things without grumbling…”
In preparation for my tours to Israel, on the first night of training, I introduce the five “Toone Tour Rules.” The last of the five, and the most memorable, is “No Whining!” Someone even presented me with a plaque that bears those words. It hangs proudly above the door of my office.
Paul was clearly referencing the Exodus story; Moses’ deliverance of the Jewish people from Egypt. At first, the people were thrilled with God’s miraculous intervention in their lives. But as they wandered through Sinai, they grew less enamored with the whole adventure. And soon, that disenchantment progressed to murmuring. They murmured against Moses and his leadership. But most of all, they murmured against God. It is one of the most unattractive aspects of the Exodus story, this growing din of complaining and kvetching against a God who had been so good to them.
There are few themes more consistent throughout scripture than the admonition to control your mouth. From Numbers to Proverbs to James to Paul to the teachings of Jesus, over and over again the Bible urges us to mind our tongues. There are all kinds of reasons for us to take this admonition to heart, but here are two of the best.
First, we come to feel the way we speak. It’s just true. If you constantly grumble it will shape your mood, your outlook, your countenance more than just about anything you can do. Want to feel better about our present state? Find good things to say about your situation. Or, at the very least, stop your grumbling. Of COURSE you have things you could complain about. But then, Paul’s disappointment with his jail cell and his impending appointment with the executioner were pretty legitimate gripes, weren’t they? And yet…he said to himself…and to us…, “Do all things without complaining…”
Here’s the second and better reason to bridle your tongue: in the end, it’s a complaint against the Lord. It is your verbal vote of “no confidence” against God’s ability to care for and deliver you. We can shake our heads in dismay when we read about the Israelites’ grumblings against Yahweh; their ingratitude and doubt is so clear to us…these thousands of years later. But for some reason, those same qualities are not quite so clear to us in our own murmurings.
Lord, as I lay me down to sleep, help me to think back over the glossary of my day. What words did I use? What did they say about my trust in you? Your provision and care for me? This night as I rest, would you retool my speech so that tomorrow, my mouth will be part of the solution and not part of my problem. Amen!