Attitude, Part 7

Grumbling & Disputing

(Phil. 2:14)

One of the easiest but most hurtful human responses is forbidden in this passage. “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.”

The habit is so extremely rooted in the attitudes of some people, it is their immediate response to almost anything negative. Not prayer. Not strength. Not an acknowledgment of reality. Not a wise solution. Just an angry countenance and a loud-mouth gushing with complaints, resentments and pessimistic forecasts.  

There is the man in the recliner watching TV news, commanding his wife and children to shut up and get out of the way so he can see what to yell about, with impulsive judgments, worn-out opinions and peppered with swearing.

There is the angry preacher, reading Scripture only to leave Scripture to shout his rage and annoyance at the audience, made up of people who are mostly innocent, hungering for the Word of God and not guilty of his flaming denunciations.

There is the broadcast journalist who has been trained in the school of “if it bleeds, it leads,” beginning the evening news with exaggerated forecasts of the coming economic nightmare, followed by the next disease to kill thousands, the forthcoming war and the impending global whatever. {At the end of the 30 minutes of fire, a 30 second story of some sweet episode of human kindness.}

But then there is the rest of us, who often cannot think or speak the joy of being a child of God saved by grace. We think and utter our wrath to people who need to hear our joy. We are distant and cold toward people we don’t like. Even our prayers may submit to the Lord a list of complaints that may sound something like, “OK Lord, I’m really mad about this. What are you doing to do about it?”

Social media and other digital communication make it easy to quickly exhaust our opinions about events, even before the event is over. We have something to say about everything. And the algorithms exploit and amplify our attraction to negative, divisive dialogue. Facebook debates have become more about competitive hostility than honest searching for truth and listening. Often when we check the Twitter feed, there is a traffic jam of unhappiness and indignation that has crashed into exaggeration and fake news. We get tired of it … then we … that’s right … complain about all the complaining. Any brief taste of sweetness is consumed by the old man in his recliner barking at the TV.

This consumption of the negative originates in dangerous attitudes and influences others in that distorted way of thinking and acting.  Like any habit, thought habits require humble confession with good, biblically based follow-up.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, wrote to us and for us, about purity of mind and speech. In our suffering we can “rejoice,” though now for “a little while” we are grieved by “various trials.” The testing of our faith can have good results in our character if we remain steadfast (Jas. 1:4). Prepare your minds for action, not grumbling. Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Purify your souls by your obedience to the truth “for a sincere brotherly love” from a pure heart. This is all packed into 1st Peter chapter one, leading into this: “So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander,” (1 Pet. 2:1).

Do all things without grumbling and complaining.

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