Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. (Philippians 2:14–15)
I am a grumbler by (fallen) nature.
Just this morning a malfunctioning software program required my attention. Experience told me the likely course: at least two times on the phone with customer support and at least two glitches in the fixing process. Forty-five minutes minimum. Probably more. (All proved true, by the way.) Immediately I resented this time-stealing inconvenience. And when my wife called in the middle of dealing with it, out of my mouth came my displeasure.
Life problems don’t get much smaller. What is the matter with me?
The matter is that I too easily listen to the lies of my pathologically selfish sin nature, which assumes all of reality should serve its preferences and grumbles against anything that doesn’t. The truth is, when I grumble, I have lost touch with reality.
What Grumbling Gauges
Grumbling is a gauge of the human soul. It gauges our gaze on grace. It tells us that we’re not seeing grace.
Grumbling pours out of our soul whenever we feel like we’re not getting what we deserve. Sometimes we’re even crass enough to think, to hell with what we deserve, we’re not getting what we want.
Grumbling is a symptom of a myopic soul. Selfishness has caused tunnel vision and has fixated on a craving(s). The soul has lost sight of the glory and wonder and splendor and hope that is the reborn, redeemed life and thus it is far too easily displeased. Grumbling is evidence of soul-vision impairment.
What Gratitude Gauges
The opposite of grumbling in the soul is gratitude. And gratitude also gauges our gaze on grace. It tells us that we are seeing grace.
Gratitude pours out of our souls whenever we we’re receiving a gift we know we don’t deserve and we experience a humble happiness. And as sinners who have received the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24), we are receiving these gifts all the time.
Gratitude is a symptom of a healthy, expansive soul. The gospel of grace has given it panoramic vision, allowing it to see that this grace will be sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9) to meet every need (Philippians 4:19) when inconvenience, crisis, weakness, affliction, unexpected demand, suffering, and persecution hit. In fact, in all these things this grace will make us “more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
Accents of Heaven and Hell
Gratitude is the accent of the language of heaven because there everything is undeserved grace. No creature that basks in the eternal, deep, powerful, satisfying, overflowing joys of heaven will have merited being there. Each will be there solely by the grace of God, which is why we will all sing,
To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever! (Revelation 5:13)
But grumbling is the accent of hell’s language because it’s how a creature’s pride responds to the Creator’s decision to do or allow something that the creature does not desire. Grumbling scorns God because it elevates our desires and judgments above his.
That’s why the world is so filled with grumbling. It’s ruled by the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) and its citizens speak the official language.
Do All Things Without Grumbling
And that’s why Paul tells us to “do all things without grumbling” (Philippians 2:14). The children of God should not speak with the accent of hell.
Rather, our speech should always be gracious (Colossians 4:6); it should have the accent of heaven. Those who have been forgiven so much (Luke 7:47) and promised so much (2 Peter 1:4) should speak words that are always salted with gratitude (Ephesians 5:20). That’s one way we “shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15). Gospel gratitude is a foreign language here. We are citizens of a better country (Hebrews 11:16).
Doing all things without grumbling is humanly impossible. But thankfully not with God (Mark 10:27). What it requires is getting our eyes off ourselves and onto Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and all God promises to be for us in him. It requires seeing grace. Being different comes from seeing differently.
Here’s the Bible logic that provides the escape from the temptation to grumble (1 Corinthians 10:13): “all things work together for [my] good” (Romans 8:28), and “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13), so therefore I can “do all things without grumbling” (Philippians 2:14).
Yes it is hard. It’s a fight. God told us it would be that way (1 Timothy 6:12). But we will grow in the gracious habit of cultivating gratitude through the rigorous exercise of constant practice (Hebrews 5:14) of seeing grace.
Lord, help us speak more in the accent of heaven!
Prone to grumbling, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to scorn the God I love;
Here’s my eye, O take and peel it
Till I see the grace above.
Then “the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart [will] be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).