Complaining: A Defining Characteristic

Nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer.—1 Corinthians 10:10 (NKJV)


The famous motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said, “Be grateful for what you have and stop complaining—it bores everybody else, does you no good, and doesn’t solve any problems.” Although we know complaining is pointless, it comes quite naturally to us. When we see something we don’t like or think is unjust, many of us don’t give a second thought about ranting to others in-person or online.


“But wait, isn’t expressing my feelings a good thing?” you might be asking. “Isn’t it harmful to bottle up my emotions?” Both questions bring up valid points, but the answer requires careful consideration.


First, it’s important to examine the context of today’s passage. Here, the apostle Paul is warning the Christians in Corinth about the dangers of idolatry. In recounting the punishment the Israelites suffered while wandering through the desert, Paul says “these things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us” (1 Corinthians 10:11 NIV). One of the things God rebuked the Israelites for was their constant complaining or “murmuring” against Moses and Aaron (Numbers 14)—and by extension, God Himself. Because they wouldn’t stop running their mouths, the Lord sent an angel of death to destroy them.


While God isn’t going to harm us for griping (because Jesus already bore His wrath on the cross for us), what Scripture makes clear is that complaining shouldn’t be a defining characteristic of Christians. In fact, Paul tells the people at Philippi: “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 ESV).


In other words, when we refrain from complaining about life, it sets us apart from the world around us. Further, Proverbs 29:11 tells us that it’s foolish to vent all of our feelings without restraint. When we do that, we are lacking self-control (Proverbs 25:28).


Secondly, it’s important to question our motives. What are we hoping to accomplish by expressing our discontent? More importantly, what does it reveal about our attitude in light of what God has done for us?


So, is it always wrong to vent our frustrations? No, but the one to whom we should most often be voicing our concerns to is our Heavenly Father. When we do, we’ll receive a heavenly perspective that will help us hold our tongues.


DIG: Do you consider yourself a complainer? Do others around you? Read Ephesians 4:29, James 1:26, and James 5:9. What do these verses suggest about the words we choose to speak?


DISCOVER: If any character in the Bible had a right to complain about his circumstances, it was Job. Re-read this story and pay close attention to God’s response to him. What is He saying about His sovereignty and our response to our circumstances?


DISPLAY: The next time you feel the need to complain or voice your opinions, take a moment to stop and pray. Ask God to give you His perspective on the matter, and if needed, the strength to keep quiet if He tells you to.

About the Author

Rob Nieminen

Rob Nieminen is a seasoned writer and editor who has written devotionals for Calvary since 2015. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, FL. He serves in the Worship Ministry at Calvary Boynton Beach and is an avid reader, an erratic golfer, and an aspiring photographer who loves to cook and spend time with his family.