Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. – Philippians 2:14-15
My family always jokes that we cannot get together without quoting the show Seinfeld. When I think about shows I grew up on and celebrities that have mattered to me for a while, Jerry Seinfeld is near the top of that list. Recently, I watched an appearance he had on The Late Show with Stephan Colbert. In an attempt to set up Jerry’s “did you ever notice…” style of comedy, Colbert asked Jerry “has anything been bothering you recently?” Seinfeld’s immediate response was “something’s always bothering me.”
This is why I love watching comedians, because they say things I know to be true through experience. We, like Jerry Seinfeld, are always bothered by something. The issue is that we are often very free in giving voice to the things that bother us. Philippians 2 offers us a way to overcome that which bothers us without giving into complaining.
1. THE COMMAND – DO ALL THINGS WITHOUT COMPLAINING
First of all, let’s just admit that this is a hard command to follow. Maybe we do “some things” without complaining, but the command is to do “all things” without complaining. Complaining sneaks into our lives in all sorts of ways, sometimes disguised as “venting” or “getting something off our chest.” It’s good to be honest about what we think, but we must always keep our guard up against complaining.
This passage comes right after Paul uses Jesus as the great example of humility and tells us to follow His path. In fact, this verse comes right after Paul encourages us to “work out our faith” or begin putting our faith into action. Complaining was not a small problem to Paul, it was a massive problem. He saw that complaining was an issue that could swing a person’s character.
The thing that makes complaining so dangerous it that it is not a freeing habit but a forming habit. We normally think that if we vent a little bit about all the ways our coworkers bother us, we’ll then be free from the stress they put us under. While that kind of conversation may offer some temporary relief, it often just forms our hearts to be even more aware of the ways they wrong us. The more we complain about something, the more our hearts tune into the way that thing bothers us. Complaining never actually solves the problem.
2. THE BLESSING OF NOT COMPLAINING – THAT YOU MAY BECOME BLAMELESS
The interesting thing about complaining is that we love to do it with our friends and hate when anyone else does it. We rarely find complaining as an endearing quality in a person. Normally, we try to avoid the people who complain the most. Breaking free from that actually helps us live blameless lives.
The best way I’ve learned to fight against complaining (not that I’m great at it) is to think about God instead. I can be upset that the person driving in front of me is going 15 below the speed limit, or I can pray and remember it’s not that big of a deal. Complaining is often a reflection of how our hearts are bothered by other people, but as we ask God to change our hearts, a lack of complaining begins to show that we are living more blameless lives.
3. THE EFFECT OF NOT COMPLAINING – SHINING AS LIGHTS IN THE WORLD
The end result is that the person who does not complain stands out. When I was a server at a diner, one of the ways I was most able to show the effect Jesus can have on a person was by not complaining about work. People focused on finding joy now instead of eternal hope will complain about whatever stifles their joy in the moment. As Christians, a lack of complaining will show the hope you have of eternity. This is one of the strongest ways you can stand out.
When we think about holding each other accountable, we often think of holding people to reading their Bible and avoiding some “big sins.” May I suggest that we learn to hold each other accountable to not complaining. If the results of not complaining are being counted blameless and shining as lights in a dark world, then the stakes are too high to take complaining lightly. Remember, our example is Jesus. He did not go to the cross with complaints in His heart but with a joy set before Him. For every believer, the joy of heaven awaits. That truth should help us put aside the things we complain about.