The Danger of Grumbling

Have you ever complained?

Not long ago, I was studying a passage of scripture that challenged me in regards to the kinds of things that come out of my mouth. Have you ever considered the words that you speak? Jesus indicated that our words are so significant that they could actually condemn us (Matt. 12:37). Paul wrote saying that we are never to speak a fruitless word to another person (Eph. 4:29), and elsewhere he stated that every word that we speak should be filled with grace and seasoned with salt (Col. 4:6). Jesus said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life” (John 6:63). Think about that statement: every word that Jesus spoke contained life. He spoke only as the Father prompted Him according to John 12:50; therefore, not one time did He ever speak in the flesh. That would mean that Jesus never grumbled or complained because grumbling, by its very definition, are words uttered in the flesh.

There’s an interesting passage that underscores the importance of not grumbling. Paul clearly stated that this passage was “written for our instruction” (1 Cor. 10:11). He referenced the Israelites who had experienced a number of supernatural occurrences while journeying through the wilderness. He wrote about them eating supernatural food, drinking supernatural water, and using a fountain that was a supernatural rock—which represented Christ. However, in spite of these incredible experiences, the Israelites were dispersed and scattered in the desert because of the specific sins that they committed. Paul identified the first three sins that, to me, are no doubt serious enough to evoke God’s wrath. They were idolatry, immorality, and testing the Lord (1 Cor. 10:7-9). But the fourth sin is what caught my attention. Paul wrote, “Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer” (1 Cor. 10:10). 

Grumbling? Are you serious? We grumble about the weather, economy, politics, church leadership, and even traffic during the holidays. Someone recently complained that they weren’t able to find a parking spot at the mall. Grumbling is a way of life for many of us. But I want to propose to you that it is a serious sin that aligns us to the work of darkness, and it was a costly sin for the Israelites that should warn every one of us. The word grumble (gongyzo) means to murmur or speak complaints under your breath against someone or something. One expositor stated that grumbling comes from our agreement with something that is contrary to God’s will. It’s a symptom of faithlessness, and so our mouth declares our agreement with hopelessness. Given that fact that our mouths contain life and death (see Prov. 18:21), our complaints become negative prophecies over our lives and situations.

Miriam and Aaron, in a sense, complained and grumbled against Moses (see Num. 12:1-10). The Bible indicates that Miriam was a prophetess (see Exod. 15:20). Therefore, she was prophesying against an appointed leader and God heard her complaints—He always hears what we say. God’s anger burned against Miriam and Aaron, the priest and prophet, and Miriam’s skin turned leprous. What happens to the body of Christ when churches are filled with grumbling, complaining members? If God brought leprosy upon those who complained today, what would be the condition of our lives? Maybe some of our churches are dying because we grumble against the leadership, finances, facility, music, or its people. Much of our grumbling isn’t even being whispered anymore, these days complaints are posted all over Facebook and the Internet for others to commiserate with. It’s appalling to read what believers write about in regards to other people, churches, and leaders. Much of the complaining and negative speech is fruitless, barren words that one day we will be held accountable for.

The grumbling Israelites “were destroyed by the destroyer” (1 Cor. 10:10). The word destroyer (olothreutes) refers to a venomous snake. A similar word appears in Exodus 12:23 referring to the death angel sent to smite those not covered by the blood. The Israelites’ grumbling was so serious to God that it severed their covenant with Him; therefore, they were uncovered and became vulnerable to the enemy. Their complaints aligned them with a spirit of death. What kinds of things come out of your mouth? Your words indicate with who or what you are aligning yourself.

Paul wrote, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:14-15). One of the ways that we prove ourselves to be blameless and innocent is by doing things without grumbling. God desires that we live above reproach amidst a perverse generation. That means that we are to speak words of life no matter what we are doing. That might be why Paul continued to write that we were to hold fast to the “word of life” (Phil. 2:16). Perhaps holding to the word of life is speaking words of life every time that you talk.

I believe that our mouths speak what our hearts are full of (see Matt. 12:34). Therefore, if we are full of the Holy Spirit and filled with His Word, then I believe that our mouths will release content that reveals that truth. Let God sanctify your tongue today; ask the Holy Spirit to cleanse and fill you. Ask the Holy Spirit to guard your mouth so that every word that you speak is life. Fill your heart and mind with the Word so that when you are squeezed and agitated, His Word spills from your lips rather than grumbling.

Let’s Pray

God, I want a mouth that never grumbles or complains. Cleanse my heart and fill me with your Spirit. May I learn to stuff myself with your Word so that I may speak as Jesus did with words that are spirit and life.

Rob McCorkle

Rob believes in the message of purity and power. In 2013, he completed his Doctor of Ministry from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. His dissertation discusses the fusion of Word and Spirit in the Holiness movement with special emphasis on the supernatural gifts. Rob is the founder of Fire School Ministries, a ministry organization with the distinct purpose of re-digging the wells in the Holiness movement.