A customer was bothering a waiter in a restaurant one evening. First, he complained that he was too hot and that he wanted the air conditioner turned up. Then he was too cold and he told the waiter to turn the air conditioner down. This went on for about a half an hour as the waiter patiently walked back and forth to the back of the restaurant every time the customer asked him to. He never even got angry.
Finally, a customer at one of the waiter’s other tables asked him, “Isn’t that guy making you angry with all of his complaining?” The waiter calmly replied, “No, he’s not bothering me.” The customer replied, “Why not?”, to which the waiter responded, “We don’t even HAVE an air conditioner.”
Philippians 2:14-15 gives Christians a command; not a suggestion or a proposal, but a command.
“Do all things without grumbling or questioning.”
We won’t have much trouble figuring out what “all things” means will we? That means, in everything that we do we are to do it without grumbling or questioning.
But what IS “grumbling?” The Greek word means, “Utterance made in a low tone of voice; behind-the-scenes talk; complaint, displeasure, expressed in murmuring.”
This isn’t a legitimate complaint that is handled properly (as in Acts 6:1), but this is the person who just wants to murmur and complain about things under their breath, behind other people’s backs, or with their friends. Do you find yourself complaining about things in this way?
Mark Twain said, “Don’t complain and talk about all of your problems – 80% of people don’t care. The other 20% will think you deserve them.” Complaining is a habit that many of us really need to break. We often justify it by calling it “venting,” but it means the same thing.
What about the “questioning” in this verse? Surely it’s not wrong to ask questions, is it? That’s not at all what this verse is saying. The word for “questioning” comes from a Greek word that means, “Verbal exchange that takes place when conflicting ideas are expressed; dispute, argument.” The same word is used in Luke 9:46 where the disciples are “arguing among themselves about who was the greatest.” We’re all familiar with arguing, whether we’ve been doing it or whether we’ve simply been around it. God tell us to do “all things” without arguing.
Why would God not want us to complain or argue? The short answer is found in verse 15, isn’t it? “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.”
In other words, if we really want to distinguish ourselves from the world, it’s going to have to go deeper than the fact that we aren’t committing murder, engaging in fornication and getting drunk; we’re going to have to be fundamentally different than everyone around us. How different? How many of your co-workers, fellow students, teammates and friends complain and argue? What about you?
Notice that Paul said, “That you may be…”. In other words, if we complain and argue, Paul is saying that we WON’T be blameless and innocent; we WON’T be without blemish; we WON’T shine as lights in the world.
This is deeper than most of us want to go with our Christianity. Many of us absolutely LOVE to complain and argue; it’s second nature to us. Colossians 4:5-6 gives us another reason to obey this command: “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
If no one is asking us any questions about our faith, maybe it’s because our speech isn’t exactly “gracious” and “seasoned with salt;” maybe our complaining and arguing is speaking louder than our faith!