Are you a passenger on the Grumble Train? Maybe you’ve never seen a Grumble Train, but you’ve heard it chugging along and you’ve sniffed the foul-smelling smoke it belches out.
Philippians 2:14 says, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing.” That may be the most frequently broken commandment in the New Testament! We’ve turned grumbling into a way of life. And arguing? That’s become an art form. What do you hear more at work—grumbling or encouragement? Are petty gripes and complaints common in your family and your church? These days, the Grumble Train is a popular way to travel.
It’s not that Christians have to be soft and sweet all the time. God calls us to be fully engaged in the arena of ideas, in touch with the hard questions swirling around us. We need to think critically, and when necessary we should call out false, foolish, and faithless ideas and those who promote them. But that doesn’t mean being cranky all the time.
If you struggle with a negative, complaining attitude, here are some ways to get off the Grumble Train.
Take the sin of grumbling seriously.Like dirt that clogs a waterpipe, constant griping crowds out the joy of the Lord, blocks the flow of God’s Spirit, and repels others. Why should unbelievers be attracted to the gospel if Christ’s followers are just as cranky and negative as those who don’t know the Lord? Chronic discontent betrays a lack of trust in God’s goodness. That’s why both the Old and New Testaments treat grumbling as a serious sin. Remember how the Lord fed the Israelites with miraculous manna? This heaven-sent honey-flavored bread didn’t satisfy the people; they complained because they missed the salad bar they enjoyed back in Egypt (Numbers 11:4-9). The people’s non-stop grumbling discouraged their leader, Moses, and invited God’s judgment. Scripture lumps grumbling along with other egregious sins like idolatry and sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 10:6-10). Grumbling isn’t okay simply because everybody does it.
Cultivate a grateful heart.Instead of grumbling, we should join with David and declare, “Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2). Someone has said, “When you drink from the stream, remember the spring.” As a classic hymn says, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” Instead of griping about our dislikes, we should “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). I like the way author Ann Bradford puts it: “Tell the negative committee that meets inside your head to sit down and shut up.”
Be an anti-grumbling force.“Let your conversation be always full of grace” (Colossians 4:6). Set a positive example in your spoken words and what you share on social media. When conversations degenerate into grumbling and negative criticism, push back. Don’t tolerate whining and gossip. Often, it’s better to remain silent instead of throwing more verbal gasoline on the fire. I agree with the quip, “Sometimes, instead of a Chapstick, we should use a glue stick!”
The Grumble Train keeps chugging along, but we don’t have to be passengers on it. In a “warped and crooked generation,” we shine “like stars in the sky” when we speak “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” (Philippians 2:15, Ephesians 4:29). I can’t picture Jesus riding on the Grumble Train.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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