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While checking out of the line at Kroger the other day we thought we heard the cashier say, “Do you have any complaints?” Quickly I launched into a muted tirade: “The economy is bad, food prices are outrageous, our country is in a mess, my knee hurts, I’m getting old and fat…” I continued to spew out a litany of other negative comments before the clerk quietly and graciously interrupted me, “Excuse me, sir, but I said do you have any coupons?” We had to laugh and then ceremoniously and ironically rang the bell labeled “Ring for Good Service” as we sheepishly departed with $85 in groceries and a keen awareness of how easy it is to grumble.

Speaking of the rebellious malcontents that the children of Israel were (see especially Exodus 16:1-8), after listing some of their more obvious character flaws, Paul states:

“nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say” (1 Corinthians 10:10-15).

Ouch! There goes God’s Word cutting to the very marrow of my soul. Again! There you have it – I’m no better than the Hebrews who clamored against their leaders, and therefore God, when they said, “”Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt…” (Exodus 16:3). Oh, it’s so easy to sit in self-righteous judgment on them. Don’t we wonder what they were thinking? God gave them what they more than they deserved (freedom from bondage in Egypt) and even provided for their daily necessities of food, water, shelter, and guidance. Don’t we scratch our heads and piously ponder what more they wanted from God? Then we realize that the same problem existed in Paul’s day. And the same issue exists today. Just do some honest navel-gazing and we see the ugly evidence.

My wise mother once said that some folks, “would complain that you didn’t give them $10 when you gave them $5 they didn’t earn or deserve.” That happened to me once. I gave a few dollars to a homeless panhandler. He scoffed at my donation as if it was a pittance but was unwilling to return it when I asked for it back (laugh as you envision that encounter – both of us tugging at the bill, him winning the battle and running off with the loot). ‘That lazy, ungrateful smuck,’ I thought. ‘Who is he to mock my generous gift.’ But, alas, aren’t we often like this beggar when it comes to God’s gracious provision?

Jesus even told a parable that has implications about this problem. It’s called The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. Some workers felt they had been slighted when others received the same wages for doing less work. So they complained to the vineyard’s owner (God). And His response was a curt but profound, “…’Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity? So the last will be first, and the first last” (Matthew 20:13-16).

Are we grumblers and complainers? Do we look for an opportunity to express our discontent even when the cashier is saying “coupons” instead of “complaints?” I think we need to be reminded that God doesn’t take too kindly to the grumblings of those on whom He has lavished His matchless love (1 John 3:1) and, “…through His divine power has granted…all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence…” (2 Peter 1:3). James, in his typical direct and candid style, says it this way:  “Do not grumble…so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door” (James 5:9). And something tells me that, when we eventually stand before Him, the complaint department will be closed.

But doesn’t this magnify the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus? For His grace covers even the most (seemingly) benign transgressions and Christ’s blood is powerful enough to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:19). And doesn’t this compel us to be more cognizant and convicted of our complaining and grumbling attitudes? For if He has given us forgiveness of sins and relationship with Him, and nothing else, due to His mercy and not our merit, can we really ask for anything more?

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