I know what you’re thinking, Christians would never complain, right? I mean, the New Testament teaches us to love each other (John 13:34-35), to be content (Philippians 4:11), and to shine the light of God into the world (Matthew 5:16). And what does a Christian really have to complain about anyway? We’ve been redeemed of our sins by a God who loves us beyond measure, who cares for us, watches over us, provides for us, and has prepared an eternal home to one day deliver us (John 3:16). What could possibly happen in our lives that would cause us to lose sight of all of that and resort to complaining.
Sadly everything I just wrote is pure idealism. We live in the real world and in the real world complaining has existed among God’s people as long as Christianity has been around. In Acts 6 there was a situation that arose shortly after the church was established that lead to some of the local Christians complaining.
“Now in these days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a murmuring of the Grecian Jews against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. And the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not fit that we should forsake the word of God, and serve tables. Look ye out therefore, brethren, from among you seven men of good report, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will continue stedfastly in prayer, and in the ministry of the word. And the saying please the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolous a proselyte of Antioch; whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands upon them” (vs. 1-6).
In this text we can learn a few things that should lead us to ask 3 questions before we, as Christians, should ever complain about anything:
Is the complaint legitimate? In this case, the Grecian Jews had a legitimate complaint. When widows had no other family to which they could turn the New Testament entrusted their care to the church (1 Timothy 5:1ff; James 1:27). If these widows were actually being neglected then those Christians had every right to address that neglect so it could be fixed. There are a lot of things that come up in our lives that are legitimate causes for concern. I think, though, if we were honest and objective with ourselves we would admit that many of the complaints we have in life prove to be less than legitimate. They may come in the form of personality differences, personal preferences, difference in judgments, etc. So the first thing we need to decide is whether or not our complaint is legitimate. If it isn’t it would probably be better if we keep it to ourselves.
Have I issued the complaint in a proper way? I’m not really sure if we can say the Grecian Jews did or not. The way Acts 6 says they issued their complaint is kind of ambiguous. Did they complain among themselves until the apostles finally heard about it and chose to address it or did they go directly to the Hebrews and offer their grievance? The verse doesn’t seem to be clear either way. But there is a right way and a wrong way to address a complaint. Paul condemned the idea of there being strife, jealousy, wraths, factions, backbitings, whisperings, swelling, and tumults among God’s people (2 Corinthians 12:20). But on the other hand Jesus taught that if a person has an issue with someone they were to go to them (Matthew 5:23-24; 18:15). So if I have a complaint and it is legitimate my next step should be to make sure that I issue that complaint in a proper way.
What am I doing to be a solution? Every complaint has a solution. The problem with constant complainers if that they assume that fixing the problem should always be somebody else’s problem. In Acts 6 we don’t really know how involved the actual complainers were as far as being any of the seven men chosen, but they apparently were at least involved in the process of choosing them and they wholeheartedly supported the solution. As far as we know from the text the widows received their care, the complainers were satisfied, the complaints ceased, and the unity of the church was never compromised. Could you imagine how much healthier the church would be if every complainer’s first instinct was to be a solution to the problem? Simply put, if I’m not willing to be a solution to my complaint then I need to just keep my mouth shut.
There are few things more distasteful in life than constant complaining. But, realistically, there are some legitimate concerns that arise every now and then even among Christians. When those times come we need to check our attitudes and ask ourselves these questions to ensure that our motives are pure and a solution can be found.