30 the grumblerIn previous devotions I’ve focused on Paul’s exhortations for believers in community to adopt the attitude of Jesus in humility and obedience. He then asserts that God is anxious to help produce in us the desire and ability to live out these traits in community. Paul’s purpose was to sustain a healthy, loving, and effective ministry in the church at Philippi. His words are inspired by God and addressed to us as well. Continuing in this line of thought Paul then instructs the Philippians and us in Philippians 2:14. He says, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.”

For the biblically literate this phrase conjures up the sad story of the Israelites in the wilderness. All they did was grumble, complain and argue with Moses. It’s not a pretty picture and leads to nothing good for anyone. The grumblings in the wilderness were against the leadership. It’s the same thing at Philippi. This is probably why the “elders and deacons” where singled out by Paul in his introduction. We will also see specific people named as the source of conflict in the church in chapter 4.

Critical, grumbling, complaining and arguing spirits have been the bane of every church from Philippi to Philadelphia, from Boston to Blair and everywhere else. If I read Paul correctly, this issue is not a minor issue. It’s a central theme found in many of his epistles. He wants the church families everywhere to live healthy, wholesome, humble and obedient lives, filled with joy. Kent Hughes observes that this problem of grumbling, questioning and complaining is “a watershed state of the soul. Those who persist in such murmuring are not obedient to Christ and his gospel and are rejecting the divine call to work out your own salvation.’ They impede their own souls and the souls of their brothers and sisters in this matter. They are undertows to the body of Christ. So if you are one of these people, understand that when you finally stand before your Savior, you will answer with shame.”