The Cost of Complaining

The people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled. Numbers 11:1

There should be no place for grumbling in the Christian life.

That was a lesson that Israel learned the hard way (and learned slowly). After God freed them from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites received His law, were given His commands, and knew their destination. They eagerly set out to reach the promised land, but they hadn’t gone very far at all—barely around the first bend in the road—before they began to complain. They wanted meat to eat instead of manna, and they even wished they were back in Egypt (Numbers 11:4-6). Where once they had thought God’s daily provision of manna was a wonderful indication of His love for them, now they complained about having to eat the same old thing.

Grumbling seems to be a small thing, but it is a sign that gratitude is missing. Whenever unbelief and a lack of thankfulness mark the lives of God’s children, consequences are inevitable. We may not end up like the Israelites, who wandered in the desert for 40 years, but our own grumbling is not without a cost.

Do you remember when you first felt the excitement of your newfound faith? Maybe you bought your first copy of the New Testament and thought all you were discovering was fantastic. You read it everywhere. Then, perhaps, something happened along the journey; now it seems to be just “the same old Bible,” and you wish God would do something more dramatic, something better? Do you remember a time when sharing your faith seemed to be an exciting privilege—but now it feels like a burden and a duty? Do you remember a time when you were overflowing in gratitude for the cross—but now you find you focus more on the ways that God has not led you along the paths or to the places you would have preferred?

When the apostle Paul wrote to the early church, he reminded them of Israel’s story as a warning: “We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 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” (1 Corinthians 10:9-11).

If we have faith in Christ, we’ve been set free from slavery to sin—even our complaining! We’ve been liberated by a sacrifice: the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross. And we too have set out on a journey, not to Canaan but to heaven. In light of that, God has given us both wonderful promises and necessary warnings. Do not presume upon His provision or grumble about the route He leads you on, but instead be filled with gratitude for all He has provided materially and spiritually. The cross lies behind you, heaven lies before you, and the Spirit dwells within you. There is no need, or excuse, for grumbling.


Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, published by The Good Book Company. Used by Truth For Life with permission. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company.

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