By Curtis K. Shelburne: Religion columnist
Grumbling is risky business.
Of course, like any temptation, it feels good at the moment we fall to it. The act of grumbling stokes the fires of our sinful pride. It also stokes the fires of hell — the one hereafter and the one we may be creating here and now.
Aside from the fact that we’re flirting with spiritual suicide when we play with this powerful poison, grumbling feels good to us because grumbling is by its nature a complaint against “The Management.” It implies a superiority of intelligence or dedication or proficiency over a group or person — be it a boss or governing body or organization or business or colleague or coworker or family member, or . . . whether he says it or not, and he probably does, the grumbler is loudly implying, “Why, if I was in charge, things would be better. What’s wrong with these idiots? Can’t they see . . .”
Grumbling’s poisonous and seductive appeal is heightened because it is so easy to do and, at the same time, requires no positive action at all. When we grumble, we don’t have to bestir ourselves to do, well, anything but grumble. And, in fact, as we allow ourselves to enjoy the presently sweet poison of grumbling, the last thing we want is for the situation or people we’re grumbling against to improve lest we, at least theoretically, have to quit grumbling.
And grumbling snowballs — not only in our own hearts as we fall to its seduction more and more often, but also in our society with others. Habitual and dedicated grumblers always attract a following because everyone enjoys the poisonous pleasure grumbling affords. We all like to feel superior to those in authority. We all like to complain and take no responsibility for doing anything constructive.
I’m at least as prone to grumbling as anyone, so I need to say it again — grumbling is risky business.
If we grumble often and long enough, we so twist, contort and poison our souls that pretty much all that is left in us is a slimy, stinky, malignant grumble where once resided a warm human heart.
Because he loves us, God hates grumbling. Evidence abounds, but stark testimony is found in Numbers 21. After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites are fed up. Among other things, they’re fed up with manna. They’re tired of the “miserable food” they eat each morning. They’ve become finicky eaters complaining against the cook. I mean, The cook, and his staff.
As punishment and as a way to save others from the infection, God wipes out a big bunch of grumblers.
When I catch myself grumbling, I need to heed the warning: Danger: Grumbling is very risky business. It easily spreads to all parts of our lives, and in the final analysis, “The Management” we grumble against is God.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at