When I was in high school I was part of a group that held a bible study on our campus. Once a year we would do a lock-in where student would stay overnight in the building.
I remember in our final planning meeting out adult leader looked at us and said, “Hey guys, when it gets late, people can sometimes get edgy. So I want you to remember that Philippians 2:14 says, ‘do all things without grumbling or complaining.’ If you seem on edge at night, I might come by you and say, ‘hey man just 2:14 it.”
I wanted to tell him that if he said that to me at 2am, I might punch him in the face. He was a far bigger guy than me though, so I decided not to tell him that.
It is interesting how easy we can find ourselves fall into complaining mode.
It really was a shot to my childhood imagination when I realized that there was likely no real meal that was shared between pilgrims and Indians during the birth of the New World.
My elementary teachers were such liars.
But nonetheless, every year we are reminded of the value of thankfulness in our lives.
We don’t have a day called Complaints Day.
That day would pretty much be everyday for most of us.
We will finish dinner on Thursday discussing how we are thankful and then wake up at midnight to shop on Friday and complain about how someone cut in front of us in line.
We don’t need a special meal for that.
We complain about what we don’t have. We complain about the political atmosphere. We complain about the cold, or the heat, or the rain, or the drought. We complain that our kids don’t behave. We complain that we haven’t gotten the promotion. We complain.
It pretty much comes second nature to us.
I would like to say that as a Christian, I no longer complain. I would be just as much of a liar as those who told me there was a real Thanksgiving dinner.
So why would Paul waste his time telling people not to complain? Why would he risk being punched in the face?
Because grumbling robs us of the opportunity to be thankful.
What is interesting is that complaining and thanking are both contagious. The more I complain, the more I find to complain about; the more I give thanks, the more I find I am thankful for. Paul wanted to breed contagious gratitude because he knew the natural human inclination is grumbling.
Instead of complaining I want to challenge myself to focus on how my current circumstance enables me to be more thankful.
If I am sick, I gain more of an appreciation for what is to be healthy and I have an opportunity to be thankful for the service of others.
If I find myself wanting something, I gain the opportunity to have provision which I have no control over or I learn to appreciate what I have in new ways.
When I am alone or in conflict, I gain the opportunity to be more thankful for peace and the opportunity to seek peace.
The reality is, we don’t need to choose to complain. We do that with about as much thinking as it takes to blink or breath. But learning to be thankful is an art I a, not good at yet am trying to learn.
Maybe me day we can all celebrate a fictitious meal where a group of people got together and complained. We can take a day off work to focus on all the ways we want to complain, because we are too busy being thankful the rest of the time.