The Sin of Murmuring

by Gene Taylor

"So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, 'If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?'" (Num. 14:1–3)

In the above text the Israelites murmured against their gracious and loving God. Needless to say, their murmurings displeased Him.

Sadly, many Christians are murmurers and complainers. In the home, on the job and in the local church they grumble, murmur and complain. They can see nothing good. To them, everything is bad -- their life is miserable and they want to make it that way for everyone else.

To murmur means to grumble or whine. It is not wrong to complain if correction is needed, but there should be no murmuring.

The Grecian widows in Acts 6:1–5 had a just complaint. They were being neglected in the daily ministration. It was in order for them to complain but not to murmur.

In relation to the local church, if you have a just complaint about services, the temperature of the building, the singing, the song leader, the elders, the preacher, Bible classes, etc., a complaint is in order. But if it is not corrected as you would have it, do not murmur. Such murmuring is wrong.

There are several examples of the sin of murmuring in the New Testament, like the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matt. 20:1–16). They murmured because they had worked all day while others who had worked for a much shorter period received the same wages. They had received their just due but they still murmured.

The scribes and Pharisees murmured against the disciples of Jesus because they ate and drank with publicans and sinners but they were really striking out at Jesus (Luke 5:29–32). They did not care that the publicans and sinners needed Jesus. They were only concerned with their personal agenda.

The Jews murmured about Jesus because He said He was the bread of life (John 6:41). Instead of investigating His claim in an effort to know the truth, they murmured.

If we were to summarize the general tone of these examples it would be fair to conclude that when the behavior of Jesus was not according to what they thought it should be, they murmured.

There is not a single one of us who appreciates murmurers. When another person engages in this sin, we see its ugly quality. Trust me, it does not look any better in us.

Make no mistake, murmuring is sin. "Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world" (Phil. 2:14-15). "Be hospitable to one another without grumbling" (1 Pet. 4:9). It causes one to perish (1 Cor. 10:10).

Sadly, murmuring is one of the most prevalent sins among some brethren. Those who would never think of committing adultery or murder are guilty of this sin. Some who have the highest morals, adhere most closely to doctrine and are most liberal in their giving negate all the good things they do by whining.

Discontent causes murmuring. Christians are taught to be content with necessities (1 Tim. 6:7–8); what they have (Heb. 13:5); their lot (Phil. 4:11); and God's way (Luke 5:5).

Selfishness is the second cause of murmuring (Phil. 2:4; Rom. 15:2). Selfish people want their way and do not like it one bit if they do not get it, therefore, they murmur.

Being discontent and selfish, one murmurs and whines and thus sins bringing condemnation to himself. Another product of his actions, though, is division among God's people for that is what the murmurer is trying to do -- get people to become sympathetic to his point of view and antagonistic toward the other point of view. The Proverbist tells us that one of the seven things God hates is "one who sows discord among brethren" (Prov. 6:19).

Let us not murmur. Rather, let us be content in life. Let us be happy and "rejoice always in the Lord" (Phil. 4:4). Let us be thankful for our blessings and be characterized by a spirit of gratitude (1 Tim. 2:1).

Let us never be selfish. Let us always regard others better than self and look out for the interests of others (Phil. 2:3–4). Let us follow the things which make for peace and let all things be done unto edifying (Rom. 14:19; 1 Cor. 14:26).

"Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you" (Eph. 4:31–32).