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Christian Counseling - Grumbling, Complaining and Murmuring

Anyone who has attempted to gain a deeper understand of the Bible's message about grumbling, complaining and murmuring is, at first, confused. As most all biblical issues, it is not a simple and easy thing to grasp. It is impossible to determine its meaning from a single verse. To further complicate the issue, there are numerous Hebrew and Greek words for this behavior.

For example, 1 Corinthians 10:10 (NASB) says, "Nor grumble, as some of them did [Hebrews in the wilderness], and were destroyed by the destroyer." If we took it at face value without any question or searching, we would think no one should ever say a cross word to anyone about anything. It would mean we should not criticize others, hold them accountable, or challenge or question them. This would leave us suppressing all our negative thoughts and feelings and omitting any critical word from our prayers. But scripture says God encouraged Jonah to talk about his being angry with Him for offering salvation to the Ninevites and David in Psalm 109 not only complains, but seeks God's vengeance for a friend's offence. We also find Habakkuk questioning God's actions and Jeremiah complaining about the Jews and about God for deceiving him. So what is the truth about grumbling, complaining and murmuring?

I can tell you what I believe. Understanding the Hebrew and Greek definitions of those three words strongly suggest there is a difference between right and wrong complaining. It seems it is not just about the words we choose, but the motive of the heart and the attitude we take when complaining. The wrong use of complaining seems to center around one or more of these evil things:

1. A malicious intent on harming or destroying someone.
2. Distorting truth for one's own purpose.
3. Disbelief.
4. Angry blaming.
5. Spreading doubt or strife.  
6. "Being" a complainer - having a personality characteristic of perpetually complaining.

God will never reject or chastise us for our questions, complaints or grumblings, if we have a heart that is seeking the truth, open to new ideas and avoiding evil in all its varied forms. Since He knows what is already in us, we must speak the truth to Him and be willing to confront those who offend us.

Here are a few of the verses from which I formed my conclusions: Exodus 15:24; Numbers 14:2; Deuteronomy 1:27; Psalm 55:17; 109; Jeremiah 20:7; Habakkuk 1:1-17; Mark 14:5; Luke 5:30; John 6:4; 7:32; Acts 6:1; 1 Corinthians 10:10; and James 5:9. 

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