I was a rookie school teacher, just a few weeks into my first job. I loved it! It was my first taste of having a career. I was making "real money" (it seemed a lot at the time). And I enjoyed being called "Mr. Hall" by my high school students. I was living the dream! But it didn't take long to figure out that my more experienced colleagues didn't feel the same way. In fact, many of them seemed to hate their job. Whether it was sitting around the lunch table or whispering during teachers meetings, it seemed all they did was complain - about their pay, about our principal, about the students, and so on. I finally worked up the nerve to say something to my mentor one day, "Is it just me, or does everyone at our school hate their job?" He just grumbled at me, "Give it a few years, kid. You'll be right there with us."
Fortunately, I didn't teach long before God called me into full-time ministry. So, I never reached the point where I hated my job! But I did learn something from that experience. I vowed to myself I would never become a "complainer." I never wanted to be the person that became negative and bitter. And I have tried to carry that same philosophy into ministry. I will admit I have not always succeeded. There have been times when I have felt sorry for myself and griped about this or that. But I hope and pray that (for the most part) I have stayed thankful and positive. I have given my wife permission to put me out of my misery if I ever become an old, curmudgeonly pastor that criticizes everything and everyone!
But this shouldn't only be a goal for pastors. According to Scripture, all Christians should strive to avoid complaining. The apostle Paul once told the Philippian believers to "do all things without complaining and disputing." (Phil 2:14) The Greek word translated as "complaining" in this verse specifically refers to criticism that takes place under the radar. (That's why the word is also translated as "murmuring.") The complainer usually doesn't have the guts to complain openly, so instead they go person-to-person and group-to-group making their displeasure known, sewing discord along the way. (It should be noted that voicing a legitimate concern in an appropriate fashion is NOT the same as complaining! Every organization, especially the church, should be open to hearing valid concerns.)
While complaining can make us temporarily feel better, and give us an outlet to vent our frustrations, Scripture tells us not to do it. In fact, Paul tells the Philippians that refraining from complaining will cause them to stand out as "children of God" and "lights in the world." In other words, NOT complaining is so unnatural to the world, that you will stand out when you DON'T do it! And when people ask why you don't join them in complaining about your job, or criticizing your boss, it may give you just the opportunity you've been looking for to share with them the joy and contentment of a relationship with Christ.
P.S. Pastors, if this is true for our people, how much more should it apply to us with our churches?
To listen to my full sermon on this topic, please click here.