It has been said that grumbling and complaining is the worship of hell. Complaining magnifies a spirit of ingratitude, division, and discord, and brings about an atmosphere of negativity and dissatisfaction.
God was particularly displeased with His sons and daughters when, after their deliverance from slavery in Egypt and the way He cared for their needs, they continued to doubt Him. Numbers 11 illustrates this: “Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord.”
It is interesting how scripture phrases this (looking at formal translations of the Bible): “Now the people became like those who complain-” There’s an implication that they shed their own identity and took on something dark and gruesome.
Perhaps you can identify with God in this passage, when your own kids complain after you have poured out your heart for their well-being, made all kinds of sacrifices and concessions. You can just feel yourself bristling in disbelief at their ungrateful outlook. How little they esteem all your labors of love!
Notice the response God has to the grumbling of His people: “And when the Lord heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.”
It is important to remember that God’s anger – His fearsome wrath – is a reaction of His holiness. His people received the tender care and unprecedented companionship of the Creator of the universe. Their response of ingratitude and doubt in His goodness was no small sin. There was a reaction in the natural world (fire) that was the holy wrath of Heaven.
And what were they complaining about? Adversity. When I consider how rich my life is – and how easily I can grumble over the smallest adversity – it strikes me as outrageous that I could ever complain about anything at all.
Proverbs 18:21 says that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” When we give ungodly voice to our dissatisfaction with a person or with a situation, no matter how “trivial,” it is actually speaking a cloud of death into the atmosphere. Yet a quick check in our spirits and a resolve to focus on all the blessings we enjoy – consciously thanking God for all that we have – brings fullness of life back over us.