“...nor complain as some of them also complained and were destroyed…” 1 Cor. 10:10
Some godly people in the Bible brought their complaints to the Lord. “Why do You cast me off,” complained the Psalmist (Psalm 43:2). “How long shall I cry and You will not hear.” complained the prophet Habakkuk (Habakkuk 1:2). God heard these godly people and responded to their complaints with gracious answers. But in 1 Corinthians 10:10 we read, “Nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer.” What was different about the complaints mentioned by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians and the complaints of the Psalmist and the prophet? When does complaining become a sin?
When godly people brought their complaints to the Lord they did so with a heart of respect and in faith. They still believed in the Lord...they just didn’t understand what He was doing. But when complaints become accusatory towards the Lord our complaints become sin.
The complaining mentioned in 1 Corinthians 10 was done by the Israelites as they traveled through the wilderness heading back to the Promised Land. Let’s review the record of scripture.
In Exodus 14 we read how the Israelites were eyewitnesses to God’s power and deliverance when He miraculously parted the Red Sea, allowed them to cross over on dry ground and then drown Pharaoh’s army when they attempted to follow. Three days after this miraculous intervention in their lives they come to the bitter waters of Marah and “complained against Moses” (Exodus 15:22-24). A few verses later we read, “The whole congregation...complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness...Oh that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt” (Ex. 16:2-3), causing Moses to give the following commentary on their harsh words, “Your complaints are not against us but against the Lord” (Exodus 16:8). Later, they are back at it again. “The people contended with Moses...so Moses said to them, ‘Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the Lord?’’” (Exodus 17:2) Then, the true condition of their hearts was exposed when they said, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Ex. 17:7)
The scripture tells us there was a day when the prophet Jeremiah slipped into this same cynical and accusatory tone. In his dejection over the condition of the nation of Israel and all his hardships as a prophet he said to the Lord, “Why is my pain perpetual and my wound incurable...will You surely be to me like an unreliable stream, as waters that fail?” (Jer. 15:18) The word “fail” literally means “cannot be trusted.” The prophet accuses God of being unreliable and untrustworthy. God’s response to Jeremiah was, “If you return then I will bring you back.” In other words, Jeremiah could either repent of doubting God’s love and wisdom or be dismissed from his prophetic office. His complaining had become sin.
So complaining can be a serious sin. When we look at 1 Corinthians 10:10 in context we see that Israel’s sin of complaining against the Lord is listed with the sins of lust, idolatry, sexual immorality, and tempting Christ (vs. 6-10) All of which caused God to not be pleased with them and causing their bodies to be scattered in the wilderness (vs. 5).
The antidote to complaining is gratefulness. In light of what God has done for us in Christ we should be extremely grateful.
Lord, make us a grateful people. Deliver us from a complaining spirit!