“Do all things without grumbling or disputing;” Philippians 2:14
Did you ever consider the strategy that Satan employed in the first temptation and sin? Oh sure, there was the lure of how delicious the forbidden fruit looked, there was the attraction of knowledge like God’s; but what made this mixture of temptation so potent was Satan’s deliberate stirring-up of discontent and negativity — God just doesn’t want you to be like Him. That seems to have clinched it for Eve! And things tumbled downhill rapidly after that — and have continued to tumble ever since. Negative attitudes are destructive.
Negative attitudes sometimes come in the form of discontent or complaint about how things are — or how we’re afraid their going to be. Sometimes it comes in the form of the kind of judgment that the Bible condemns (Matt. 7:1,2), that is, gratuitous criticism about everyone and everything — when a person can’t find a good thing to say about anything. Sometimes it comes in the form of rebellion against authority (e.g., Israel against Moses and Aaron — Numbers 17:10). And sometimes it comes in the form of lack of faith in God Himself — “Does God hear us? Will God protect us? This will never happen!”
And these various forms of negativity are everywhere — far more so than we often realize. I saw a humorous video online recently entitled “Shockingly Negative” about a so-called “Complaint Zapper” that sort of brought this truth home with the implied question, “What if we had one of those zapping dog collars that zapped us every time we said something negative?” Ouch! Not only did it look painful, but it was painful to my conscience about how negative we can sometimes be.
And a negative attitude has such negative results! While Israel was wandering in the wilderness, complaint and grumbling were their regular downfalls. “We don’t have enough water. We don’t have enough food. We don’t like this food. We wish we were back in Egypt with our cucumbers and leeks. We think we’re wandering in circles. Who made you leaders, anyway? The Canaanites are too big and strong for us to defeat!” And because of their complaining, they wandered 40 years in the wilderness, the original generation who came out of Egypt died in the wilderness, Korah and other leaders of Israel were swallowed up by the earth, many died by plague, many others died by serpent bites, Aaron and Miriam died in the wilderness, and Moses never made it to the promised land. And in our day it can sour marriages, warp our kids, ruin our relationships, suck the joy right out of life, doom good works to failure, and tear down the church.
Negativity discourages others around us; it’s contagious and it tends to such the oxygen out of a room of encouragement and faith. It encourages others to be discontent and to complain. Sometimes it only takes one grumbler to kill a spirit of faith and progress. Furthermore, it discourages leaders. Consider the burden of Moses as he tried to lead Israel out of Egypt and across the wilderness, leadership amidst the constant stream of complaint and grumbling. In fact, it was out of frustration with Israel’s grumbling that Moses struck the rock for water (instead of speaking to it as God had commanded) and was barred from the Promised Land. And lastly, negativity has the tendency to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I think I can’t, if we think we can’t, we’re already 99% defeated!
Let’s stay on the sunny side of life and faith — it will benefit us for the here and now and the hereafter!