Yesterday I wrote about the hardest command in the Bible. “Do everything without complaining or arguing.” Today I want to make it a little easier to actually follow this command. I do that by shrinking the size of the command.
The word ‘complaining’ here is not a generic word for complaining in the way we use it in English. It is the Greek word ‘gongoosmos.’ This is an onomatopoeiac word.
I know, that cleared it up for you, didn’t it?
What that long word my spell checker doesn’t understand means, is gongoosmos is defined as what it sounds like. Some other examples of this are the words BAM and POW. What do they mean? Bam means, well, bam. Pow means pow. Both of them are exclamations indicating a loud noise. They mean what they sound like. Gongoosmos is the same.
Try this: say the word gongoosmos to yourself quietly a few times in a row. What does it sound like? It probably sounds like some kind of whispered murmur. That is what Paul, the guy who wrote Philippians 2:14, meant by complaining. We are commanded not to murmur and whisper about people.
I am American. I was born in Florida, lived in Kentucky and grew up in Tennessee. In the States, people love to complain. They think it is actually connected to good financial stewardship. For example, if I go to a restaurant and they bring me a terrible steak that tastes like leather and feels like boot, then I should complain about it. The restaurant may give me my money back and I have a few bites of free food. Good stewardship, right? That kind of complaining is not wrong. Annoying maybe, but not wrong.
What we are commanded to avoid are the whispers of complaint about someone else. We are commanded to stop murmuring our discontent about people we do not like or support. This kind of complaining is the opposite of what we are commanded to do in Romans 12:10:
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour.
Strangely, if I complain to the restaurant about my food, I am actually honouring them. I believe they didn’t intend to bring me bad food and there must be some mistake. I complain because I believe they have enough integrity to make it right. Dealing with problems face-to-face and openly confronting mistakes is a way of honouring someone.
Murmuring under your breath or behind their back is not honouring them. It is undermining them. It is devaluing that person by accusing them without ever letting them answer.
Don’t undermine and devalue people. Honour them by praising them for what is good and confronting what they can correct.