Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. Philippians 2:14-15 (ESV)
Wow, have I ever really read this verse before? OK, I admit that I am a grumbler and God has been putting his finger on things in my heart, but this really stunned me as I read it this time.
Is Paul really saying that I can’t be a blameless and innocent child of God, without blemish, that I can’t be a light in this dark world, if I don’t do everything without grumbling or disputing? Other translations say “complaining or arguing” (NLT) or “murmuring or questioning [the providence of God]” (Amplified). That last translation really hits the nail on the head.
The Greek word translated “grumbling” is goggusmos (γογγυσμός). It means “a murmur, murmuring, muttering.” it is applied to a secret debate in John 7:12. It means “secret displeasure, not openly avowed.” It comes from goggýzō which means “to murmur, grumble; to show “smoldering discontent.” i
The Greek word translated “disputing” (dialogismós) comes from a Greek word which means “’back-and-forth reasoning’ – reasoning that is self-based and therefore confused.”
Apparently there is a connection between secret grumbling and not obeying God. The psalmist writes of the Israelites in the desert, “They grumbled in their tents and did not obey the Lord.” (Psalm 106:25)
Dialogismós is “’the thinking of a man deliberating with himself,’ inward reasoning, the reasoning of those who think themselves to be wise, an opinion, a deliberating, questioning, about what is true, hesitation, doubting, the intellectual rebellion against God.”
“An intellectual rebellion against God.” Wow, that strikes to the heart. Either I believe what his word says, or I don’t. And no matter how much I try to cover it over and pretend that I believe and that I am light in this struggling world, the secret debate, the smoldering discontent, and questioning of God’s providence comes out. And the thing is, it negatively affects those around me. For Jesus said:
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45 (ESV)
Grumbling and complaining is something that we often give ourselves a pass on. But it’s like calling someone an idiot in traffic. That seems fairly innocent, but Jesus says that it will put me in danger of hell (Matthew 5:22). What comes out of our mouths matters.*
The whole world is stuck in the muck of smoldering discontent and self-based, confused reasoning. How can I be a shining light if I am, even secretly, doing the same thing? I think we all have doubts and fears at times – the secret debate. But what we need to do is make a decision to take a stand on the Rock who is our strength and salvation and refuge,ii persevering. I know I do. I need to seek out what the Word says and believe it and cling to it no matter what. I need to surrender to His will for my life. I need his grace and help (and he will do it, and he is doing it!) to let the Word be in me “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 ESV)
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. Isaiah 26: 3-4 (ESV)
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. Habakkuk 3:17-18
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (ESV)
*Wow! Just as I was writing this blog, this excellent blog came into my email Slow to speak-words matter
God is good. All the time.
i All quoted definitions from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, and Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon at https://biblehub.com/
ii Psalm 62:7, 89:26
Image copyright by Jack Bair