NATURE’S murmuring sounds are a pleasure to hear. The gentle breezes that murmur through the leaves of the trees are such a delight that they cause poets and composers to write sonnets and melodies. Pleasant also are the murmurings of brooks as they wend their way through forest and meadow.
The same, however, cannot be said of the murmuring done by the human tongue. It is far from pleasant and delightful to hear. Webster defines it as “a low muttered complaint or repining; grumbling.” Note that it is something muttered low; it is not something expressed openly and outspokenly. Apparently the one who murmurs has doubts, either consciously or unconsciously, as to the wisdom of his murmuring if not also of his grounds and motives for it.
Today we hear murmuring on every hand: children murmur against their parents; wives murmur against their husbands; employees murmur against their employers, and untold numbers murmur against what God permits, blaming him for the evil in the world. Why? Are there not others similarly situated that do not murmur? Undoubtedly!
There is never any sound reason for murmuring. It is unwise, to say the least. It makes the murmurer more unhappy and annoys others, if not also infecting them with the spirit of murmuring. It often leads to resentment and to taking a foolish course. One who murmurs may be said to be lacking in love for God and his neighbor, if not also in love for himself.
Those who murmur against God show a lack of love for him, for if we love someone we will trust that one and so will not murmur against him. That was the trouble with the Israelites. No sooner were they delivered at the Red Sea than they began to murmur about food and drink. Was there any danger of any of them perishing of hunger and thirst? Not at all. Later when the ten faithless spies brought back an unfavorable report, saying they could not take the land to which they were going, again they murmured. Had not God performed many miracles for them by this time? Could he not also take care of any enemies they would meet, since he was able to defeat the might of Egypt? Had he not promised to bring them into a land flowing with milk and honey? Yes. But because of lack of love there was a lack of faith and trust, and so they murmured.—Ex. 16:7, 8; Num. 13:25–14:29.
Those who today murmur because of what God permits show a like lack of love, of faith and trust in God. Are we not daily recipients of God’s goodness? Do we not see on every hand proof of his wisdom and power? Could we not reason, therefore, that he must have some good reasons for permitting conditions that vex us? Surely! Not only has he such good reasons but he has caused them to be recorded in his Word, the Bible. A study of that Word, with the aids he has providentially provided, will help you to appreciate his reasons, the chief of which is the vindication of his sovereignty.
Then again, murmuring may be due to lack of neighbor love. “Love covers a multitude of sins,” but the murmurer cannot cover over the shortcomings of others or make allowances for them and so he murmurs. The murmurer sets himself up as judge and murmurs because others do not measure up to his own personal standard, entirely overlooking that ‘each one stands or falls to his own master’ and that he himself also comes short.—1 Pet. 4:8; Rom. 14:4.
This lack of love at times manifests itself in envious murmuring. That is what caused Korah, Dathan and Abiram to murmur against God’s chosen spokesmen, Moses and Aaron. These murmurers, because of lack of love, entirely overlooked the fact that God himself had appointed Moses and Aaron to lead the people in the first place, as well as the fact that not all can lead but some must of necessity follow.—Num. 16:1-40.
This very same spirit was manifested by some in the parable Jesus gave of the workers in the vineyard. As you remember, all received the same pay at the end of the day, although working for various numbers of hours. Those who had worked the full day murmured because the others received the same as they, although they were receiving what they had bargained for. To those murmurers the master of the vineyard said: “Is it not lawful for me to do what I want with my own things? Or is your eye wicked because I am good?” Yes, lack of love of neighbor led them to envious murmuring.—Matt. 20:1-15.
Murmuring may not only be due to lack of love for God and neighbor; it may also be due to lack of love for oneself. Repining, as was noted, is also a form of murmuring. Persons who do not have sufficient self-love will keep repining, blaming themselves, murmuring against themselves, and make themselves miserable as well as those about them. Or, being frustrated with themselves, they vent their ill will upon others, by murmuring against them. The fact that we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves shows that we do need a certain amount of self-love. We should not, therefore, expect too much of ourselves but take a reasonable view of our failings and accomplishments.
The one who is tempted to murmur should ask himself: Am I lacking in love for God, for my neighbor or for myself? Would God permit the conditions that vex me if something good was not to be gained from them? Am I lacking in appreciation of the benefits I do receive from those against whom I murmur? Have I tried to reason kindly and calmly with the one against whom I am tempted to murmur? If nothing can be done about conditions, what am I benefited by murmuring? Am I too severe with myself?
In particular should all those dedicated Christians in the New World society examine themselves when tempted to murmur. Jehovah was leading his organization before we ever became a part of it; so let us humbly put our faith and trust in him and in the instruments he has chosen to act as overseers in various capacities. If conditions really do need correcting, have patience and faith that God will correct them in his due time. In the meantime, do not make yourself and others unhappy by murmuring. Yes, why murmur?