Are You Resisting the Spirit of Discontent?
MURMURING in the spirit of complaint is early brought to our attention in the Holy Scriptures. (Exodus 15:24) Today murmuring of this type is all around us and is swelling to a veritable roar. It threatens to engulf everyone, for it exerts a strong influence. The spirit behind it often finds expression in complaint, perhaps in a low murmuring tone, a muttering in discontent or dissatisfaction. Such murmuring must be resisted by true Christians. But how can we resist the spirit of discontent?
How It Began
There are legitimate reasons not to be contented with some circumstances. Understandably, “the cry of complaint about Sodom and Gomorrah” became loud because of the wickedness of their inhabitants. (Genesis 18:20, 21) But unwarranted complaint and murmuring are rooted in discontent. And the original promoter of the spirit of discontent was Satan the Devil, “who is misleading the entire inhabited earth.” (Revelation 12:9) In the garden of Eden he brought about a situation designed to produce discontent, first in Eve and then in Adam. (Genesis 3:1-7) Ever since that time, Satan has been successful in producing situations that promote discontent.
Centuries after the revolt in Eden, Jehovah made a name for himself by delivering the Israelites from Egypt and organizing them into a nation. (Exodus 9:16) Were they grateful to their Deliverer? Why, during their 40 years in the wilderness, they repeatedly murmured against Jehovah, either directly or indirectly by finding fault with Moses and Aaron! In one case, Jehovah asked: “How long will this evil assembly have this murmuring that they are carrying on against me?” (Numbers 14:26, 27; Exodus 16:2, 7) The spirit of discontent persisted in ancient Israel all through its history.—Ezekiel 18:25.
Complaining About One’s Lot in Life
Of course, because of being imperfect, a person could improperly let his circumstances become a cause of complaint. The righteous man Job was so unhappy about his terrible experiences that he called down evil on the day of his birth. (Job 3:1-3) Can professing Christians become discontented with their lot in life? Yes, they can, and some have.
Referring to “ungodly men” who had slipped into the first-century Christian congregation, the disciple Jude wrote: “These men are murmurers, complainers about their lot in life, proceeding according to their own [degraded, immoral] desires, and their mouths speak swelling things, while they are admiring personalities for the sake of their own benefit.” (Jude 3, 4, 16) To remain faithful as Christians, we must shun such complainers. And how much better it is to count our many blessings as Jehovah’s servants, thus maintaining a spirit that has divine approval!—Galatians 6:18.
Against Brothers or Associates
Servants of Jehovah should desire to maintain a loving, cooperative attitude toward one another. Yet, murmuring can be detrimental to good relations with others. The Levite Korah and his company murmured against Moses and Aaron and manifested a spirit of envy. Because Jehovah was greatly displeased with this, the murmurers met death.—Numbers, chapter 16.
Centuries later, the apostle John mentioned position-hungry Diotrephes, who was ‘chattering about him with wicked words.’ If John was able to come to that congregation, he intended to give that murmurer suitable attention.—3 John 9, 10.
We therefore need to guard against being discontented, murmuring about our privileges within the congregation. For instance, we will do well to curb feelings of discontent over someone else’s appointment to care for certain responsibilities for which we consider ourselves better suited. We may be wrong, and surely we do not want to have a spirit like that of Korah or Diotrephes.
Seek Bible Remedies
All of us, being imperfect and living in stressful times, no doubt occasionally have feelings of discontent. But we do have needed aid, for the Scriptures show us how to overcome the spirit of discontent and the tendency to complain.
A basic point to acknowledge is that murmuring is not approved by Jehovah, as it betrays lack of faith and lack of love of God. Thus the apostle Paul warned: “Neither be murmurers, just as some of them [the Israelites in the wilderness] murmured, only to perish by the destroyer.” (1 Corinthians 10:10; Numbers 14:35-38) Paul also wrote: “Keep doing all things free from murmurings and arguments.” (Philippians 2:14) Actually, how can a person be whole-souled in serving “the happy God” and yet be a chronic complainer? (1 Timothy 1:11) So we need to adopt Jehovah’s view of matters and exercise implicit confidence in his ability to make us contented and happy. Remember that the fruitage of his spirit includes joy.—Galatians 5:22, 23.
In resisting the spirit of discontent, it is helpful to realize that in this life there is constant change. Hence, any cause for complaint is strictly temporary. (Compare 2 Corinthians 4:17.) An awareness of this should help us to find joy in serving Jehovah at all times. Rather than yielding to anxiety or discontent, “having sustenance and covering,” let us “be content with these things.” (1 Timothy 6:8) It is heartwarming to note that Jehovah assures us: “I will by no means leave you nor by any means forsake you.” Safe and secure in our heavenly Father’s care, therefore, let us not complain about our lot in life, but may we be “content with the present things.”—Hebrews 13:5.
Remember Our Blessed Position
Do you sometimes feel discontented about what you have accomplished in your life? If so, reflect on your former status and your present favored position in the spiritual paradise enjoyed by true Christians. (Compare 2 Corinthians 12:1-4.) Anointed followers of Christ have been ‘called out of darkness into God’s wonderful light.’ Their associates, the “great crowd,” are also enjoying the marvelous light of truth and have grand prospects before them. (1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 7:9-14) Should we not be contented—in fact, supremely happy—that we enjoy spiritual light and are privileged to know and serve Jehovah God and our King, Jesus Christ?
We are part of an international association of brothers and sisters, a great publicity organization that Jesus Christ is directing through “the faithful and discreet slave.” This worldwide brotherhood is accomplishing Jehovah’s will in preaching the good news of the Kingdom and in making disciples. (Matthew 24:14, 45-47; 28:19, 20; 1 Peter 2:17) What grand reasons for contentment!
If we personally are not contented with some aspect of congregational function, however, it may well be that we have misunderstood certain developments or are somewhat wrong in our viewpoint—something that surely is not impossible among imperfect humans and even dedicated Christians. (Compare Proverbs 16:2; Galatians 2:11-14; Philippians 4:2.) On the other hand, if we are right, should we not have confidence that Jehovah can bring about any needed adjustments, doing so through his Son, the Head of the congregation? (Ephesians 5:22, 23) How much better to be patient rather than discontented!
When we meditate on Jehovah’s dealings with his people as an organization, we have sound reasons to be content. For instance, Bible doctrines have been made very clear, and this has upbuilt Jehovah’s people spiritually. God’s viewpoint on clean conduct has been clarified, so that Jehovah’s Witnesses, although not perfect, are of outstanding morality. Our understanding of how the true Christian organization should function has improved to the extent that we are serving Jehovah in harmony with Scriptural directions for congregational organization. (Philippians 1:1) Should this not add to our contentment as dedicated Christians?
Faithful Christians also have a glorious hope for the future, one that should enable us to overcome any temporary lack of complete contentment. Now so near is the time when every living thing will be praising Jehovah! (Psalm 150) Meanwhile, let us not give place to murmuring. Rather, may we serve our loving heavenly Father with godly contentment.