A few months ago, I had preached in one of our churches on Sunday morning and after the service was standing around talking to folks about the service and about their church. A lady who was in the circle of conversation apologetically said to me that she was sorry that she and her husband were late getting to the service. I had not thought anything about it and said that was fine and I was glad they got there. She said, “You probably saw us come in.” I said, “I did, but it didn’t bother me.” Obviously, it had bothered her.
Her husband, who was not there talking with us, had contributed to them being late so she wasn’t happy about that. The conversation moved on, except she said to me and the group that was there, “I’ve learned to pick my gripes.” She was indicating that the one she had just expressed needed to be released! She even indicated that she had narrowed her gripes down to about two or three a day. I doubt that, in any way, she is abnormal. She may be abnormal in choosing only two or three gripes a day, but it would do all of us good to stop and think about how much we do complain, gripe, and fuss about life. We would probably all do well to tamp down the complaints we have and learn to pick our gripes more carefully.
The Bible talks about complaining and griping. The word in Old English that comes up most often is the word, murmuring. In 1 Corinthians 10:10 the Bible says, “Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.” Talk about an example of you don’t need to go here, or sit around and murmur under your breath, fussing and complaining, griping about everything that comes up. Listen as the Apostle Paul writes to the church in Philippi and says, “Do all things without murmurings and disputings…” (Phil. 2:14). What a good word for every one of us. Maybe the goal is for us to get down not to two or three gripes. Zero would be a good place to be. Does that mean that we’re not to have opinions about things? No, not at all. Does that mean we can’t express ourselves to others? No, gripe all you want, I suppose, but I would point out two or three things that might be helpful to me and to you.
Many of you may know who Coach Lou Holtz is — the great old football coach who is now retired but still on television from time to time. He tells about his wife complaining about him smoking a pipe. This in no way is saying that it’s okay for people to smoke a pipe, but he in his twenties was given a pipe by his wife. For some special occasion in their life together, she gave him the gift of a fine pipe. He began to use it. As time went on, it became one of her gripes. She kept telling him that he needed to quit smoking the pipe. Finally, Lou Holtz told his wife, “You gave me the pipe. It’s one of the few vices I have.” Everybody has faults and failures and maybe a vice. He told her, “I do not cuss. I do not drink. I do not run around with other women. Now, you gave me the pipe. If you want to swap that vice out for one of these others, just let me know and we’ll try to work out some deal.” That was not what she was wanting to do, but he somewhat made his point though it may not have registered fully with her.
The other point that I would make is that if you are going to pick out one or two or three things to gripe about in other people, they may find twice that many to gripe about you. Everybody seems to have the gift of “gripy-ness” from time to time, so as you start expressing your complaints, murmuring, and gripes, just realize those actions may come back to bite you. Maybe a better thing to do is just to think about what we can do to change the way we look at things, the way we respond to things, the way we act and react to things, and the way we complain and gripe or not.
One of the essentials is the redeeming power of Christ to change our thought life. Philippians 2:5 says, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” What would happen if we think like Jesus? In Romans 12:2, Paul says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Instead of letting all those old thoughts reside and continue to fume and percolate, let your mind be renewed in Christ.
I have literally seen in people’s lives that transforming power of Christ bring new thinking and even His mind entering their being. Sometimes when we are moved to complain and gripe or when we’ve moved beyond that into bitterness and even anger, we’re far, far better off if instead we move toward “better-ness” rather than bitterness. For all of us, how much better off would we be and will we be if we don’t just pick our gripes but choose to pick up our gripes and dispose of them and do without them. God bless each of us to do so.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.