“Are we there yet?” The fateful question every father hates to hear. With the advent of all sorts of electronic gadgets, children of today do not ask it as often as it was by those of you in my generation. We passed the time on the interstate by looking for a certain color or make/model of automobile, spied something with our little eyes, or the preferred means of entertainment: fighting, fussing, and arguing with our siblings in the back seat. “If you don’t stop it, I am going to pull this car over (or turn this car around and go back home)” was not an idle threat my father issued when his patience was exhausted. Yes, I think all can identify with this scenario and many still endure such incidents periodically.
Do you recall the instruction that Joseph gave his brothers after telling them to return to Canaan and fetch Jacob to come and live in the land of Egypt and survive the famine? Genesis 45:24 gives the answer: “Then he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, “Do not quarrel on the way.” If you know the backstory you understand that the brothers would have reason to fuss and argue. They might grumble or complain about how certain ones treated Joseph and they had advised against it. They could disagree over the method Joseph had used in dealing with them and some would think it inappropriate, but others would see it as deserved retribution for their earlier deeds. The brothers did not need to have a “falling out” over such matters as certain translations reference—ASV, KJV, NKJV.
Despite these factors, Joseph wanted them to not delay, but go back home and return to Egypt with the entire family as soon as possible. Grumbling, complaining, and fussing would only serve to make the journey unpleasant and likely longer. Scripture does not inform if the brothers heeded the directive Joseph gave.
Unfortunately, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph made the mistake of grumbling and complaining after leaving Egypt some 400 years after this. Reading the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy will confirm this folly. Paul alludes to the same in the pointed language of 1 Corinthians 10:9-11: “We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.”
Fellow Christians, we are on a journey. The journey in this life will end with either our death or the return of our Savior, and we know not when either of those ends might occur. What guidance does God give us for ensuring our journey is successful and heaven in our final destination? Certainly, the New Testament provides everything we need to know and do (2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:3-11). One caution often overlooked is to avoid complaining, grumbling, and fussing.
The instruction in Philippians 2:14 is simple to grasp, but infrequently applied: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” How do we implement this command? One tried and true approach is to possess and demonstrate gratitude. Thus, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 demands that we “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Yet we Christians grumble our way through life. How much complaining and grumbling occur in the car or around the lunch table following Sunday morning worship? The song leader was off key, prayers offered were too short or too long, the sermon is always too long and boring, this child or something else caused a distraction, and on and on it goes. Instead, look for the things eliciting thankfulness. What if we remember a crying toddler means that his/her parents (guardian) want to train them in the ways of the Lord? The song leader singing a little off key is not a bother but should be lauded since he overcame his fear to try and lead in a public capacity. The preacher went a little longer than usual, but the fruit of his study was evident in the joy and passionate way he declared the counsel of God. Seeing those return to worship who were previously sick or struggling, watching fellowship among Christian siblings, and most of all being allowed to be in the presence of the Holy God ought to cause us to rejoice and not grumble or complain.
This same methodology can be employed in the mundane affairs of everyday life. Looking for a positive element in every situation will enable us to avoid grumbling and complaining. A positive attitude characterized by joy, felicity, and gratitude is much more attractive than a dour and sour mood. “Don’t grumble on the way” is wise counsel to follow on a long road trip, but it needs to be heeded every day in this journey through life and ending in eternity!