Perhaps it is a symptom of months of restrictions and the 'powder keg' of social issues we have seen erupt, but it seems to me we live in a culture of complaint. There is so much negativity, so much criticism and bickering, it's almost depressing to watch the news anymore. Policticans are tearing each other down, special interest groups are demading their rights, and no matter what positive news comes along, somebody finds some reason to criticize or declare 'it doesn't go far enough'. And what is perhaps most troubling is how easy it is to get drawn into this almost toxic environment.
From a faith perspective, we who serve the Lord Jesus are called to live life on a higher plane. The Apostle Paul writing to the church in Philippi exhorts them: Do all you have to do without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be God’s children, blameless, sincere and wholesome, living in a warped and diseased world, and shining there like lights in a dark place. (Philippians 2:14 - J.B. Phillips translation) Eugene Peterson in The Message captures the last part of this text with a call to be a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God.
In a culture of complaint, we are called to be a people of gratitude. Yes, we recognize there are times when we must raise our voice to express constructive criticism of those things that do not align with the principles we hold to in the Word of God, and it is okay to be troubled by some of the things we see in our world today. But we must be careful not to get swept up in this 'complaining for the sake of complaining' mindset that seems to dominate our society.
Instead, we are commanded in the Bible to give thanks in all circumstances (I Thessalonians 5:13). Colossians 2:7 exorts us to be overflowing with thankfulness and a chapter later we are told to: Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
Over and over again, we are told to express our gratitude to our God. The psalmist invites us to give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100:4-5) When we pause and reflect on all the blessings we have experienced from the hand of God, our most natural response should be that of worship and thanksgiving.
As we move this week into the season of Lent and toward Easter Sunday, lets make this a time in which we consciously raise the bar as we choose to give thanks rather than complain, to offer encouragment rather than criticize and to lift up rather than tear down. May we be shining lights in the darkness of our day.