The Bible’s Teaching about Complaints

complaintTITLE: The Bible’s Teaching about Complaints

SUBJECT: Attitudes

PROPOSITION: The Bible speaks of complaints that are unwarranted, but also of complaints that are warranted or righteous. We will look at these two areas and then examine some of the results of both warranted and unwarranted complaints.

OBJECTIVE: Each should understand the difference between righteous and unrighteous complaints and their results.

AIM: To help us understand how to handle complaints and the proper role of repentance in complaints.


1. Read: Jeremiah 31:18-20 “I have heard Ephraim grieving, ‘You have disciplined me, and I was disciplined, like an untrained calf; bring me back that I may be restored, for you are the LORD my God. For after I had turned away, I relented, and after I was instructed, I slapped my thigh; I was ashamed, and I was confounded, because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’ Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he my darling child? For as often as I speak against him, I do remember him still. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the LORD.”

2. About the Text:

1) God heard Ephraim grieving.

2) Ephraim’s grievance was founded upon repentance. He was grieving for his own sins.

3) God then embraces Ephraim as his dear son and says that he will have mercy on him.

3. About “grieving.”

1) The word “grieving” often means deep sorrow, grief.

2) Sometimes the word can mean “complaint.”

3) When someone has something formal to complain about they file a grievance.

4) Ephraim complained to God about his own situation in repentance.

5) There are good complaints and there are bad.

6) Let’s look at different kinds of “complaints” and what the Bible teaches about them.

4. Ref. to S, T, P, O, and A.


I.   Unwarranted Complaints

1. Murmurings – “Uttering complaints in a low voice or sullen manner; grumbling; complaining.” (Noah Webster). Murmurings usually involve unwarranted complaining about matters of opinion.

1) 1 Corinthians 10:10 “Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.”

2) Philippians 2:14-16 – ” Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.”

3) James 5:9 “Murmur not, brethren, one against another, that ye be not judged: behold, the judge standeth before the doors.”

4) Jude 1:16 “These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their lusts (and their mouth speaketh great swelling words), showing respect of persons for the sake of advantage.”

5) Instead we should show hospitality: 1 Peter 4:8, 9 “above all things being fervent in your love among yourselves; for love covereth a multitude of sins: using hospitality one to another without murmuring:”

2. Strife (Dissension) – a complaint that is voiced with anger designed to cause discord among the faithful.

1) 1 Timothy 6:3-5 ” If any man teacheth a different doctrine, and consenteth not to sound words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is puffed up, knowing nothing, but doting about questionings and disputes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, wranglings of men corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth, supposing that godliness is a way of gain.”

2) 1 Corinthians 3:2, 3 “I fed you with milk, not with meat; for ye were not yet able to bear it: nay, not even now are ye able; for ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you jealousy and strife, are ye not carnal, and do ye not walk after the manner of men?”

3) Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they who practise such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

4) Romans 13:13,14 “Let us walk becomingly, as in the day; not in revelling and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and jealousy. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”

3. Unwarranted complaints usually are born from discontent of opinion.

II.  Righteous Complaints

1. Due to illness – Job 10:1 “My soul is weary of my life; I will give free course to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. As for me, is my complaint to man? And why should I not be impatient?”

2. Desire for children – 1 Samuel 1:16 “Count not thy handmaid for a wicked woman; for out of the abundance of my complaint and my provocation have I spoken hitherto.”

3. Due to adverse circumstances – Psalm 64:1 “Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint: Preserve my life from fear of the enemy.”

4. Due to persecution – Revelation 6:9, 10 “And when he opened the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of them that had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: and they cried with a great voice, saying, How long, O Master, the holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?”

5. Due to immorality – 1 Corinthians 5:1 “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.”

6. Due to false doctrine – 1 Kings 18:21 “And Elijah came near unto all the people, and said, How long go ye limping between the two sides? if Jehovah be God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.”

7. Due to division – 1 Corinthians 1:10,11 “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.”

8. Warranted complaints are usually born from love for truth and a desire for it to be followed.

III. Complaints and their results.

1. Bad results of complaints.

1) Judas – He complained regarding the money that he took to betray Jesus. Matthew 27:3-5 “Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.”

2) Numbers 11 – Children of Israel complain about having no meat to eat.

3) Numbers 14 – The children of Israel murmured against Moses for leading them into the wilderness due to the report of the spies.

4) Mark 14:5 The disciples complained because of the use of this costly ointment. “For this ointment might have been sold for above three hundred shillings, and given to the poor. And they murmured against her.” Jesus rebuked them for this, but the woman was remembered.

5) We must always be careful when we point the finger at someone else, because there are usually three pointing back at ourselves.

6) The sorrow of the world works death (2 Corinthians 7:10).

2. Good results of complaints.

1) Hannah received a son, Samuel, due to her complaint in prayer.

2) 1 Kings 18 the prophets of Baal were slain because of Elijah’s complaining about their false teaching.

3) Grecian widows received much needed support – Acts 6:1 “Now in these days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a murmuring of the Grecian Jews against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.”

4) One day, God will hear the complaint of the blood of the martyrs and end this world and take vengeance on those who know not God.

5) Godly sorrow works repentance. 2 Corinthians 7:8-11 – Read.


1. Do you have a complaint?

1) Is it unwarranted?

2) Is it righteous?

3) What will the results be of it?

2. Invitation

1) When we complain the first thing we ought to do is look to self to see if there is something that I can personally do besides complaining to make the situation better.

2) Tonight, is your life affected by sin? Do you have a complaint? Would repentance in your life resolve that complaint?

3) Don’t bring your complaint to God without bringing yourself to God first.

4) Let us be warned regarding unwarranted complaints but also stand up for those which are appropriate.