If we are honest, we would all admit that we struggle with complaining from time to time. The bible identifies complaining as a worldly exercise and commands Christians to avoid it. Paul wrote, “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:14-15). The children of Israel stand as a perfect example as to why complaining is problematic. Exodus 16 records one of many occasions upon which they complained. Notice some reasons from that context that complaining is wrong.
• Complaining is rebellion. Exodus 16:2 says, “Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained…” The word “complained” is more than slight discontentment. It implies outright rebellion. It is obstinance and faithlessness (cf. Ps. 78:17,22).
• Complaining makes one irrational. The children of Israel said to Moses, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (Ex. 16:3). They remembered the food in Egypt but forgot about the whips and the work.
• Complaining is an affront to God. Though the people directed their complaints toward Moses and Aaron, really their complaint was against Jehovah (Ex. 16:7).
• Complaining is a lack of faith and appreciation. Exodus 13-18 covers a period of approximately 2 months. In that time the children of Israel had seen redemption and had even sang about it (cf. Ex. 15). They knew what God had promised (Ex. 6:6-8) and what He had done for them, yet they still complained.
• Complaining is often about what we want instead of what we need. Exodus 17:3 identifies and important point–the people had livestock. So, when the people complained of hunger in Exodus 16, it was not that they literally had no food to eat. The problem was that they did not have the food they wanted to eat. Psalm 78:18 says, “And they tested God in their heart by asking for the food of their fancy.”
We would do well to learn from the example of the Israelites not to complain but instead to be grateful and content in whatever situation we may find ourselves (Phil. 4:11).