Complaining during COVID-19

by Dr. Anthony Pranno

When the Apostle Paul was dealing with his own version of “stay at home orders,” he wrote a letter to the church members in the city of Philippi. He addressed unity, humility, perseverance, dissention and squabbling. Sounds like the kind of letter some of us need to read today! In Philippians 2, after urging the Philippians to imitate Christ in humility and obedience, Paul addressed a sticky little habit well known to churchgoers…

Philippians 2:14-15

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…

What are people complaining about most during the Coronavirus? Here’s a few I’ve heard (or said). What would you add to the list?

  • I’ve got cabin fever… I’ve got to get out of here!
  • Why is the government keeping us at home?
  • I’m missing birthdays, weddings, new births, celebrations
  • I don’t want to wear a stupid mask!
  • I’m not able to make money!
  • I’m bored at home
  • I’m gaining weight and losing energy every day
  • I miss seeing everyone
  • Why do we have to wait so long for things to open again?

Complaining is one of those things we are reluctant to call a “sin.” After all, who doesn’t complain about something, especially during these strange and unprecedented times? Isn’t it natural to complain about things? Well, the answer is yes, it is natural. But Christians are called to be supernatural. We are called to live like Jesus. It doesn’t matter if everyone’s complaining… what matters is whether or not we are becoming more or less like Jesus with our behavior.

Complaining is a habit – a bad habit. Habits are only broken when we replace them with something else. So let’s say you want to replace your bad habit with something positive… what do you do? Easy. Stop complaining and start encouraging! Stop complaining and start being thankful! Stop complaining and start praising God! Paul’s words about encouragement and Jesus’ words about accountability strike to the heart of the matter…

Ephesians 4:29

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Matthew 12:36

But I tell you that people will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.

Every careless word? Yep. Every one of them. Intentional or unintentional, positive or negative, compliment or complaint, written, spoken or text messaged… even during crazy stay-at-home orders from the governor. We will have to give an account of our words. 

The core of Paul’s exhortation is the same simple lesson our parents taught us: If you can’t say something good, don’t say anything at all. We need to first admit that we complain way, way too much. Then make our thoughts, words and actions positive, productive, and uplifting. As we cultivate gratitude for what we have and begin to see God’s work in our lives, we won’t just complain a lot less, we will protect our witness for Christ.

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