by J. Randal Matheny, editor
I found the purple rubber bracelets on the Internet. A group promotes their use to help people learn not to complain.
If you complain, you have to change the bracelet to the other wrist. By the changes and the presence of the bracelet, one should eventually learn to quit complaining.
I laud the effort — I’m wearing the bracelet right now. I won’t tell you how many times I’ve changed it recently.
As laudable as the effort is, however, the campaign rests on a negative. To stop a habit. (And what an entrenched habit it is!)
It appears to be a failed effort to rid oneself of a habit or vice without replacing it with a positive or a virtue.
The Bible presents complaining — what many versions call murmuring — as a lack of gratitude, a lack of contentment with what one has.
The examples are many. One of the greatest is the nation of Israel in the desert, where thousands fall for their complaining.
The lesson is startling and shocking.
You can’t please God and you can’t go to heaven when you complain.
“And do not complain, as some of them [Israel] did, and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:10-11).
It’s pretty serious stuff when complaining makes the same list as idolatry and sexual immorality.
Complaining means I’m dissatisfied with my lot. It’s a direct shot against God.
For that, there is only one antidote. Thanksgiving. Voiced gratitude. Starting many a sentence with, “I’m grateful that …”
The command to thanksgiving is all over the place. Ubiquitous. In Colossians 3, surrounding and penetrating one of our favorite verses about singing in worship, the gratitude command appears three times in three verses. Three heavy percussion beats of the heart.
“And be thankful” (v. 15).
“Singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (v. 16).
“Giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (v. 17).
I’ll let you run the other references.
One thing is clear. Open mouth, exit gratitude. Exercise the never-tiring tongue muscle by giving thanks.
One of Jesus’ trademarks was giving thanks. At meals. In public.
So when I look at that little piece of purple rubber flopping on my wrist, I think not only of a complaint-stopper, but a thanks-prompter. A blessings counter. A contentment meter.
And that points me back to the Word where an eloquent God describes in detail the true measure of all I possess.
Learning not to complain isn’t sufficient. We must learn to give thanks.