1 Cor. 10:6-13 (ESV)
Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.  Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.”  We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.  We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents,  nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.  Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.  Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.  No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
“Do you wake up grumpy in the morning?”
“No, I let him sleep.”
Old joke. It still gets laughs because it is so true. One a little closer to home has the pastor’s wife saying to her pastor husband, “Let’s reverse things today. Be charming at home and grumpy at church.” Chuckle, chuckle. And I suppose it is funny.
But as we are laughing at such humour which is funny precisely because it smacks of so much truth, we are confronted with I Corinthians 10:6-13. The large context of this passage is that Paul is answering a question put to him by the Corinthians regarding eating meat offered to idols. Is it wrong to eat it or not? He brings up the example of the ancient Israelites under Moses. They were not careful and they fell into horrible sin. Paul mentions four. Four times he says not to be like they were. Look at verses 7, 8, 9, and 10:
Do not be idolaters as some of them were…
We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did…
We must not put Christ to the test as some of them did …
nor grumble, as some of them did …
Don’t be like them. They were not careful and they fell. Now take a look at the terrible sins they committed
Do not be idolaters
We must not indulge in sexual immorality
We must not put Christ to the test
Idolatry, sexual immorality, putting Christ to the test and grumbling. One of these things is not like the others. We would never crack jokes about how idolatrous we have become. While the world is sex obsessed I hope we would not start making jokes about how sexually immoral the church has become. We don’t laugh at how much fun it is to test Christ. But we do crack jokes about grumbling.
Grumbling is something that everyone does. Grumbling is acceptable. Grumbling is just one of those things that are a part of our everyday living. Everyone grumbles about something. Grumbling is no big deal. So why does Paul mention it right alongside idolatry and immorality? Grumbling in the children of Israel was due to their lack of faith in God, and their selfishness.
We can talk about how understandable it is that they grumbled. They are in the wilderness eating manna and quail. They have no home to speak of. They belong nowhere. But remember what they have seen. They have seen the ten plagues of God upon Egypt. They have seen the miracle of Passover. They have seen the Red sea open up and allow them passage and then they saw it close up over Pharaoh and his army. They have seen a pillar of cloud by day and one of fire by night. They have seen water come out of rocks. They have seen the bitter waters of Marah turn sweet. The list is very long. And then they grumble.
Their grumbling. Like ours, is a statement of lack of faith. It is a cry that no matter what God has done for us up to this point, He is going to abandon us now. It is saying that God is treating us unfairly. It is saying that if we were in charge then we would do things differently – and better.
Grumbling is an act of “me first”. It says that the most important person on the planet – me – has been treated unfairly and it is time for it to stop. Grumbling is idolatrous, for it places oneself above the ways and will of God.
The life of the Israelites in the wilderness was not an easy one. They had many hardships, many enemies, many obstacles to overcome. But even though this was the case with them, God did not excuse them for their complaining spirit.
We like to think that we are the exception to the rule and that in our case our grumbling and complaining is valid. We just know that God is not upset with us even though we are doing things that He expressly forbids. We think that we are exempt form the general rule. And we are wrong. Our grumbling against spouses and bosses and income and landlords and test results and people who made us wait and a host of others – is sin. It is aimed at God before it is aimed at all the people that we grumble about. And God is not pleased.
But He has done something about it. He sent His Son to die. What it takes to redeem us from our grumbling and the response that God is just in giving for it – is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What it took for God to deal with your grumbling was the death of the eternal Son of God. Try to think of that the next time you are tempted to be like the Israelites in the wilderness and grumble about your lot. It is a very good tonic against this sin that clings so closely to us (Hebrews 12:1).