Summary: Grumbling and disputing is a poor testimony for a child of God.
I heard a story about an old lady that walked into a department store one day and was surprised when an executive pinned a flower on her dress and gave her a $100 bill. She was the store’s one millionth customer. A tv reporter asked her, “just what did you come into the store for today?” To which she replied, “I was on my way to the complaint department.” I am sure that was embarrassing to the department store to have their one millionth customer coming in to complain.
Complaining is something all of us have a tendency to do. We complain and grumble about the weather, politics, our jobs, traffic, our health, the music at church, the temperature in the church, etc.
Paul has just told us in verses 12, 13 to work out our salvation. We are to work outwardly what God has worked inwardly. We are to become like Christ. One way we can work out our salvation is to do all things without grumbling and disputing. Instead, we are to give thanks in everything. (2 Thessalonians 5:18).
Doing this is virtually impossible because of our humanity and the fact that we have the flesh to deal with and the fact that everyone else is doing it and complaining and grumbling tends to be very contagious. However, it is possible to do this as we are being filled with the Holy Spirit.
This verse should drive all of us to the Gospel and cause us to pray “I need to be saved from this sinful behavior of grumbling and disputing and being ungrateful.”
Notice, first of all, our temperament.
We are to do all things without grumbling and disputing. First, what does he mean by saying “all things”? You are probably thinking that surely he doesn’t mean “all things.” Surely, if you go to the Greek, you will see that is not what God means, right? Well, I did look it up in the Greek, and guess what it means? All things. “All” means “all” and that is all that “all” means. We are never to grumble or complain.
Grumbling is complaining. It is probably one of the sins most tolerated by Christians. In fact, many of us do not even think of it as sinful because so many people do it. But it is directly disobeying God when we grumble. You may not like that God is offended by it but you and I have to accept it.
When we grumble, we are being like the children of Israel when Moses led them into the wilderness out of Egypt. God judged them severely for their grumbling and complaining. 1 Corinthians 10:9-11 says 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 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.”
You might be thinking "We all grumble and that is not such a "big" sin." We couldn’t be further from the truth! God put these grumblers to death in the wilderness. God is “dead serious” about grumbling (no pun intended)! And to accentuate Paul's point to the saints at Corinth he added "Now these things (the grumblers dying) happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come." (1 Cor 10:11). We need to learn from this example that God hates grumbling and complaining. It is very offensive to Him.
James 5:9 says, “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged. Behold the Judge is standing at the door.” God is very serious about grumbling, and we should be too. We need to fight this sin with God’s help. If you are not saved, this is one thing that should drive you to put your trust in Christ and be saved, because you cannot stop grumbling and complaining without salvation and without the Holy Spirit. And you will be judged for this sin that is very serious in God’s sight if you don’t run to Christ for salvation.
This verse comes right after the section on sanctification, working out your salvation. Remember, we are not working “for” salvation but we are working it “out.” We are pursuing holiness in the fear of God. We are making every effort to live godly. And one way to do that is to strive not to grumble.
Even if you are saved, it takes a lot of effort to put this sin to death. It takes a lot of prayer and a lot of confession and a lot of discipline and a lot of practice. How do you get better at something? You practice. You practice being grateful for everything and not complaining about anything.