C. S. Lewis once said, “Hell begins with a grumbling mood, always complaining, always blaming others.”
You don’t have to agree with Lewis’s eschatology to know that grumbling is ungodly.
Sad to say, James had to warn his readers against it—providing us with another “one another” command:
Therefore be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brothers and sisters, against one another, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door (James 5:7-9 NASB).
Do not complain. The NKJV translates this as grumble. Zane Hodges says it translates a word that means “to groan” or “to sigh.”
Have you ever complained, grumbled, groaned, or sighed at your fellow Christians?
I’m sure we all have.
So did James’s readers.
As Michael Eaton explains, James’s readers had plenty of reason to be bitter:
The greatest troubles involve people. It is bad enough when circumstances are against us, but it can be even worse when a close friend or a fellow Christian turns against us. Here in James’ time, rich Christians were badly treating poorer Christians. There was a terrible temptation for the poorer Christians to be bitter. But we never get very far in the Christian life unless we develop a forgiving spirit. We have to learn not to complain, not to get bitter. We have to learn to leave the matter with God totally! God will act for us, but only if we leave the matter to him [sic]! (Eaton, The Branch Exposition of the Bible, p. 1061).
As his readers suffered trials, James urged them to be patient because the Lord is coming. We’re like farmers waiting for the rains to come. But we do more than wait for the rains—we expect them to come, even though the exact time of their coming is out of our control. Likewise, we expect the Lord to come at any time, and that should give you hope.
But it should also give you pause.
Jesus is not only coming to rescue you from the wrath to come (1 Thess 1:10), He is also coming as Judge—not for your eternal destiny, but for your rewards.
One day you will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ to have your life judged and rewarded according to what you did, whether good or bad (2 Cor 5:10). Knowing that He will evaluate your life should make you more cautious about complaining about the Christians around you.
In short, don’t grumble against others so that when you stand before Jesus at the Bema, He won’t grumble against you.