Is Grumbling A Sin?

As soon as I said it, I knew it could be trouble. So as soon as I said–during an interview on Moody Radio’s Midday Connection–that Jesus “did some grumbling” in the Garden of Gethsemane, I made a mental note, prepared to get some push-back. Not from the hosts–Anita Lustrea and Melinda Schmidt, who understood what I meant. But from listeners, who may have just tuned in or who hadn’t made the leap (my fault, not theirs).

I wondered, though, if that push-back might finally usher in the question I’d been waiting for, the question I could not believe no one had yet asked. The question that I had, frankly, avoided in my book, but was nevertheless prepared to answer.

Well, two days after my interview on Midday, a full month after publicity for my book began, a full year after I’d turned in the manuscript, I got the push-back. Someone finally asked the question–or, actually, made the statement–I’d been waiting for.

In a gracious, thoughtful email (she never once called me a heretic, a bad Christian or a bad mom. She just simply questioned my word choice) mail to the Midday hosts, a listener wrote:

“About 23 minutes into the discussion, Caryn is talking about Biblical examples
of pouring our hearts out to God. When she references Jesus in the
garden, she makes a short statement that ‘He was doing some grumbling
there, I think.’

“This is wrong. Grumbling is sin. And Jesus did not sin. Yes, He poured
His heart out to God about the suffering He was in. However, He did not
sin by grumbling to God. Phil 2:14 says to do everything without grumbling.”

And there it was: the reference to the Philippians 2:14 I’d been waiting for. This verse, at least in the NIV, says as she wrote: “Do everything without grumbling, or arguing.”

So, how is it, then, that I can claim we ought to do something (praise God) with grumbling? How can I ever claim that Jesus himself grumbled a bit?

I have my answers. But thought I’d toss it out here first. Mostly, because I don’t have time to dive in. #lazy

Any thoughts? Is grumbling–even a hallelujah–a sin? Am I, in my book, telling people to do wrong?


5 Responses to “Is Grumbling A Sin?”

  1. October 10, 2011 at 9:05 pm #

    Short answer: No way. I’m only 3 chapters into your book but I think it’s brilliant. I especially love the examples from the bible of people, clearly LOVED by God, who spent quite a bit of time “grumbling.” And not in the sense like the Israelites who spent all their time complaining about manna from heaven (imagine!) but people who, while going through monumental struggles had the honesty to say, I don’t get it God. I’m unhappy. I wanted something else. Do we think He isn’t understanding enough? Jesus begged God to take away his suffering…to give him a different job! How many times have I wanted that too? If Jesus could “grumble” his disappointment in the direction his life was headed, we can’t? That doesn’t make any sense. Grumbling is not a sin! Not when, like you detail, it’s done in a still honoring and loving way. I know God is always good, but all the things I go through are not. Am I to pretend my life is swell when it’s spiraling down a toilet? Or am I to go to my Maker and tell Him how sad I am, how sorrowful I feel, how confused I am at His choices…why did my cousin have to lose her husband? Why are her children destined to grow up without their father? These are big questions. God knows I don’t get it. He expects me to question it because I can’t seen the Big Plan…but He can. This is not our home and I have come to understand that I am going to feel off kilter, out of place and generally wrong most of the time. Like you said, there are moments of joy and delight but they are always followed by pain and suffering. Such is the condition of the earth after the Fall and my soul (and yours) knows it is unnatural. What’s awesome is that Jesus knew it too. In every detail…He was here, he felt the pain, knew the suffering, faced the evil…so when we go to Him and say, “hey, it kinda sucks here,” he gets it! He thinks so too.

  2. Tim
    October 14, 2011 at 10:13 am #

    What is a fair definition of “grumbling”? If it’s a spirit of complaining and finding fault, then I would lean toward sayinig grumbling is sinful. If it is wrestling with difficulties and giving voice to those frustrations while acknowledging complete reliance on God in all circumstances, then I’d say not. But how do you mean the word to be understood, Caryn?


    P.S. Your post here is making me think really hard. I might have to lie down until my brain stops hurting.

  3. Lynnette
    October 14, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    (World English Dictionary)
    1. to utter (complaints) in a nagging or discontented way
    2. ( intr ) to make low dull rumbling sounds

    Jesus never grumbled if you use definition #1. I certainly can imagine Jesus grumbling as definition #2 before He cleansed the temple, as He encountered Pharisees who refused to see the Truth, and even in the garden as He prepared for what was to come.

    I can say with certainty that Jesus never grumbled as definition #1.

    Between the two definitions there is a fine line and a vast difference. We must be careful to not fall into the trap of thinking one (acceptable) and doing another (sinful.)

  4. October 15, 2011 at 3:55 pm #

    LOVE each of these replies. I’ve been slow to answer my own question. Sorry! But you’ve each touched on part of my answer…. : )


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