As I write this morning, protestors are back out on Wall Street (again); political rhetoric is heating up on the airwaves; newspaper editorial pages are filled with angry letters, and Facebook walls are plastered with acidic rants. From the outside looking in, you would think that life was miserable here in America. From the outside looking in, you wouldn’t know how good we have it.
We are rich here in America. All of us. If that statement makes you cringe, then step back and consider your situation versus the rest of the world. (Click HERE for your rank in the worldwide “rich list”)
The truth is, if you have more than you need, than by the world’s standard, you’re rich. Very few people around the globe have a savings account somewhere. Very few people have a cupboard full of extra food, or a cellar full of old stuff. Very few are able to have yard sales for their extra things. People live, for the most part, hand-to-mouth. “Give us this day our daily bread”. So many people just have enough for today.
So if you are a person who has savings, or who has extra; who has a 401K or who is planning for retirement –then you are rich. If you can get by working 5 days per week and take the weekends off, accept the fact that most of the world would see you as a very blessed person.
So why do we have so much trouble seeing ourselves as blessed? Why do people who have so much feel so discontent?
Bob Russell, the long-time Pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, once wrote: “Have you had a taste of the best this world has to offer? You went to Hawaii once on vacation, so now it’s harder for you to enjoy the state park. You’ve eaten a steak at Ruth Chris, so it’s harder to be thankful for a meal at Ponderosa. You’ve driven a Jaguar, so now you can’t be as content with your used Chevrolet. You’ve cheered for a national champion, so now it’s difficult to be grateful when your team has a good season but doesn’t take home the title…
“Generally speaking, the more we have, the less grateful we are. It should be the opposite; the more we have, the more thankful we should be. But it usually doesn’t work that way, does it?” “A wise man prayed, ’Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ’Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God’” (Proverbs 30:8-9). “It is a rare person who, when his cup frequently runs over, can give thanks to God instead of complaining about the limited size of his mug!”
In our society, complaining is not just a bad habit that people have. It’s almost an expected language to master. It is the official language of the American workplace, and the coffee-shop, and the ball-field. It’s a sort of common ground – even complete strangers feel comfortable communicating by complaining. It’s harmless, right? No big deal. It’s just how people talk.
Here’s the thing – you don’t have to read very far through scripture before you figure out how much God HATES complaining. When the Israelites were in the desert grumbling against Moses and against God, God made it very clear that He has no use for complaining. That’s because at its essence, complaining shows a lack of faith. It’s not just that the complainer stops seeing things in proper perspective – the complainer doesn’t see that good hand of God.
Think about the rhetoric that surrounds us. Everywhere I turn, I hear grumbling and pessimism and anger. And yes, I get it. Our country is in a moral free-fall. Our economy has been in the pits for years. Our government has gone crazy. Our schools are in decline. Even inside of the Church, I hear a constant stream of complaints about everything from the temperature of the building to the tempo of the latest worship song. And I get it all . . . to a point. We want to move forward. We want to improve. We want . . .
But somewhere along the way, we need to stop and look around. God has been SO good to us. He provides for us even when we aren’t paying attention. And while we poison the air with complaining, and focus on everything that is wrong, we allow our present circumstances to overshadow our confidence in God’s purposes and promises. Soon, we lose the ability to see His blessings at all, and life looks bleak.
So how do we combat this epidemic of complaining? Let’s count our blessings. Look at your country and notice the things that are right. (God has given us Grace that we don’t deserve!) Look at your Church and celebrate how God is working. (He is at work. Pay attention). Look at your job and list the things that you like about it. (There are more than you think). Thank God that you have food to eat today. Thank God that you have clothes to wear. Thank God for the people who love you, and the people you love. Give God praise. Worship Him. That’s where it starts.
Remember, we are called to be the light in the darkness. It’s time to shine.