Regarding Scriptures: Acts 6.1; cf. Numbers 11-14
This week we will be revisiting our study of grumbling by examining Acts 6.1 where it is mentioned that the Grecians (Hellenists) murmured against the Hebrews. We will be using this passage to answer the question – do we ever have a reserved right to gripe?
Our 3-part study of murmuring ended with a decisive conclusion that grumbling is not righteousness. Yet we know there are times in which true grievances need to be addressed and hopefully remedied. The question then arises – how do we make those complaints known? Because space is limited, we cannot answer this question by looking at 19 different New Testament passages,1 therefore we will have to limit our examination to the characteristics, or the meanings, of these passages.
First, we need to quickly identify four Greek words that the KJV translates into murmur, murmured, murmuring, murmurings, grudging, charged, groaned or groaning. Here are those words:
- Thayer defines the first Greek word as to murmur, mutter, grumble, say anything against in a low tone, it refers to those who confer secretly together, and of those who discontentedly complain. This Greek word is translated in the KJV as murmured in Matthew 20.11, Luke 5.30, John 6.41, 6.61, 7.32, I Corinthians 10.10; and murmur in John 6.43, I Corinthians 10.10.
- Thayer defines the second Greek word as a murmur, murmuring, muttering, a secret debate, a secret displeasure not openly avowed. This Greek word is translated in the KJV as murmuring in John 7.12, Acts 6.1; murmurings in Philippians 2.14 and grudging in I Peter 4.9.
- Thayer defines the third Greek word as to murmur, either of a whole crowd, or among one another, always used of many [who] indignantly complaining. This Greek word is translated in the KJV as murmured in Luke 15.2 and Luke 19.7.
- Thayer defines this fourth Greek word as to charge with earnest admonition, sternly to charge, threatened to enjoin. This Greek word is translated in the KJV as charged in Matthew 9.30 and Mark 1.43; murmured against in Mark 14.5; groaned in John 11.33 and groaning in John 11.38.
Second, as we will briefly examine the passages, we will find that the concept of grumbling is reported simply as statement of fact, reported as a behavioral pattern if you will. Additionally, we will see that grumbling is condemned and never condoned.
1. Statement of behavior
Matthew 20.11, Mark 14.5; Luke 5.30, 15.2, 19.7; John 6.41, 6.61, 7.12, 7.32, 11.33, 11.38; and Acts 6.1
2. The assessment
John 6.43 – condemned
I Corinthians 10.10 – statement of behavior and condemned
Philippians 2.14 – condemned
I Peter 4.9 – condemned
Now, to answer the question – how do we make our complaints known? To do this, we must first determine if Acts 6.1 and the Grecian murmuring provides a scriptural example giving us the right to grumble. Paul tells us that all Scripture is inspired by God and is designed to give, among other things, instructions for righteousness,2 and Peter says that Scripture gives us everything we need for life and godliness.3 Since Scripture is God’s Word and it provides instructions for righteousness, godliness and eternal life, can we ever murmur like the Grecians in order to achieve good? To answer that question is to answer the next question – do we have a reserved right to gripe? The answer to both has to be a definite and resounding – no.
Consider the Greek word used in Acts 6.1, it is the second Greek word for murmuring. What is interesting is that this word is also used in Philippians 2.14 and I Peter 4.9. While it is true that the Grecian widows’ behavior of Acts 6.1 does not receive an in-verse or in-context condemnation, we need to notice that the same Greek word condemns grumbling in Philippians and I Peter. Since both of those condemn grumbling, then it is certain that the behavior of Acts 6.1 is not upheld as appropriate behavior for disciples.
Also consider what one commentator4 has stated about the Grecian dilemma:
‘A murmuring’ or ‘muttering’ or complaining arouse among the ‘the Grecian Jews against the Hebrews.’ … The cause of this complaint was because the widows among ‘the Grecian Jews’ were ‘neglected,’ or ‘overlooked,’ in ‘the daily ministration.’ This ‘murmuring’ or whispering of discontent is a sin frequently condemned in the New Testament. (Phil. 2:14; 1 Pet. 4:9.) This complaint seems to have been against the apostles, as they had charge of the funds that had been contributed. (Acts 4:35, 37; 5:2.) ‘Daily ministration’ shows that there was a daily distribution of things that were needed.
What is of note is that this commentator aligns the Grecian murmuring with other Scriptures that state that murmuring is sin. While stated a bit differently, this is exactly what the study of Got Gripes? has been about. Murmuring in whatever form is unrighteousness – sin. Also, notice that this commentator states that the gripes may have been directly related to the management style of the apostles. A disciple, even when believing they are encumbered by a lack of leadership – as these Grecians seem to have believed – should never succumb to the worldly belief that the ends justify the means.
Just because the apostles responded favorably to the sin of the Grecians should not give rise to the notion that sin on the part of the discipleship is permitted in order for leadership to take action. The principle of the ends justify the means basically means that one’s “actions are called for by [a particular] situation” and thereby promotes the idea that the actions one has to take “are considered acceptable because of the specific end results [one wants] to achieve.”5 Brethren, this principle cannot be further from scriptural truth. Scripture tells us to not be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good.6 Scripture never promotes becoming sinful in order to overcome a sin, a sinner, or a situation. Scripture never promotes that one should overcome evil with evil. For us in our particular study, it means that the sin of murmuring is never permitted in order to achieve leadership changes/modifications.
Now knowing that disciples are not permitted to gripe about the leadership of the congregation, how does a disciple go about informing without sinning? Three particular scriptural principles must be learned and used. The first, consider the four Greek words for murmuring. The fourth Greek word was translated as groaned in John 11.33 and groaning in John 11.38. It is interesting that in passage of Scripture Jesus is having the equivalent of the difficulty of murmuring. Yet both of these verses reveal that the discord he felt remained within His spirit, this means that His groaning (grumbling) was never spoken. Only from the surrounding verses can we speculate as to why He felt a groaning, but the fact remains, His discontent remained within His own person.
Let us consider two more principles. The second is found in Matthew 5.21-24. Here we learn that if disciple A has something, anything, against disciple B, then disciple A is to go to disciple B and work things out. Keeping in mind the principles established in Romans 14, that there are choices and opinions which are not binding and we must learn the difference between unchangeable doctrine and personal preferences. Third, we as the assembly, the bride and body of Christ, need to learn the concept of wifely submission from I Peter 3.1-7. Peter states that a wife can influence and win over her husband by her manner of living and not by the words she speaks. Consequently, the body of Christ (the church, the assembly) is to win over the leadership by behaving in the same godly fashion.
Brethren, not voicing our gripes is a tall order. It is always easier to obey God when things are easy; when things please us; or when we esteem church leaders as competent. However, obeying God’s will becomes more challenging when things are difficult; when things do not please us; or when we do not esteem church leaders as competent. God expects us to be submissive always, regardless of the quality of leadership.7 May we endeavor to be like Christ, “who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth”.8
1 Murmur – John 6:43, I Corinthians 10:10
Murmured – Matthew 20:11, Luke 5:30, John 6:41, 6:61, 7:32, I Corinthians 10:10
Murmuring – John 7:12, Acts 6:1
Murmurings – Philippians 2:14
Grudging – I Peter 4:9
Murmured – Luke 15:2, 19:7
Charged – Matthew 9:30, Mark 1:43
Murmured Against – Mark 14:5
Groaned – John 11:33
Groaning – John 11:38
2 II Timothy 3.16
3 II Peter 1.3
4 A Commentary on Acts of the Apostles by H. Leo Boles, New Testament Commentary Volume 5, Gospel Advocate Company, ISBN 0-89225-005-4; pages 94-95.
5 http://www.goenglish.com/TheEndsJustifyTheMeans.asp July 3, 2007
6 Romans 12.21
7 I Peter 2.13-25
8 I Peter 2.22; cf I Peter 3.10