A Supremely Deadly Sin
“Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer” (1 Cor. 10:10).
The Bible tells us that God hates all sin, and He is angry with the wicked every day. The Bible also tells us that God is love, full of compassion, and is longsuffering. Both concepts are equally true, though for some difficult to reconcile.
Among Christian ministers, the love of God, and the justice of God are often made to be mutually exclusive, or a matter of choice for emphasis. The faithful minister will be careful to preach the whole counsel of God. The faithful minister must be careful to share with the people the totality of divine essence, not focusing attention on one holy attribute at the expense of another.
As much as I love to talk about the free grace of God, as much as I enjoy preaching about the mercy of God and His longsuffering, there is also the need to speak plainly about the anger of God.
There are things that men and women do which displease Him intensely. There are things which we say and think that arouse His holy wrath so that He is moved to chasten His own. In this, God is not unlike us as parents.
Parents will endure much from little children, and rightly so. But there are some attitudes, there are some actions that are so bad, that concerned, loving parents are forced to take action.
With this in mind, I feel compelled this morning to share with you a study about a sin which is so obnoxious, so disgusting, so vile to the sight of God that He is moved to divine discipline.
I share this study out of a deep concern for the individuals who do it, because it may be they do not realize just how serious a sin it is. The deadly sin is discussed in 1 Corinthians 10:10. The Bible teaches, “Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured and were destroyed of the destroyer.”
I hope that no one here has breathed a sigh of relief over recognizing the deadly sin. For some, there is almost a cavalier attitude towards this. “Oh, is that all. Why everyone complains; everyone murmurs.” The answer of course is not everyone. Not the man, not that woman who loves God and seeks to obey Him.
In mentioning the sin found in the Church of God, the apostle Paul puts an absolute prohibition on it. “Do not murmur. Do not complain. Do not grumble. Do not be negative. Stop seeing the dark cloud in the blue sky. Stop looking at the thorns on the roses.”
There is a very good reason not to murmur, not to complain. In fact, there are many good reasons not to complain. Paul provides one, I will suggest another.
Paul says not to complain lest it lead to the ultimate form of divine discipline, a premature death. “Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.”
The reference is to an event recorded in Numbers 16:41-50. In context a man named Korah, a great-grandson of Levi, led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron. Korah, along with Dathan and Abiram (who were also Levites) charged that Moses and Aaron took too much authority to themselves, in view of the fact that the entire congregation was holy.
In a democratic society, this sounds very reasonable. All people are made in the image of God. Everyone is equal. Besides, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. These are some of the more familiar principles. However, there are two problems. First, democracy has never been a principle in the Church. Not in the Old Testament, and not in the New Testament. Second, God has chosen to work through appointed leaders who are to be recognized and submitted to, for in the Day of Judgment they must give an account for the souls of the sheep which they oversaw.
Korah and his followers did not want to recognize the God appointed leadership. They did not want to submit. They wanted to lead, and there is nothing wrong with such a desire unless God says no.
When God said no to Korah, the man began to complain. He murmured. He grumbled. He spread gloom to others, and he died under divine discipline.
Let us examine this thing of murmuring more closely, and observe several points. The first thing to be said is the murmuring is associated with the fallen nature, the Old Man, not the new creation. In the Garden, when sin stormed the citadel of peace and beauty, the first thing Adam said was a word of murmuring. “God, it is your fault for you gave me this woman and this woman made me eat.” The implication is obvious. If only things had been different, if only this woman had been different this would never have happened.
Then second, murmuring is habit forming. The mind can be programmed to look at everything in a critical, judgmental, negative way. There are those who choose to see only the ugly wherever they are. Nothing is right. Nothing is good. Nothing is pretty, and so a string of verbal abuse is heard as these people must describe it all. There is not profanity, but the critical words are just as putrid. Like acid, they eat away at the soul. For this reason, the Bible commands Christians not only to be different but think differently (Phil. 4:8), and to speak differently (1 Cor. 10:10).
Third, murmuring is self-destructive on several levels. It is mentally self-destructive. Negative thoughts breed fear, anxiety, and insecurity. The act of murmuring incites the dark side of the soul to dominate, and will not allow healthy, inspiring, praise-filled thoughts to flood the mind so that creativity can come forth.
Murmuring is emotionally self-destructive. No one is happy who murmurs. The gutter thought words expressed do not bring inner peace, inner joy, or inner stability.
Murmuring destroys any basis for intimacy, and all people desperately desire to be intimate with someone else. But I know of no people who have ever built a meaningful relationship on the negative. Because each party is so critical of all things they will be critical of each other, and unless one backs off will tear, and stab, and scar each other emotionally. It would be a living hell.
Finally, murmuring is self-destructive because, for the child of God, there is certain to be divine discipline and as this passage teaches, premature death. God simple will not put up with the soul that murmurs year after year, because all of the complaining, grumbling, negative words are ultimately an attack on His grace, His character, and His provision.
That is why the Bible says, “In whatsoever place or condition you find yourself, be content.” Contentment is an act of the regenerated will. Contentment is the peace of God in the midst of circumstances and situation. The kingdom of God can only be advanced by people who do not complain, or criticize, or see the ugliness of life, or the impossibility of a situation.
Caleb and Joshua represent the point well. When others came back with a critical, negative, murmuring report from the Promised Land, they came back with a better report. The eye of faith saw what an omnipotent God could do against the impossible, and their hearts were encouraged.
The murmurer is basically a self-centered person. I want joy. I am bored. I feel guilty. I am fearful. I am lonely. I am insecure. I need to impress people. I want what I want. I know what should be. Self-centeredness is self-destructiveness.
But it gets worse for murmuring is not only self-destructive it is also other-destructive. Again, several levels can be noted. First, others are made angry by a barge of unkind, unwholesome, unhappy, critical comments. I know I am. My response is not always Christ-like in this area, but I confess, I get very, very angry when I sit in a Board meeting, or I listen to someone and all I ever hear is negative thoughts.
When I see a person who is sour, unpleasant, critical, unresponsive to love and good works, I want to get away from them, and stay away, because I know that all of their murmuring will destroy me. I don’t want to be like them, so I do not want to be with them. And if they will not stop, if they will not change, they do not have to destroy me.
Parents in particular must watch out for this spirit in themselves, because I assure you, the sins of the parents can be visited upon the children.
Pastors must be careful of this spirit lest a wrong, sinful influence is communicated. I subscribe to a religious newspaper that has been a source of blessing to millions of people. But recently, I have noticed how critical, judgmental, and negative the articles and comments are. If the trend continues, I shall discontinue my subscription because I know that others can be destroyed by the influence welded. Individual Christians must be careful, because each represents Christ and He was not critical.
In our passage, Korah joined with others, encouraged them to complain and the end result was a literal death by an angry God.
I have tried to share with you the seriousness of this deadly sin with reason, and with a historical examination of its end. Let me conclude with a suggested replacement and a word of exhortation.
First, if you are guilty of this sin of murmuring, if you are a person given to negative thoughts, critical comments, and general petty remarks, confess this as the terrible sin for which it is. Ask God to fill you with His words of praise, and to bring joy to your soul.
Second, make a conscious effort to be different. No one has to be a complainer. It is a matter of the will. You may find yourself in unpleasant situations. Others can create an evil, unlovely environment, but one thing nobody can do is to take away your choice of how you will respond to a circumstance or situation.
Third, remember that there is beauty in everything if only you will look for it. Acknowledge the ugly, but focus on good thoughts, pleasant thoughts, and behold the results.
First, people will be attracted to you. People love pretty things. If we as Christians would be complimenting, positive, inspiring, and encouraging, they would be the light God wants us to be to attract souls.
Second, you will feel better. There will be a peace and joy.
Third, the Lord will be pleased, for there will be an obedience to His command. So let us not murmur as others. It is a deadly sin. It is a sin for which Christ had to die for. He did. Now, He offers a new tongue to sing songs of praise and to speak words of peace.
Today, in the providence of the Lord, it is our good fortune to be able to take communion. Communion speaks of fellowship, but Biblical fellowship is based upon honest confession of sin. Here is the grave danger. Sin can become so commonplace that it is not thought to be evil any longer.
I dare say that the Jews did not see themselves as murmurers. They were just voicing an opinion. They were just being honest. They were just letting others know how they felt. Their virtue was, to God, a vice worthy of stern discipline.
Dear people, I do not know to what extent this sin goes on in this congregation, but like Paul my desire is that it not even once be named among us as becometh saints.
As we take communion, I ask you pointedly, “Have you murmured against God? Have you been critical of His choice of leadership? Have you murmured about His daily grace provisions in your life?”
If the answer is yes, oh I beg of you confess that sin now. Ask God to forgive. Commit yourself to guarding your mouth lest you be found to be a complainer. Now look at the cup. Look at the bread. Remember the Cross. Enjoy the fellowship of the moment by saying, “Thank you Jesus for all you have done.”