Do all you have to do without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be God’s children, blameless, sincere and wholesome, living in a warped and diseased world, and shining there like lights in a dark place. (Philippians 2:14-15, PHILLIPS)
When I think of the culture we live in, grumbling and arguing are two traits that are readily apparent. We grumble about things we cannot control. We grumble about circumstances we face. We grumble about other people. We grumble about ourselves. We argue with those who think differently from us. We argue with those who hold varying political or spiritual beliefs. We argue with family, friends, and even complete strangers. We argue about things that are not even important, just for the sake of arguing.
If we are honest, we can admit that sometimes we ENJOY grumbling and arguing. We gain a certain satisfaction from dwelling on the things that are going wrong. We often want to camp in our anger or hurt or disappointment, looking for more reasons to justify those feelings. Winning an argument or cutting others down can bring a feeling of self-importance. We enjoy proving that we are right.
But God offers something more. He calls His children to a higher, holy standard. I appreciate that He makes the reason — His purpose — clear. Let’s look closer at this verse to better understand it.
Do all you have to do without grumbling or arguing… Other versions use the terms: murmuring; disputing; questioning; hesitations; complaining; bickering; second-guessing; division; making trouble; doubting; and reasonings. That is quite a list! The thought of the original language goes beyond actions to consider thoughts and motives toward others. So God is instructing us to be agreeable, helpful, and respectful. When we live out far more life, we join others to get the job done rather than fighting against them to do it our way — or not at all.
…so that you may be God’s children, blameless, sincere and wholesome… The Bible clearly states that we do not become God’s children through good works (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:23-24). Some translations state the meaning of this phrase more clearly: we show or prove that we are God’s children when we act like Him. Have you ever been told that you “take after” a parent, grandparent, or other older relative who had influence over you? We “take after” God — and experience far more life — when our thoughts, words, and actions are pure and completely good. In part, by doing all we have to do without grumbling or arguing.
...living in a warped and diseased world… Because this is all we have ever known, it can be hard for us to recognize how spiritually warped and diseased our world is. But when we compare the values and practices of humans to those of God, we start to understand the reality of this verse. God created us in His image and intended for us to be like Him (Genesis 1:26). But we have traded His love and kindness for selfishness. We have traded His joy and peace for greed and competition. We have traded His faithfulness and goodness for moral relativity and a cancel culture. Thankfully God gives us His Spirit and empowers us to be like Him (I Corinthians 3:16, Acts 1:8). Far more life recognizes where we have adopted the world’s warp and disease and replaces it with God’s truth and spiritual health.
…and shining there like lights in a dark place. When physical light shines in a dark place, we can clearly see what is there. We can avoid danger. We can make sense of our surroundings. We can discern what is true from what our minds and senses have misinterpreted. These same principles apply to the spiritual light of God’s truth. When God’s light is shining, we can clearly see what is wrong or evil (Psalm 90:8). We can avoid spiritual danger (Isaiah 42:16). We can tell what around us is warped and diseased (Proverbs 20:27). We can respond in a God-like manner because we can clearly see what is true (Psalm 119:105). God uses the words and actions of one person to “turn on the light” for others. People recognize their own sin when they see others who are not sinning. People recognize their own bad attitudes when others respond with a good attitude. In this way, we become lights who shine righteousness in dark, sinful places. We enjoy far more life and show others what it is like to live in fellowship with God.
Breaking down and studying this verse helps me overcome the temptation to grumble and argue. I remember it is not enjoyable to live in darkness. I realize it is more satisfying to focus on what is pure and good. I no longer want to embrace the mindset of this warped and diseased world. I want to live in God’s light and reflect it so others can see Him, too. I want far more life!
I appreciate the straightforward way The Message writes these verses.
Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night. (Philippians 2:14-15)
These words motivate me to be obey God…for my own benefit, others’ benefit, and God’s glory. I hope they motivate you to turn on the light and pursue far more life, too!
If you are honest with yourself, what aspect of grumbling and arguing is attractive to you?
In what areas have you already grown in “taking after” God? What needs to change in your beliefs or thinking to take after Him in this area?
Where have you recognized that what seemed normal was actually warped and diseased?
How do you shine like a light in the darkness? How can you shine brighter?
Thank God for far more life. Ask Him to grow your desire for more of it!
Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso