The Bible is full of vice and warnings against it. Famously, the New Testament contains a number of “vice lists,” none better known than the list in Romans 1:29-31. Making the case against sinful humanity, the Apostle writes of all of us, “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”
The thing about the vice lists is that that catch us all. Proud about avoiding the pitfall into which my neighbor has fallen, the lists are just long enough to find me out. Avoid such things and such people, Paul admonishes us again and again.
For me, winter weather brings a particular vice to the fore. “Do not grumble…” I Corinthians 10:10 begins, catching me in my favorite vice of the season. Some new translations use the word complain, but I like grumble. In fact, the Greek word is a great example of onomatopoeia, that wonderful word we learned in high school English that describes a word whose phonetic sound describes the very thing defined. Buzz, splash, rustle, meow are common examples. So is grumble, or, better yet, murmur. And that’s complaining as given in the Greek word that Paul uses. “Grumble, grumble, grumble. Murmur, murmur, murmur.” Grumbling is what we do under our breath. No plan for action or correction, just complaining.
I grumble in the winter. Oh, it’s not that I mind the cold or the snow; I kind of like the snow. It’s just that I get tired of it. Especially in March. And, by the way, whose idea was it to start Day Light Saving Time this coming Sunday? Grumble, grumble. Murmur, murmur. (Turns out that it was the lobbyists from the golf and the barbecue industries that got the date moved up to snowy March. Grumble, grumble. Murmur, murmur.)
I grumble in the winter. I grumble if PECO can’t keep my power on. I grumble when the storms attack Sundays, as they have this year. And I grumble a lot about how my friends, neighbors, snow plow operators, and fellow motorists deal with snow. When you lived north of Green Bay, Wisconsin, for five years, you become a bit of a dealing-with-snow snob. So, in the photo above, just spend five minutes this morning clearing your drive way cut and you won’t have to deal with those ice ruts tomorrow morning. Grumble, grumble. Murmur, murmur.
The thing about grumbling is that it always begins and ends with me and my. My inconvenience, my irritation, my thinking I know how to do things the right way (no, I have not driven a snow-plow for twelve straight hours, but I am sure I would do a great job…).
The admonition against grumbling in 1 Corinthians takes my grumbling seriously. Oh, not so much my murmuring about Day Light Saving Time or how to shovel snow. Paul is concerned that our grumbling not be like that of the people of the Exodus who grumbled against God and his provision of quail and manna. “What, manna again? Grumble, grumble.” They were punished for their grumbling.
There’s another admonition against grumbling in the New Testament and it is found inJames 5:9. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. Grumbling quickly morphs to judging one another as we forget that we will be judged by the Judge.
The Bible is full of vice. There are long lists of it. We’re admonished to avoid it. No question but that the Bible knows the difference between right and wrong. No question but that we are to use the gifts God has given us to up build one another and to bear one another’s burdens. No question but that my grumbling and murmuring, my complaining about my neighbor and about God, will be judged as unworthy of one loved and redeemed by Christ.
Maybe I should go and clear my neighbor’s driveway cut.
See you Sunday