Clayton Adams

What is a parent to do with a child who complains, whines, is selfish and expresses ingratitude? If a parent does nothing the child grows into a selfish, unpleasant and a narcissistic adult. 

How has God dealt with complaining and whiney people? 

After four-hundred years of slavery the ancient Israelites walked out of Egypt complaining and whining loudly. The grumbling was so constant that God acted. We read, “And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoke against the Lord and you; intercede with the Lord, that He may remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people” (Numbers 21:6-7). 

God’s critics point to instances like this as proof that God is uncaring about human suffering. 

What is missed by those who criticize God is that He was pouring out His love, and desire for the people to trust Him even when life is difficult. It is easy to complain and whine, but God desires for us to trust Him, not to complain, not to criticize others. 

How does God want us to live? We read, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15).

The strange thing about this event is that God could have simply removed the snakes from the people. Instead, we read, “Then the Lord said to Moses, Make a fiery serpent, and put it on a flagpole; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, and looks at it, will live. So, Moses made a bronze serpent and put it on the flagpole; and it came about, that if a serpent bit someone, and he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived (Numbers 21:6-9). 

It is interesting that God used a serpent to bring healing and salvation to His people. The very thing God cursed in the Garden of Eden, a serpent, He used to save the people. 

Modern psychology learned from this bronze serpent example. Psychology has termed it desensitization, or exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy to help people overcome their phobias. 

Think of someone who is afraid of flying – a doctor, therapist, or counselor may have the person look at pictures of a plane, or people boarding a plane, or the plane flying high in the sky. The next step would be for the person to take a trip to the airport, perhaps walk around or sitting in a plane. Exposure in different ways can lead one to overcome their fear. 

After being bitten by snakes the people had a fear and disdain for the serpents. But to be saved, God instructed the people to look at the bronze serpent on the staff. God did not require the people to touch the snake, to place their faith in the snake nor did they have to say anything. God simply told the people that if they looked at the snake they would be saved. Those that looked were saved, those who were to afraid or too proud to look were not saved.

Today people play the part of a victim. Some point to bygone years of discrimination and depravations for their failures today. Always looking backwards and dwelling in the past, people blame something or someone else because life is hard. But difficulty and hardships do not make someone a victim. 

In America, it is easy to be a victim. The government will issue special rights and tax considerations for self-described victims. Hollywood will make movies about these folks and turn them into hero’s and idols to be followed, admired, and honored. 

As a consequence of this process, instead of maintaining high standards we lower entrance exam thresholds for college and lower physical requirements for police and fire departments and for the military. Those who work hard, take personal responsibility, make good choices are made scapegoats by those who do not have success. We give participation trophies instead of recognizing hard work, skill, dedication and winning. It is easier to complain, criticize, and settle for less than to persevere and strive for better. 

America hails the “victim” instead of the victor. We honor the selfish and dishonor those who have sacrificed. God cannot bless a culture that honors that which is not honorable. Because we reward people who whine and complain we propagate a culture for this behavior. 

Did Israel learn from their experiences with the snakes and the bronze serpent? They did learn, but people have short term memories and it was not long before the Israelites were complaining and whining again. 

The cycle of whining and deflecting personal responsibility continued with the Isrealites. America is no different than the ancients. Will we ever learn? 


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