Today’s reading is Philippians 2.
What makes believers in Christ distinct from the world around us? We have different beliefs about the past and the future, for one. We have different morals that cause us to make different choices and respond differently when we sin. We spend our time and our money differently. We certainly have a different understanding of who God is and what he’s done for us in Christ. These are all important differences, but maybe they don’t distinguish us from the rest of the world as much as we’d like to think that they do.
Here in Philippians 2, Paul invited the believers and us to consider the immense humility and sacrifice of Christ to save us. He urged us to follow Christ’s example by “looking to the interests of others” (v. 4). But when he wanted to teach us how to stand out from the unredeemed people around us, he commanded us: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing” (v. 14). Living this way “in a warped and crooked generation” would cause us to “shine among them like stars in the sky.” (v. 15).
Let’s face it--people complain a lot. We complain about the weather, about relatives and friends, about bosses, about what’s required of us in our jobs, about how little we’re paid and how much we pay in taxes. We complain about having to fix our cars or stuff that breaks at home, about traffic jams and long lines at the grocery stores. People argue a lot, too. Look at your Facebook feed; you probably don’t even have to scroll more than once or twice (or at all) before you see two or more people arguing about politics or sports or something else.
Complaining and arguing are symptoms of discontentment. [After I wrote that last sentence, I complained to my dog about how he just came in but wanted to go back out again.] When we complain to someone about their behavior, we’re showing our discontentment with them. Complaining like that is about trying to change them, to control them into acting differently or becoming different in some way. It is an expression of our discontentment with them or at least their behavior is some way. But, if they do change that behavior, then we move on and find something else about them that makes us discontent. Complaining about the weather or the traffic, or something else is an expression of discontentment with our circumstances.
Arguing is about being discontent with what we’re getting or not getting. If I argue with a clerk in a store about the price of an item, it is because I am unhappy about the price. If I argue with a co-worker that I’m doing too much of the work on a project that we’re both assigned to do, that’s an expression of discontentment. Arguing comes from having a different point of view in some instances—like sports or politics but it often results from a feeling of injustice.
Jesus was treated with extreme injustice. He had no sin but was made a sin offering for us. It was quite inconvenient (to say that least) to give up the worship of heaven for the scorn of humanity. If anyone had the right to complain or argue about the glory he wasn’t getting (or the mistreatment he was getting), it was Jesus. But Jesus never complained about anything nor did he ever argue with anyone about anything but truth.
There are many differences between believers and unbelievers but verses 14-15 tell us that the most obvious difference to an unbeliever between us and them is our contentment. As we saw yesterday, Paul was content to live and minister for Christ or die and be with Christ. He was content to remain in prison and give the gospel to the guards or be released to witnesses to another city about Christ. Instead of complaining or arguing, we should find something to give thanks for. The traffic that frustrates me so much is no fun, but I’m thankful that a car can take me long distances much faster than I could walk them. If you want to shine brightly like the North Star on a pitch black night, learn to speak words of thanks and contentment instead of complaining and arguing. This is a very specific, daily way we can show the difference Christ and faith in him has made in our lives.