Let Your Words Shine

let your words shine

My best friend and I bent our heads together and grumbled back and forth across the lunch table.  We didn’t like a few things about our youth group, and in all our fifteen-year-old wisdom we were sure we knew how to set things right. The music, the calendar, the leadership—our complaints flew fast and furious until a comment from the non-churchgoing friend next to us brought us up short.

“Wow,” she said. “You sure have a lot of problems at church.”


Grumbling has a seductive power. It forms an instant—but false—sense of camaraderie. Exhaust your library of small talk topics? Find something to complain about. Get a couple people to join you in your complaints, and it suddenly feels like solidarity. If you’re not united around something, at least you’re united against something. It can give you an emotional high, but it’s like gold plating over rotten wood—hollow, unstable, and easily broken. Communities built on outrage eventually devour themselves from within.

In Philippians, Paul warns us to “do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation” (Philippians 2:14, NIV). That word Paul uses here for “grumbling” isn’t the normal New Testament word for grumbling or complaining. It’s the same word Greek translations of the Old Testament use to describe the Israelites’ grumbling in the wilderness. They grumbled there wasn’t anything to eat. They grumbled that what God had provided wasn’t good enough. They grumbled against Moses, and they grumbled against God. Eventually their grumbling cost an entire generation their inheritance (Numbers 14:1-4, 26-35).

Our grumbling risks our own inheritance as well. Paul says when we resist grumbling “then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life” (Philippians 2:15-16, NIV). Grace shines brightly in an outrage filled world. When we resist the temptation to indulge in grumbling’s temporary satisfaction, we can find genuine connection and work together to find real solutions.

That doesn’t mean we are to ignore problems or stick our heads in the sand. But we are called to use our words well. Speak truth. Correct with grace. Let the Spirit of God guide our words to meet the need of the moment, building up rather than tearing down. And always, always, hold fast to the word of life as both anchor and plumb line for the soul.

It’s a lesson I’m still learning, but I’m trying. I want thanksgiving and to be my default, not complaining.  I want to build relationships on grace, not outrage. When I speak, I want my words to shine.

Image credit courtesy of Unsplash


  1. marthajaneorlando says:

    You are so right, Leigh! Grumbling and complaining are only temporary fixes for our frustrations; they leave us washed out and wiped out, never elevating us beyond the current problems.
    Like you, I choose gratefulness, not grumbling, when the going gets touch.

  2. Meg says:

    “Speak truth. Correct with grace. Let the Spirit of God guide our words to meet the need of the moment, building up rather than tearing down. ”

    I love this. So often, I run for my phone to tell a friend all about my problems and frustrations…instead of waiting on God to show me what’s going on. How many times to I lean on gossip instead of on Him? It’s hard to be quiet…but I know it’s necessary in those first moments of emotions…to process what’s happening in prayer, and line my Words up with His. I stink at this…but am trying to do better every day!
    Happy Monday!

  3. Michele Morin says:

    Oh, Leigh, thanks for this post! We may feel as if we are unloading when we grumble, but we are really just adding to the weight we carry by bringing the words out and infecting others. May God heal us of our spirit of negativity. Thanks for this exhortation!

  4. Bill Grandi says:

    As a pastor I have been the victim of too much of this. As a pastor I have (ashamedly) although been a purveyor of this. Interesting Paul says, “Do everything without grumbling or complaining.” I try hard (but don’t always succeed) to not be a grumbler. Good words Leigh.
    Bill Grandi recently posted…JudgmentalMy Profile

  5. Carlie says:

    This is so true, Leigh! Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about what we as Christ-followers portray to others. It’s not always a pretty picture. But, like you, ‘I want thanksgiving to be my default, not complaining’, and God is able. Amen! Thanks for a great post.

  6. Naomi@WhatJoyIsMine says:

    Leigh…How true this post is. Complaining is a joy killer. A really good reminder for the Christian heart. Thank you for sharing this at Monday’s Musings. I’ll be passing this on on our FB page. 🙂

  7. Ruthie Gray says:

    Your gold-plated wood paints a surreal picture of the rotting damage negative words play.
    I remember complaining about church as a 15 year old too. Thankfully, the older we get, the more we realize we need to give grace, eh?!
    This was really good and to the point. Thanks for sharing with us at Tuesday Talk!

  8. Mary Hill says:

    We have to be careful not to present negative talk where and when others can hear. We should focus on letting our words be uplifting. I know I have to work more on this area in my life too. Thanks for sharing with Literacy Musing Mondays this week.

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