The story is told of a man who joined a monastery where, in addition to the vows of celibacy and poverty, he was required to make a vow of silence. According to the rules of the monastery, the man was allowed to speak only two words a year and to utter them only during his annual review in front of the evaluation board.


The new monk served his first year in absolute silence. At the year's end when his performance was being evaluated, he was permitted to speak. The two words he uttered were "Food cold." The monk served his second year in absolute silence. At that year's end, his two words to the evaluation board were "Bed hard."


The man then served his third year in absolute silence. At the end of the year when he showed up for his final review, his two words were "I quit."


The monastery leader responded, "Your decision doesn't surprise us. After all, you've done nothing but complain since you got here."


If only our complaining were limited to just two words per year. How much quieter life would be!


"Do all things without murmuring," said Paul in Philippians 2:14. Is that really possible? Can a believer truly live a complaint-free life? Sounds impossible, doesn't it? Yet God's commands are not up for negotiation.


What is complaining?


Believers who want to take Paul's words seriously first need to know what complaining is. Simply stated, complaining is giving expression to one's self-centered discontentment. It's a heart murmur with vocal chords.


Sometimes our complaining takes on less verbal forms too: a rolling of the eyes; a gnashing of the teeth; huffing and puffing; stomping off; or body language that conveys defiance, disrespect, or disapproval. Consider how you would respond upon hearing things like the following:


"Pastor, the offering was down again this week."

"Pastor, there's a telemarketer on the phone again."

"Pastor, the nursery director quit last night."

"Pastor, there's a transient in the lobby asking for money."