Complaining is an activity all of us have participated in at one time or another. Most of us utter complaints without even thinking about it. It seems almost natural to vocalize our displeasure when things don’t quite turn out as we think they should. The Bible has much to say about the practice of complaining and contempt. The Scriptures tell us not only what people complain about, but also how it affects others, and how God responds to it. We may not take our complaining and contempt seriously, but God does.
What is the meaning of contempt?
Contempt is the “Willful disobedience to or open disrespect for the rules or instructions of a governing body or person of authority.”
“An act showing disrespect.”
“The feeling with which a person considers something worthless, mean or vile.”
How God views Contempt.
Deuteronomy 17:12-13: “The man who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to the Lord your God must be put to death. You must purge the evil from Israel. All the people will hear and be afraid, and will not be contemptuous again.”
Hosea 12:14: “But Ephraim has bitterly provoked him to anger; his Lord will leave upon him the guilt of his bloodshed and will repay him for his contempt.”
Proverbs 19:16: “He who obeys instructions guards his life, but he who is contemptuous of his ways will die.”
Point 1: Examples of contempt.
No regard for God at times of worship
1 Samuel 2:12-17: “Eli’s sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord. Now it was the practice of the priests with the people that whenever anyone offered a sacrifice and while the meat was being boiled, the servant of the priest would come with a three-pronged fork in his hand. He would plunge it into the pan or kettle or caldron or pot, and the priest would take for himself whatever the fork brought up. This is how they treated all the Israelites who came to Shiloh. But even before the fat was burned, the servant of the priest would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, “Give the priest some meat to roast; he won’t accept boiled meat from you, but only raw.”
If the man said to him, “Let the fat be burned up first, and then take whatever you want,” the servant would then answer, “No, hand it over now; if you don’t, I’ll take it by force.”
This sin of the young men was very great in the Lord’s sight, for they were treating the Lord’s offering with contempt.”
Eli’s sons were in the temple and acting irreverently; they were acting as if God were not watching or present. They were not treating their time of worshiping God as special and holy, as laid down by their spiritual ancestors, Aaron and his sons in Leviticus.
Leviticus 22:1-9: “The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons to treat with respect the sacred offerings the Israelites consecrate to me, so they will not profane my holy name. I am the Lord.
“Say to them: ‘For the generations to come, if any of your descendants is ceremonially unclean and yet comes near the sacred offerings that the Israelites consecrate to the Lord, that person must be cut off from my presence. I am the Lord.
“‘If a descendant of Aaron has an infectious skin disease or a bodily discharge, he may not eat the sacred offerings until he is cleansed. He will also be unclean if he touches something defiled by a corpse or by anyone who has an emission of semen, or if he touches any crawling thing that makes him unclean, or any person who makes him unclean, whatever the uncleanness may be. The one who touches any such thing will be unclean till evening. He must not eat any of the sacred offerings unless he has bathed himself with water. When the sun goes down, he will be clean, and after that he may eat the sacred offerings, for they are his food. He must not eat anything found dead or torn by wild animals, and so become unclean through it. I am the Lord.
“‘The priests are to keep my requirements so that they do not become guilty and die for treating them with contempt. I am the Lord, who makes them holy.”
How we can do this today:
- When we come to worship on Sundays or other meetings late. (Be early to prepare yourself)
- When at service we don’t sing, or we sing poorly as if it is not to God. When the singing starts, we should stop everything we are doing and sing. (If Jesus was sitting next to you, what would your singing be like?)
- When we do not pay attention at church, play on phones, eat, have our mind on other things than God’s word (no matter who is preaching or the topic).
- When we dress inappropriately. While there may be many ways to dress, if Jesus was sitting next to you, you would make an effort to dress in such a way that was respectful to who Jesus was or dress in such a way that you bring attention more to God than yourself, as the goal at services is to focus on God not yourself.
- When we gossip and hide quiet reservations we know others within the church harbor.
Not giving your best in your offerings.
Malachi 1:6-14: “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty. “It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name.
“But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’
“You place defiled food on my altar.
“But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’
“By saying that the Lord’s table is contemptible. When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty.
“Now implore God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?”–says the Lord Almighty.
“Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands. My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord Almighty.
“But you profane it by saying of the Lord’s table, ‘It is defiled,’ and of its food, ‘It is contemptible.’ And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the Lord Almighty.
“When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the Lord. “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.”
How we can do this today.
1. Not giving our absolute best in contribution offerings to God
2. Using 10% or the Old Testament example of tithing as a rule to hide behind, and therefore limiting our giving.
3. Seeing giving financially as a burden.
4. Not honoring the pledge we made to God but honoring giving to other areas in our life such as rent or bills. Is your landlord worthy of more respect than God?
Grumbling against & opposing Leadership.
Numbers 14:1-24: “That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”
But the whole assembly talked about stoning them. Then the glory of the Lord appeared at the Tent of Meeting to all the Israelites. The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.”
Moses said to the Lord, “Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them. And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that you, O Lord, are with these people and that you, O Lord, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. If you put these people to death all at one time, the nations who have heard this report about you will say, ‘The Lord was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them on oath; so he slaughtered them in the desert.’
“Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared: ‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.’ In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.”
The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times – not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.”
God had a plan for Israel to take the promised land. After sending scouts into the land, the people became faithless because they saw obstacles and difficultly. Today, this kind of lack of faith can turn into:
1. Grumbling against God’s chosen leadership
3. Lack of faith in God and his plan
4. Lack of faith in Gods chosen leaders to the point of wanting to choose our own leaders instead of submitting to God’s chosen leaders
5. Disguising our obvious fruitlessness with “issues I see in the church.”
6. Focusing on the “style with which someone calls you to repent.”
7. An overall lack of submission (in classroom, at home, with medical doctors, at work, etc.)
These are the characteristics of rebellion (which is resistance or defiance to any control or authority) and contempt.
Numbers 16:1-33: “Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites–Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth–became insolent and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well- known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?”
When Moses heard this, he fell facedown. Then he said to Korah and all his followers: “In the morning the Lord will show who belongs to him and who is holy, and he will have that person come near him. The man he chooses he will cause to come near him. You, Korah, and all your followers are to do this: Take censers and tomorrow put fire and incense in them before the Lord. The man the Lord chooses will be the one who is holy. You Levites have gone too far!”
Moses also said to Korah, “Now listen, you Levites! Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the Lord’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them? He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too. It is against the Lord that you and all your followers have banded together. Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?”
Then Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab. But they said, “We will not come! Isn’t it enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the desert? And now you also want to lord it over us? Moreover, you haven’t brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey or given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you gouge out the eyes of these men? No, we will not come!”
Then Moses became very angry and said to the Lord, “Do not accept their offering. I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, nor have I wronged any of them.”
Moses said to Korah, “You and all your followers are to appear before the Lord tomorrow–you and they and Aaron. Each man is to take his censer and put incense in it–250 censers in all–and present it before the Lord. You and Aaron are to present your censers also.” So each man took his censer, put fire and incense in it, and stood with Moses and Aaron at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. When Korah had gathered all his followers in opposition to them at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, the glory of the Lord appeared to the entire assembly. The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Separate yourselves from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.”
But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, “O God, God of the spirits of all mankind, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Say to the assembly, ‘Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. ’”
Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. He warned the assembly, “Move back from the tents of these wicked men! Do not touch anything belonging to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins.” So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing with their wives, children and little ones at the entrances to their tents.
Then Moses said, “This is how you will know that the Lord has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: If these men die a natural death and experience only what usually happens to men, then the Lord has not sent me. But if the Lord brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the grave, then you will know that these men have treated the Lord with contempt.”
As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah’s men and all their possessions. They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community.”
The leadership under Moses felt like he was pushing them too hard and they:
1. Actively opposed him.
2. Became insolent, which is to be boldly rude and disrespectful.
3. Viewed themselves and the whole of the community as holy, so they were out of touch with their sin and the sin of others.
4. Grumbled against God’s chosen leaders Moses and Aaron, which was actually grumbling against God.
5. Refused to get with Moses when he asked them to.
6. Focused on what Moses had not done for them, yet it was God who had not brought them into the Promised Land due to their previous sin.
7. Saw leadership as Moses wanting to lord it over them, they did not like to be led or told what to do.
They directed and projected their sin at their spiritual leader, yet God saw their actions and words as contempt against him.
Numbers 11:1: “And when the people complained it displeased the Lord.”
The Hebrew word for complained, “anan,” means, “to mourn.” Their complaining was a whining that stemmed from self-pity.
The idea here is that God was exceedingly grieved and hurt by the complaints of the people. Our complaining grieves and hurts the heart of God.
vs. 4: The people complained about what they didn’t have.
vs. 5: The people complained about “WHAT THEY USED TO HAVE.”
The Israelites began saying that the old life was better. Nowadays, when we have problems or pressure to be committed, we say things like, “I never had these problems before I became a Christian?”.
Andrew Carnegie, the multimillionaire, left $1 million for one of his relatives, who in return cursed Carnegie thoroughly because he had left $365 million to public charities and had cut him off with just one measly million.
Samuel Leibowitz, criminal lawyer and judge, saved 78 men from the electric chair. Not one ever bothered to thank him.
The London Church helped a homeless young man off the street, assisted him in getting into university, where he was voted class president. He exited school, got a good job as a letting agent, then left the congregation. When asked about what God had done for him through the members, his response was calloused… “The only help I received was from God. No need to show gratitude to the members…”
Numbers 12:1-10: “Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this.
(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)
At once the Lord said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the Tent of Meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them came out. Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the Tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When both of them stepped forward, he said, “Listen to my words:
“When a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams.
But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house.
With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord.
Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”
The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them.
When the cloud lifted from above the Tent, there stood Miriam–leprous, like snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had leprosy;”
Moses’s sister and brother spoke against him as his wife was of a different culture, race and most probably skin color. The rhetorical question “Can the Cushite change his skin?” in Jeremiah 13:23 implies a people of markedly different skin color from the Israelites.
We can believe and feel that our cultural way of doing things is the best, or that as a people, race, nationality, we are better, or that our way of doing things is better: better music, singing or songs, set up of church, way of living, home style, way of dressing, speaking, eating, cooking. In a world in which each group prides itself on its color, race, culture, our culture is to be Christ-like, our eyes are to be color-blind, our music to be all-encompassing. No preference for one over the other. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) DON’T PUT YOUR CULTURE OVER YOUR CALLING.
Romans 2:4-8: “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self- seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.”
In this part of the book of Romans, God, through Paul, was talking about how God had showered the Jews with blessings in order to get them to repent. They were chosen not because they were great or special, but to become great and special.
As disciples today, this is the very same issue. We were chosen to be Christians and receive God’s love, his forgiveness, Holy Spirit, kindness, and guidance. This, in turn, should lead us to have soft, repentant hearts towards God and his will for our life.
When we are ungrateful for God’s love, like the Jews were, it is contempt. We consider those things God gives us as “worthless” in our life.
Contempt towards others
1 Samuel 25:2-11: “A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel. His name was Nabal and his wife’s name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband, a Calebite, was surly and mean in his dealings.
While David was in the desert, he heard that Nabal was shearing sheep. So he sent ten young men and said to them, “Go up to Nabal at Carmel and greet him in my name. Say to him: ‘Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours!
“ ‘Now I hear that it is sheep- shearing time. When your shepherds were with us, we did not mistreat them, and the whole time they were at Carmel nothing of theirs was missing. Ask your own servants and they will tell you. Therefore be favorable toward my young men, since we come at a festive time. Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them. ’”
When David’s men arrived, they gave Nabal this message in David’s name. Then they waited.
Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?”
1 Samuel 25:38-39: “About ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal and he died. (Most contemptuous members, leaders, die spiritually. They can die and leave the church, or die inside the church) When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise be to the Lord, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.”
David had shown kindness towards Nabal, and instead of treating David with kindness and being generous, which was in his power to do, he considered what David did for him with contempt, as worthless. Maybe he thought he did not need David’s help, so when David was kind towards him he might have had the attitude of, “I did not ask you to do it.”
Being contemptuous is a character issue, if you are that way with people, you will be that way with God.
Nabal ultimately paid the price with his life.
Contempt towards others can be shown in how we treat them; we display an attitude of disrespect and considering them worthless when we:
1. Display consistent tardiness, not valuing their time and priorities.
2. Do not value them or their gifts & talents. (1 Corinthians 12:22-23: “On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,”
3. Roll our eyes at people or their actions and words. The Bible describes this as haughty eyes, one of the things God detests (Proverbs 6:16-17).
4. Make fun of people’s weaknesses or mannerisms in a condemning or self-righteous way.
5. Use a sarcastic tone of voice, make sarcastic comments or are negative towards people.
6. Fail to answer phone calls and messages.
7. Become obstinate towards church’s biblical direction.
Point 2: Root causes of contempt
Comfort and wealth.
Job 12:5: “Men at ease have contempt for misfortune as the fate of those whose feet are slipping.”
When our lives are going well, we tend to detach ourselves from the needs and plights of others; we become ok with our “compassion fatigue.” Or we detach ourselves from the reality that misfortune may be closer to us than we think.
Proverbs 17:5: “He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.”
Pride and arrogance.
Psalms 123:4: “We have endured much ridicule from the proud, much contempt from the arrogant.”
Psalms 31:18: “Let their lying lips be silenced, for with pride and contempt they speak arrogantly against the righteous.”
The meaning of being proud in a spiritual context is: “to have or display a higher opinion of one’s own importance or opinion than God does for you; to have or display an attitude of superiority towards God or others; the belief that you are better or know better.”
The meaning of arrogance is “An offensive display of superiority, self-importance and overbearing pride”
Psalms 31:18: “Let their lying lips be silenced, for with pride and contempt they speak arrogantly against the righteous.”
Selfishness and wickedness
Proverbs 18:1-3: “An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends; he defies all sound judgment. A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions. When wickedness comes, so does contempt, and with shame comes disgrace.”
Selfishness is displayed in such ways as not wanting to give to God, not wanting to give to others, not wanting to be led in a way contrary to our feelings or likes (our opinion is more important to us than truly understanding the direction or advice we are given), not wanting to be asked to sing or worship in a way other than what our desires or up-bringing suggest.
Simple wickedness, sin, coming from a person’s selfish, self-focused, sinful heart and the enjoyment of doing something sinful, the pleasure of the sin of contempt.
How do we deal with contempt?
Psalms 119:18-24: “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me. My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times. You rebuke the arrogant, who are cursed and who stray from your commands. Remove from me scorn and contempt, for I keep your statutes. Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees. Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.”
Deal with it in your own heart first.
A. Change or bend our sinful nature to align with God’s word.
B. Drive it out with conviction and mercy
C. Silence it with urgency
D. Rinse and repeat for any other disciples affected by this spiritual plague.