A recent article in World Magazine described a 100% increase in noise complaints at a Dublin airport over the previous year. What could possibly have brought about such a dramatic increase? Was it a change in the type of aircraft or perhaps a change in landing patterns? Nothing quite so logical, one person accounted for ninety percent of the increase by logging an average of thirty four complaints every day. I suppose you could blame the pandemic lockdowns or some really obsessive behavioral issues, or perhaps an affinity for the music played while on hold.
I began to wonder if complaint departments as a specific corporate area even exist anymore. I know there are satisfaction surveys for just about everything from fast food to health care. There are online platforms and antisocial media that give more than enough opportunity to share grievances. I don’t often consult YELP, for example, but I am convinced there are people who have never had a decent meal with acceptable service in their lifetime.
Before I go off on another rabbit trail let me return to my original discussion of complaint. Certainly complaints are nothing new. I have no expertise in the field of cave drawings but I am pretty familiar with the Bible and there are some references to complainants there. When you look at four words as translated in the NIV based upon the word “complain” you will only find 23 references — not bad when you consider the number of years and people involved.
As you can imagine, the book of Job has some instances of complaint, but who can blame him? Absalom when he was trying to overthrow his father King David spent time gathering complaints, but that was politics — no surprise there.
The group that is perhaps the most interesting is the Israelites as recorded in the book of Numbers. They were complaining about the food, this was of course pre YELP:
“We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost — also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (Numbers 11:5-6 NIV).
Memory can be amazing. While the Israelites seemed to remember the menu, they forgot their captivity. The fish was “free,” but they forgot the whip of the task masters, that they had to either hide or have their sons killed, but man the garlic was good. Now they were stuck with manna, which literally translated means “what is it”; looked like coriander seed tasted like it was made from olive oil, and while it required some preparation, it fell from heaven fresh every day.
This is of course the same group that not only left slavery but were paid to go. Eye witnesses to the parting of the Red Sea, so many incredible miracles, yet they were in fact now complaining about God’s provision. It is possible then for people of faith to get so focused on their own stuff, in the current vernacular, they forget about or even begin to complain about the provision of God.
Paul while encouraging the churches at Philippi to continue in the faith after he left them said, “Do everything without complaining or arguing…” (Philippians 2:14 NIV). I think that advise is still helpful as we continue to follow Christ.
Bill Upton is a retired chaplain of the Tooele City Police Department.