The Problem with Complaining

Yael Eckstein  |  June 28, 2022

Moses presents the Ten Commandments to the people.

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?” — Numbers 16:3

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Korach, which means “Korah,” from Numbers 16:1–18:32.

One of the most important lessons that, as a mother, I work very hard to instill in my children is to not be a complainer. And it’s a lesson that needs to be taught over and over, because all children complain sometimes. Adults, too, for that matter!

The way I see it, there are two main reasons that people complain. First is selfishness. For example, I may make a dinner that is one child’s favorite, but another of my kids wanted something else. Is that a reason to complain?

The second reason that people complain is that they don’t see the big picture, the full reasoning behind a decision that was made. So, every time one of my kids complains about a decision my husband or I make, I ask them why they think we made the decision. The second thing I tell them is that their complaint will only be heard if they are also proposing a solution to the problem that makes sense for everyone.

The Problem with Complaining

In this week’s Torah portion we read about complaints from a group of men opposed to Moses and Aaron. Korach and his mob of rebels had a list of complaints for Moses. First, they complained about the special status of Moses and Aaron: “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?”

This complaint only makes sense if we ignore the fact that it was God, Himself, who chose Moses and Aaron for their roles. The entire nation, including Korach and the mob, heard God speak to Moses at Mount Sinai. So really this complaint showed a lack of trust in God.

A few verses later, the rebels complained that they were still in the desert and hadn’t yet entered the Promised Land (vv. 13-14). Of course, God’s plan to bring them to the land would happen in the future. Complaining about not entering the land yet showed once again that they did not trust God’s plan.

The problem with complaining is that it reflects a complete lack of trust in God and His plans for us. It’s one thing to ask questions of God. Throughout the Bible, we see people like Abraham and Moses questioning why God acts the way He does. But even when they didn’t fully understand God’s plan for them, they didn’t complain. Their trust in God remained steadfast.

Your Turn:

Think of the last time you complained about something. How did that complaint reflect a lack of trust in God? How would you deal with that complaint now?