Graves of Craving

Take some time to read Numbers 11 and Psalm 78:10-32. It records a time during the wilderness wanderings that Israel gave themselves up to intense craving (lust). Manna wasn’t good enough for them. They were not thankful for all that God had already done for them. They spoke of Egypt like it was a resort vacation spot, talking about how great they had it back there. “We want meat!”, they cried.

Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat!
(Numbers 11:4)

So God tells them, “Ok, I’ll give you meat…till it comes out your nostrils” (Numbers 11:20).

Then a wind from the LORD sprang up, and it brought quail from the sea and let them fall beside the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and a day’s journey on the other side, around the camp, and about two cubits above the ground. And the people rose all that day and all night and all the next day, and gathered the quail. Those who gathered least gathered ten homers. And they spread them out for themselves all around the camp. While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD struck down the people with a very great plague. Therefore the name of that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah (GRAVES OF CRAVING), because there they buried the people who had the craving.
(Numbers 11:31-34)

This is a needed reminder from Scripture to help us see the power of cravings and what they can do to God’s people. What can it do to marriage? What can unrestrained lust do to all our relationships?

For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress. Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes; for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread, but a married woman hunts down a precious life. Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; none who touches her will go unpunished.
(Proverbs 6:23-29)

A whole bunch of people were buried in a place that was forever remembered as “Graves of Craving.” Just like Arlington National Cemetery, you know what that place means. At Arlington we commemorate the men and women who gave their lives for our country. At Kibroth-hattaavah (Graves of Craving), they commemorated those who gave themselves up to lust. We do not want to create a graveyard that memorializes how we destroyed ourselves and others because of our lusts and cravings.

As God’s men, we must be committed to conquering lust with the power of Jesus Christ and with the help of other godly men in our lives. Help and grace is always there at the throne of God because of Jesus.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
(Ephesians 5:1-11)

Religious Complaining

This week’s focus has been about complaining and how it affects our various relationships. The previous articles this week centered on complaining about things like the weather, job, bills, etc. Today we will consider “Religious Complaining,” meaning we are complaining about our perceptions of another’s service to God.

To begin, let’s look at Martha the sister of Mary and Lazarus.

But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me” (Luke 10:40).

In other words, Martha said, “I’m all alone in the kitchen, Mary’s not helping, and Jesus You don’t even seem to care.” Jesus had to remind her that Mary was right where Mary needed to be. Mary wasn’t idle or neglecting her duties. It was Martha who was troubled and worried about many things, and it would serve Martha well to follow her sister’s example and sit at Jesus’ feet for awhile (Luke 10:41-42).

Next up, Elijah:

So he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life” (1 Kings 19:10).

Elijah in his genuine discouragement, thought he was all alone. A lot of what Elijah said was true, but he wasn’t alone. God reminded Elijah of His presence and power, and of the fact that there were 7,000 others who faithfully served God (1 Kings 19:10,18).

Elijah was discouraged and Martha was distracted, but both came to the same conclusion: “I’m all alone.” Sometimes we may complain because we look around and perceive that others are not working for the Lord like we are. We set ourselves up, whether out of arrogance or just plain discouragement, as the judge of how others are serving God.

When we begin to make judgments about the quality of another’s service to God, we become the judge instead of God. The disciples of Jesus did this to the woman who poured out the expensive oil upon Jesus. They set themselves up as the arbitrator of how she could have better used her resources for God. Jesus told them to leave her alone because she had done a good work for Him (Mark 14:4-6. We can do good works, like hospitality, and begin to grumble. “Why aren’t others doing the same? I wish others would appreciate what I’m doing!” (1 Peter 4:9).

Our assessment of the reward we should get for all we have sacrificed becomes overblown. We overvalue our service and undervalue the service of others. How much I served gets compared to the “little” someone else has served. Jesus talked about this mentality in the parable of the Landowner (Matthew 20:1-16). The basic lesson there is that the first shall be last and the last shall be first.

Let’s be careful about religious complaining. James wrote, “Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:9).

Religious Complaining

Really, this is ultimately what the disciples were arguing about among themselves. “Who is the greatest?” In the very presence of Jesus, the Son of God, they argued about who was the greatest! When we begin to do our religious complaining, then we are sounding just like the disciples in arguing who the greatest is (Luke 22:23-27).

Finally, take a moment to thank God for all of the faithful people around you who are serving God every day. May we ask the Lord to remind us that there are many things going on in service to God everyday that we have no idea about. There are many great servants of God doing many wonderful things, and they are not sounding a trumpet about it. Only God knows. Let’s continue to pray for humility and a mindset of service simply to do the job God has called us to do…and do it with thankfulness.

The Tongue of the Wise Promotes Health

There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health (Proverbs 12:18).

The focus for this week has been complaining. Words as we all know, have incredible weight and influence. The above proverb provides a great contrast. A stab wound doesn’t promote health, does it? My words can be a sword thrust through someone or I can promote health. Our words at work and school today can promote health: healthy attitudes, healthy dialogue, healthy teamwork, etc. Or, our complaining and criticizing words will just bring everyone down in the dumps.

Here are a couple of examples:

10 of the 12 spies sent by Moses to look over the land of Canaan brought back a bad report. They were faithless and their words discouraged the hearts of the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 1:28). Caleb, one of the 2 faithful spies, said decades later that the discouraging words of those 10 spies “made the heart of the people melt” (Joshua 14:8).

In contrast, consider King Hezekiah. When surrounded by the powerful army of Assyria, Hezekiah took his stand in faith with God. Not only did he prepare the people militarily, he spoke words of faith and encouragement to the people and directed their hearts to God’s power. “And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah” (2 Chronicles 32:6-8).

See the contrast? I think we all, that means me too, sometimes lose sight of how powerful and influential our speech can be. That’s probably why there is so much in Scripture about our words and their power. Hezekiah strengthened his people while the 10 spies made the hearts of Israel melt into discouragement.

The Tongue of the Wise Promotes Health

I found an interesting passage in Isaiah where the Messiah (Jesus) is speaking in the 1st person about what He is coming to do. In that section there is this statement:

The Lord has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary (Isaiah 50:4).

Jesus, the Messiah, has the tongue of the learned (educated, trained, wise). He knows how to speak a word in season (at the right time) to him who is weary (considering the audience and what is appropriate).

May the Lord give us this same tongue today! Let us train and educate our tongues and hearts. Consider what would be the right thing to say, not what would be the easy thing, or sarcastic thing or funny thing to say.

Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones (Proverbs 16:24).

Past articles that might be helpful to you in connection to this topic:

 

Do all things without complaining and disputing

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:14-15).

We have spent the last two days complaining…well, at least we have spent the last two days considering complaining. Monday’s article considered God’s view of complaining, and Tuesday’s article looked into the marriage relationship and how we need to work on producing a different climate in the home.

Here are a few thoughts today about helping our children to be thankful and to correct complaining behavior.

  1. Model the behavior you want to see. Let’s work on being examples of thankful people.
  2. Put them to work. Be age appropriate, but get them working. They are not living as royalty in a palace with mom and dad as their slaves. One quick way to squash the entitlement mentality is to make kids pull weeds, clean toilets and vacuum the van. Again, be age appropriate, you are not going to make a 3 year old chop wood and clean the toilet, but hopefully you get what I’m saying.
  3. Take away privileges and possessions for a time. I know this is simple, but if you can’t be thankful for what you have, you can live without it for awhile.
  4. Allow them to experience or internalize what real suffering looks like. For example, take them to visit someone who is really suffering. Have them do volunteer/service work for others in some type of need. I know for me, when I went as a young man to Riley Children’s Hospital in Indy, it had a profound effect upon me. When you see a young boy, a cancer patient, with no hair walking around with an IV cart, it really makes you feel really stupid for complaining about some trivial thing. I remember being in the burn unit with my cousin in Riley hospital. There were two young boys, ages 2 and 4, whose mother set their mattress on fire in an attempt to murder them. I have no problems. Going to a Holocaust exhibit is another experience that will sober you up. Again, be age appropriate on this one, but they need to somehow be lifted out of their own world and see the lives of others.

Hope this helps.

Man-Made Climate Change

Lots of discussion and attention has been given over the years to man-made climate change. No, I am not diving in to that mess, I am just using that phrase to talk about a different “climate.” This climate is clearly under our control, and our behavior directly affects it. The climate we will consider today is the one in our homes, specifically our marriages.

Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already accepted your works. Let your garments always be white, and let your head lack no oil. Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun (Ecclesiastes 9:7-9).

Yesterday, we saw how God views complaining. It is a big deal to Him. He wants us to be thankful. Words of gratitude, blessing and praise should be regular parts of our speech. Christ set us free from darkness and sin so that we would be His kingdom priests, proclaiming His praises (1 Peter 2:9).

This is not to say that we never deal with problems or discuss them. It doesn’t mean we are never discouraged and hurting. Life has real pain and trials. Ignoring, suppressing or minimizing problems is not what God wants. Jesus wept, Paul despaired, and Elijah was depressed.

“Climate” by definition means weather conditions over a long period of time. That is different from today’s weather. Someone may have a bad day or week, just like it might on rare occasion snow in the South. I’m talking about our “climate” as men. What is our consistent pattern of behaviors and attitudes at home?

What I do want to focus on today is specifically our attitude and words around our wives. It becomes very easy to complain. Sometimes being negative and cynical is as comfortable as our favorite recliner. We can settle in to a really nice whine and grumble about all that isn’t right in the world. We can get tired and overwhelmed, and we begin to see problems everywhere. What the kids aren’t doing right. How the wife isn’t doing what she should. The house and car repairs. Health. Finances. Politics. My job and my boss stink.

Husbands, take inventory. Is there a critical, negative, cynical, complaining dark storm cloud over us? If we find ourselves in that negative mindset and we are grumpy about everything, how does that affect the climate of the home? What position does that put our wives in?

Man-Made Climate Change

If God advised us to live joyfully with our wives, and to “eat your bread with joy,” how do we accomplish that?

Try to smile. Really, I don’t mean to be flaky here, but just try to smile…at your wife. Even when all you want to do is gripe…look at your beautiful wife and smile. “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22).

Of course and always, pray! Lord, help transform this grumpy old troll. Help me Lord to see the joy and blessings you have showered me with.

Consciously look around for blessings. Force yourself to see what is going right, and verbally acknowledge it. We have to teach our mouths to do this, because it does not come naturally.

Consider the following Proverb:

The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, and adds learning to his lips. Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones (Proverbs 16:23-24).

What kind of “man-made climate change” are we producing in the home?

Our soul loathes this worthless bread

Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died (Numbers 21:4-6).

God provided manna, bread from heaven, for the children of Israel. Every day was a miracle. Their food was miraculously provided for 40 years. Do the math. 6 days a week (extra manna provided on Friday for the Sabbath day) for 40 years. That’s a myriad miracles, and a gazillion tons of manna. They called it “worthless.” On top of that they said, “our soul loathes” it.

I was reading 1 Corinthians 10 yesterday where Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians about the Israelites in the wilderness. The sins they committed were recorded for us as examples, Paul explained, so that we do not repeat them. One of those sins Paul specified was complaining.

It just reminded me of how serious God takes complaining. If you haven’t done this lately, look through the Bible and do some word searches for words like grumbling, murmuring and complaining. See what God says about it. Look at the consequences. Lots of people died at God’s own hand because of it.

Our soul loathes this worthless bread

So, here we are, living under Christ, walking in His grace, and Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10 to remember how God views complaining. It is still a serious thing to God, just as serious as sexual immorality and idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:1-12). Sometimes we are tempted to think that the big sins are sexual immorality and murder, but complaining is just a little sin. We would be well served to take a walk through Exodus through Deuteronomy with the children of Israel to refresh our memories of God’s view of complaining.

Today, let us take a moment to thank God.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

If we recognize that we are living an ungrateful life, and have a complaining spirit, we should get down on our knees and ask for the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy. We also should ask the Lord to teach us to be more thankful. May God help our hearts to be content, and may our words express that daily. It is helpful for us to take regular inventory of how richly God has blessed us. That old song still rings true, “Count your many blessings.”

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name (Hebrews 13:15).

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits (Psalm 103:2).