Cracking the Code on Complaining and Coveting!

Written by Elizabeth Thrives

Oct 27, 2020
complaining and coveting

Raise your hand if you want would describe yourself as a COVETOUS person! What about as a GRUMBLING COMPLAINER? Ha!

Even if we are covetous and one who grumbles and complains, we don’t usually see ourselves as someone like that!!

Those are really attitudes – and attitudes are patterns of thinking formed over a long period of time.

(  HERE.)

The Israelites in the Bible displayed the attitudes of grumbling, complaining, AND coveting on their way to the Promised Land. And it actually cost them dearly. Not only lack of joy and contentment, but they never got to enter the Promised Land because of it.

So I think we GREATLY benefit from looking at this, because if we don’t know the attitudes of covetousness and complaining are luring us, and often TAKING HOLD of us, then we have NO defenses set up against those attitudes!

*The following is a compilation of my thoughts and notes on a chapter of James McDonald’s book: Lord Change My Attitude Before It’s Too Late*

Do you Grumble and complain?

Do you ever wake up and start the day thinking- “I sure would like to just wallow in negativity today. I hope nothing goes right and that I get really upset about it.”

Ha- ofcourse not!

Usually we are blind-sided by negativity and discontentment and feel like we simply can’t help it.

(There is GOOD NEWS-because WE CAN HELP IT! More on that later!)

 A quick test for yourself!

Do any of these type of thoughts frequent your mind?

  • When going to church- “I hope this goes by fast because I’ve got lots to do.”
  • “Isn’t this weather so rough? Man I’m tired of it!”
  • Getting dressed- “I don’t have any good clothes!”
  • “I do not enjoy going into this job where no one even appreciates me.”
  • At a restaurant- “ What’s taking the food so long?”
  • About your husband- “Wow he NEVER does…. or he ALWAYS says…….”
  • About your kids- “I’m sick of this” or “She is getting on my nerves.”
  • When doing laundry- “I wish I never had to wash another load again.”
  • At meal time- “I hate trying to figure out what we will eat.”

You get the idea! If that kind of thinking is familiar territory, it does show a self-centered, kind of thankless thought process that equals =complaining.

And thinking like that certainly equals =grumbling.

I know we don’t want to think of ourselves as a complaining grumbler but sometimes we need to face the truth to be able to make the needed changes.

I mean, it’s certainly not a party to embrace grumbling and complaining, so we shouldn’t be fighting to hold on to it!!

What happens when I let myself grumble and complain?

I am sure I don’t have to tell you what happens when you let yourself grumble and complain. We all would say the same thing if we were talking face to face.

When you grumble and complain about this and about that, the big result is no fun at all. Not fun for you and not fun for people who have to be around you!

It’s DISCONTENTMENT. Ugh. Not happy or satisfied.

No one intentionally chooses to be discontent. They often feel it “happens” to them. But that’s not true at all thankfully!!

(Again- we will get to that later!)

Coveting is right up there with grumbling and complaining. Let’s look at covetousness.

Cracking the Code on Coveting

You know what grumbling and complaining is, but covetousness is sometimes not as clear. Jealousy may be the more familiar synonym. Anyway here it is defined:

  1. Covetousness is wanting WRONG things– like control and power and wealth for just ourselves.
  2. Covetous is also wanting RIGHT things for the WRONG reasons like when someone wants the role of spiritual leadership for personal recognition or power.
  3. Covetousness is also wanting RIGHT things at the WRONG time- like couples who want to engage in sexual intimacy before they are married.
  4. Covetousness is wanting RIGHT things but in the WRONG amount-money and material things is the super common example here.

So someone may ask- if I just want something or see something I want, is that covetousness?

Not necessarily— but fixating on it- dwelling on that desire and so believing it is essential to make you happy or at peace, THAT’S what turns the corner to covetousness.

(And believe me, grumbling and complaining go right along with that!)

Fixating on desires that we have is actually what we often do when we want something, someone, or some circumstance.

Covetousness has a progression!

There is a progression that the Israelites took in Numbers chapter 11 when they wanted meat instead of manna, and it plays out the same way for us! Let’s look at it & see if we can see ourselves here…

That progression is:

  • 1st step-We see, feel, or think of something, someone, or circumstance that we WANT….

Numbers 11:4 says: “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!”’

That was the first step. They decided they wanted meat. Like when WE decide WE want something.

  • 2nd step- What we often do is begin to dwell and fixate on that which we want…..

Here is what the Israelites said when they began to dwell on their desire.
(Num. 11:5) “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leaks, the onions, and the garlic.” (ohhh can’t you just hear them)

It has been noted how covetousness inflates pleasure. When we covet something, we begin to make it more attractive and accessible than it really is, because we want it.

You see that here with the Israelites-those foods they mentioned- fish, cucumbers, melons, etc were in Egypt for sure, but the people of Israel weren’t dining on them EVER!!! They were SLAVES!! They were HARSHLY TREATED!!

The Israelites wanting MEAT instead of MANNA from heaven, getting all bent out of shape about it, then “remembering” INCORRECTLY what they “used to have” allllll is a perfect example of the twisted inflation that can happen when jealousy and coveting enter the picture! Take note.

Covetousness inflates desire while it ignores the danger.

Eating too much? You’ll diet tomorrow- you know, rationalizations in order to get the thing you want.

And people do this with far bigger things than food or material things- this is how many extra- marital affairs start!

Being attracted to someone- dwelling and fixating on that desire- rationalizing it while desire inflates and danger is minimized- and then ….YIELDING.

We still have another step as if this isn’t sobering enough!

  • The 3rd step- what happens is…while we are dwelling, dwelling, dwelling on what we want, we begin to hate, hate, hate what we DO have.
    Num 11:6- “But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” (Can’t you just hear the attitude?)

What happens when covetousness progresses through the 3 steps?

The result of dwelling on what we want and therefore hating what we DO have?

Look at Verse 10 (Numbers 11:10) It’s ASTOUNDING!
“Moses heard the people WEEPING throughout their clans -everyone at the door of his tent.”!!!!!!!!

GROWN MEN and WOMEN weeping at their tents because they couldn’t have meat?!!!
They were so bent about the gap between what they wanted and what God had given them that they were CRYING!!!!

They were acting like big babies. Talk about losing perspective.

Well, it’s the same with us unfortunately. The result of dwelling on what we want, and coming to hate what we do have is:
*Discontentment in our life-yep- grumbling, complaining, coveting.
*And let’s add a feeling of dryness and distance with God.

You know why? Because we are believing we must have this thing, this person, this situation to be satisfied, fulfilled, and at peace!

Coveting is ultimately rejecting God’s sufficiency in our lives.

I know I don’t have to tell you that this stifles our joy (and it stifles OTHER people’s joy having to be around us while we act like this) and hurts our ability to worship God and enjoy closeness with Him.

Definitely not a desirable place to be!

Personal Example:

There was a time I went through this progression in regards to the house that I am blessed to call home.

We bought it when we had one baby and I was delighted with it!

In fact, I don’t remember there being anything I didn’t like about the house. I was thankful for all kinds of things about this home!

At some point, as our family grew, little things like the flooring here and the size of the bathrooms there- started bothering me.

I decided that I wanted another house.
And that was fine in itself.

It was that first step- I began thinking of something that I WANTED.

But ofcourse it didn’t stop there.

I moved onto to step 2! DWELLING and FIXATING on what I wanted for sure!

At this time, one of my sons was a baby that I was still nursing. He was a SLOW eater so there were several times a day that I was just sitting in different rooms of the house nursing for 45 mins at a time.

I am embarrassed to say that I would basically look around in each room where I was nursing, and I would go over everything I didn’t like and wished I could change!

So I was just ripping apart different parts of my home in my thoughts several times a day! And then the changes I wanted to make were never anything simple- no, they were costly changes that would then surge a whole other disappointment because we couldn’t financially make any of these changes!

As you can tell I was moving right on over to step 3!

I spent all kinds of thought time wanting a DIFFERENT home that I now greatly disliked every inch of MY home!!

Grumbling and complaining about it certainly occured as well which wasn’t exactly encouraging to all the people living in the house with me!!

I’m so thankful that God graciously brought this coveting situation to my attention (through my way-too-gracious husband:-)

In conclusion…

Complaining and covetousness like to slip under our radar without us even realizing we are succumbing to them.

It is GOOD to take a minute and evaluate your heart and see if there are any grumbly, complaining, covetous type thoughts and actions lurking and wreaking their havoc.

All too often, I find that there are!

What do we do about it?

That’s the good news that I said I would get to “later”! If we see that we do have attitudes of complaining and coveting, grumbling and discontentment, there are some life changing things we can do to conquer them!

Read Part 2-“How to Conquer Complaining and Coveting and Just Be Content”!

(Helpful resource: Lord Change My Attitude Before It’s Too Late by James McDonald)

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