I have seen a great irony where a guilty party turns around and falsely accuses a righteous party of being nothing more than jealous or unhappy grumblers when in reality the righteous have legitimate accusations against the guilty. The guilty try to bring shame to the righteous in order to protect them self, rather than deal with the problem they are guilty of. If the righteous are not strong enough, they walk away thinking they are the one who is really in the wrong. This then becomes a great mis-justice that brings about a lot of hurt.
To start with, in addressing this mis-justice, we need to clarify word use. Because we sometimes interchange words that fall into the thesaurus list of another word, confusion can arise. Below I have listed the thesaurus list of synonyms for both complain and for accuse:
Complain Synonyms: accuse, ascribe, attack, beef,bellyache, bemoan, bewail, bitch, carp, cavil, charge, contravene, criticize, defy, demur, denounce, deplore, deprecate, differ, disagree, disapprove, dissent, expostulate, find fault, fret, fuss, gainsay, grieve, gripe, groan, grouse, growl, grumble, impute, indict, kick up a fuss, lament, lay, look askance, make a fuss, moan, nag, object, oppose, protest, refute, remonstrate, repine, reproach, snivel, sound off, take exception to, wail, whimper, whine, yammer
Accuse Synonyms: allege, apprehend, arraign, arrest, attack, attribute,betray, blame, blow the whistle, brand, bring charges, censure, charge, cite, complain, criminate, denounce, file claim, finger, frame, hang something on, hold accountable, impeach, implicate, impute, incriminate, inculpate, indict, lay at door, let have it, libel, litigate,lodge complaint, name, pin on, point finger at, prosecute, recriminate, serve, summons, slander, slur, sue, summon, tax
Because of much confusion and abuse within the Christian realm, what I want to do is try to distinguish between what is permissible and what is not permissible according to the Word of God. We need to break it down between righteousness and unrighteousness. For clarity’s sake in this post, I need to choose the best word for each according to the following definitions:
Complain Definition: grumble about
Accuse Definition: place blame for wrongdoing, hold accountable
According to definition I had to choose the word complain to describe what is usually an unrighteous act and accuse to describe what is usually a righteous act. It is only meant as a general description, not as a rigid guideline. For example, I am aware that Satan is referred to in Revelation 12:10 as the ‘accuser of the brethren’, but let’s keep it within context that it is to show that even though the accusations were at one time correct, the sins of Christians now have been washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Let’s First Look At Complaining:
The Greek word translated “complainer” means literally “one who is discontented with his lot in life.” It is akin to the word grumbler. Complaining is certainly not a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and, in fact, is detrimental to the peace, joy, and patience that come from the Spirit. For the Christian, complaining is destructive and debilitating personally and only serves to make our witness to the world more difficult. Who, for instance, would be attracted to a religion whose adherents are dissatisfied with life and who continually grumble and complain?
The first complainer was Adam who, after he and Eve disobeyed, complained to God that “the woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it” (Genesis 3:12). The son of Adam, called Cain, also complained, although undoubtedly within himself (Genesis 4:6). We also know of the complaints made by Moses, when he met God at the burning bush (Exodus 3–4). Also, Moses cried to the Lord repeatedly for deliverance from the Israelites’ grumbling and idolatry (Exodus 17:4; 32:31-32). We also know of the complaints that David offered up to the Lord in the Psalms (Psalm 2:1; 12:1-2; 22:1) and the complaints made by the prophets concerning the idolatry of the Jewish nation. However, the book of Job offers the most in the way of complaints toward God, and yet Job did not sin (Job 1:22, 2:10). That is not to say that the aforementioned people never sinned in voicing their complaints to God, but Job was a man who was able to sanctify his complaints, and that took humility.
Clearly, as believers we are challenged not to grumble or complain (Philippians 2:14-15; 1 Peter 4:9); rather, we are to love one another deeply so that we may become “blameless and pure” in God’s eyes. If we grumble and complain, it shows how worldly we still are (James 4:1-3). A complaining spirit leads to fighting and quarrelling because complaints come from unfulfilled desires, which lead to envy and strife. Was that not at the root of the problem with the sons of Israel, when they chose to dispose of their brother Joseph, because of his dream (Genesis 37:3)?
Even though it is wrong to complain out loud and demoralize others, we have a God that it is OK to take our legitimate complaints to and lay it at His feet. But keep in mind that, it is never OK to complain about God.
Now Let’s Look At Righteous Accusation:
To distinguish between complaining and righteous accusation, there are two questions that need to be answered:
1. Is it to speak out against a sin or an injustice or a conflict with the Word of God?
2. Or is it just plain spouting off about unhappiness with your lot in life?
Only if the answer to question 1 is YES and question 2 is NO, can a Christian move forward. But please note, this does not mean you should. Sometimes it is better to take something into our prayer closet and leave it there for God to take care of. At other times it is wrong for us if we do not step forward and correct an injustice. Then there are other times when we are left with no choice but to take action.
I have added some Scriptures that add light to the subject:
Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint (accusation) against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:1-7 NKJV)
So an elder must be a man whose life is above reproach (accusations). He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach. (1 Timothy 3:2 NLT)
Do not listen to an accusation against an elder unless it is confirmed by two or three witnesses. Those who sin should be reprimanded in front of the whole church; this will serve as a strong warning to others. (1 Timothy 5:19, 20 NLT)
“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense (accusation). If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17 NLT)
But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose (accuse) him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile Christians, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. As a result, other Jewish Christians followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, “Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow the Jewish traditions? (Galatians 2:11-14 NLT)
“What should we do?” asked some soldiers. John replied, “Don’t extort money or make false accusations. And be content with your pay.” (Luke 3:14 NLT)