Complaint Department – Philippians 2:14-16

What do you do when you don’t like the way things are going? If you’re in charge, you may be able to make a change, but what if you’re not in charge? What if the situation is totally out of your hands, as it often is?

Eder Rojas, 19, was a flight attendant for Compass Airlines. He was assigned to a work route he didn’t like. It had him flying from Minneapolis to Regina, Saskatchewan on May 7, 2008, with 72 passengers and 3 other crew members. His flight made a safe emergency landing in Fargo, North Dakota, 35 minutes into the flight because of a fire in the airplane bathroom. Eder was one of 3 persons credited with putting out the flames, but later he confessed to starting the fire by using a lighter on the paper towels. Why? Because he was upset with the airline for making him work that route!

It’s no surprise to anyone, not even Eder, that he was “fired” by Compass, a subsidiary of Northwest Airlines. What an idiotic thing to do! Register your complaint by starting a fire on an airplane and putting the lives of yourself and 75 other people at enormous risk. Was it his age? His inability to think clearly? His anger-clouded mind? The illusion that a little smoke (not real fire!) would get the plane back to Minneapolis for a day in the park? Who knows, but the bottom line is that he had a complaint and didn’t know how to handle it.

Some would observe that our nation has too many whiners in it. Undisciplined children accustomed to getting their way learn the power of a tantrum early on. They can throw a fit over any little thing. And, some adults seem to keep that pattern of behavior. Oh, they don’t lay in the floor and kick their legs while screaming, but they do like to complain, grumble and murmur. Sometimes such a me-centered focus can even take them to violent actions that hurt and kill others.

The Apostle Paul wrote one of my least favorite passages in Philippians 2:14-16. “Least favorite” because it is so convicting. “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.” Even to pronounce the Greek word Paul used here (goggusmon) sounds like a grumble. It’s not used of a loud, boisterous protest. No, it’s more the sullen discontent expressed in a low voice.

Paul’s advice comes on the heels of a powerful appeal for humility, exemplified by Jesus who left heaven to live in the flesh, to be a servant, even to be crucified. To imitate Jesus means we don’t ask, “What’s in it for me?” so often as, “How can I serve you?” The focus changes from what is not going my way to the needs and desires of other people. Maybe they need something to drink, a pillow, a magazine, instead of a fire in the bathroom of their plane! And, when we focus on serving others, instead of ourselves, we do shine like stars. Our world needs such stars who hold out the word of life to people like Eder. Will you be a star? Okay, stop complaining!

Article copyright (c) 2009 by Charles G. Mickey.  All rights reserved.

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