Lesson: Choosing Joyful Attitudes, Not Grumbling (Philippians 2:14-16 )

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Just do it…Without Grumbling!  Why God wants us to Have Joyful Attitudes
But whyyyyyyy? Anyone who works with kids (or people in general, for that matter!) has likely been frustrated by the grating sound of a whiny voice. Some people seem as though they can only be happy if they are complaining, in fact. No matter what they do, there is grumbling and irritation attached. The negative side of things always seems to predominate. Youngsters are generally not shy about airing their dissatisfaction and will tell us in no uncertain terms when things are unpleasant. But it is not healthy practice. We want to raise children of contentment and gratitude, not grumbling. And God wants us to be grateful, as well. This lesson focuses on the words of some epistles, as well as Old Testament stories, to highlight why God advises against grumbling.
Lesson focus: When we constantly whine and complain, it is ultimately an insult to God; we can resolve against grumbling by having gratitude.
Passage: Philippians 2:14-16 and 4:4-8; 1 Peter 4:8-9; Numbers 11:1-2; Isaiah 40: 27-28; 1 Thess. 5:16-18
Target Audience: K-6th Grade (adaptable)
Materials Needed: Paper; honey (or other sweet substance); vinegar (or sour/hot thing); salt; sugar; paper plates; brad fasteners
Optional: Download our free JOY coloring page from the JOY – Fruit of the Spirit lesson plan. You might also enjoy our “JOY of the LORD is my STRENGTH” Coloring page.
Lesson Opening: Nobody likes a grumbler. But complaining has become so prevalent in today’s culture that sometimes we don’t even realize we are doing. Illustrate the dangers of complaining with a few object lessons.
-First, hold up a plain sheet of paper with a single dot in the center. Ask students what they see. Most likely, they will comment on the dot. Point out that what you have is a perfectly good sheet of paper. It just happens to have one little dot. So often we are prone to point out the tiny bit of bad in a situation, rather than focusing on the overall positive.
-Whine tasting…two options here (feel free to use both). Explain that kind words are sweet and special to the soul, while negative grumblings are sour or bitter. Allow students to sample something sweet, like honey, followed by something sour or bitter, like vinegar or lemon juice. Alternately, provide a small spoon of sugar and one of salt…have students blindly guess which they’d like, without knowing what will be sweet and what will be salty. Emphasize again how important it is to think before we speak. Today we will talk about why complaining can be so damaging.
Bible Lesson:
Ask students what kinds of things upset or irritate them. Is it doing a chore? Fighting with a brother or sister? Having to wait for things? We have probably all been told by parents that we shouldn’t grumble, but why does it matter? What do you think the Bible says about it? Invite students to examine the book of Philippians:

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.   -Philippians 2:14-16

What does Paul say about avoiding negative comments? It makes us stand out. It makes us “shine like stars” because people will notice something different. And it’s true. If everyone around you is whining and you show a better spirit, people will notice and will genuinely appreciate it. So what does Paul suggest we do instead? He tells us. 

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.        -Philippians 4:4-8

Rather than grumbling, we are to rejoice. In EVERY situation, pray and ask God’s guidance. Here we also see the main antidote to complaining: thanksgiving. It is awfully hard to whine when you are thinking about gratitude. Instead of negative grousing, we can be thankful. We put our minds on what is true, pure, lovely, admirable…that is how we can eliminate the whine press. And how does this relate to our dealings with one another? Peter explains:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.    -1 Peter 4:8-9

In addition to gratitude, LOVE is the key to eliminating complaints. Often we wind up gossiping when we want to “vent” or complain. When we love, there is no room for ill feelings towards another.
The Bible also explains the dangers of whining. In the Old Testament, we see the people of God bitterly complain against Him. When the Israelites are first brought out of Egypt, they whine to Moses about the conditions and the lack of food. Even after God provides manna, they are still unsatisfied and demand meat. There is no end to their grumbling…

Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. 2 When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the Lord and the fire died down.   –Numbers 11:1-2

Clearly, we see here that God can easily strike down those who grumble and groan. But we also see that His mercy and compassion shine through, as well. He is gracious to hear of our woes, even when they are against Him. It’s important to note, though, that our outcries ultimately do us no good. God already knows our hearts and feelings. Complaining is really an insult to God, more than anything. It is saying that what He has provided is not enough, and somehow we think our way will be better. We ignore or neglect the amazing power God has. Instead of whining against God or against others, we ought to be dwelling on His incredible might.

Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.      –Isaiah 40:27-28

Here is another prescription to take care of the whine overdose. We should remember that God does care. He knows our grievances and if we let Him, He will strengthen us through what bothers us. He will listen when we groan, but He would much rather hear from a heart of gratitude. When we pray, it is with thanksgiving. Constant prayer keeps us rooted in God’s love, but only when it genuinely demonstrates thankfulness, too:

Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.    -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

What is God’s will? Rejoicing, praying, giving thanks… IN HIM. What are you thankful for?
Have students come up with several things for which they feel thankful. Use this list to complete the craft. On one paper plate, help students write down things for which they are grateful, or things that make them want to rejoice. On another plate, have them draw “Mr. Frowny Face,” a grumpy face. Here is where it gets a bit technical. Help children cut a frown flap, almost out of the plate but just barely attached so that it can flip up. Secure the frowny face on top of the thankful writings plate with a brad, along with the caption “turn your frown upside down and your whine into water…blessings to be thankful for!” Show students how to turn the frown flap up into a smile, revealing the gratitude statements underneath. Encourage them to hang it somewhere prominent and let parents know about it to serve as an at-home anti-complaint tool.
Close with prayer and reminder of God’s work in our lives. Thank God for loving us and ask for help in being thankful through all things.
Don’t miss our 7 Week Devotions on Joy from the book of Philippians.

2 thoughts on “Lesson: Choosing Joyful Attitudes, Not Grumbling (Philippians 2:14-16 )”

  1. This came at the perfect time for me… I have been struggling with my two children fusing with each other and complaining constantly.. Praise God this was the perfect bible lesson for me to do with my children!

  2. I thank you very much for this lesson. I use it on my children church class as a back up along with the book that we use to teach childrens 5-9. You are a blessing in my life and in the life of my students. I hope and pray that God continues to bless you so we can continue teaching our childrens the Love of God. Thank you and God bless you.

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