Our complaints, frequently have no purpose other than airing our personal frustrations.

Complaining can be fairly common among junior high students as they compare their lives, looks, possessions, and feelings to those of their peers.

We have the opportunity to encourage our students to be grateful, instead of discontent.

Use this junior high lesson to remind students to choose gratitude instead of allowing complaining to become part of their character.

– Nick Diliberto, Junior High Ministry



Bible: Philippians 2:14

Bottom Line: Choose gratitude instead of allowing complaining to become part of your character. 


  • 16 oranges
  • Sharpie marker
  • Piece of paper (one per team)
  • Pen (one per team)
  • Timer
  • Upbeat background music



Use a marker to write the letters to the word COMPLAIN – one letter per orange.

Do this once for each team – a total of 16 oranges.

Divide students into two teams of equal size.

Give each team a piece of paper and a pen.

Each team will also receive 8 oranges – with the letters to the word COMPLAIN written on the oranges.

Have someone on hand that can play upbeat background music throughout the game.


Say: We’re going to play a quick game called, “Orange Justice.”

I know that as soon as I said “Orange Justice” you started doing the famous Fortnite dance in your head.

I would like a volunteer to demonstrate their best version of Orange Justice for all of us to see. 

Allow a student to give a quick demonstration.

Each of your teams will have one minute to arrange the letters on your oranges to form new words. 

Onceyouform a word, one team member will write down the word on the paper. 

Your teams will continue to form and write down words for the entire minute.

After one minute is over, the timer will reset for another minute and we will begin round two.

Refrain from reading the next set of instructions until round one is over.

Before the second round begins, the team member with the paper will tear apart the words into separate pieces of paper. 

For the second round, your team will take the words and form them into the longest sentence that you can make.

When you think you have used as many words as possible to make a sentence, your entire team will stand up and do their best Orange Justice dance – to indicate that you are finished with the round.

We will have each team read their sentence.

The team with the longest complete, comprehendible sentence wins.

After the lesson, you may give students the oranges to eat or take home.


Say: Great job! How do you think you played as a team?

Did you all agree about the words you were writing down or the sentence you created?

Each of you had a choice, to be an active part of the team or sit back and complain about what was going on.

Did you have any complainers on your team?… don’t answer that!

The members of the winning team were able to enjoy the thrill of victory, even if they complained about the process.

But what do we think of those that complain all the time about many different kinds of things?

There’s an old phrase that says “Misery loves company” – and that goes for complainers too.

People who complain tend to hang around other people who complain about things too.

Personally, I don’t want complaining to become a part of my character and you shouldn’t either.

Sure, there are times when life doesn’t go how we would like it to and we may get frustrated.

But we play an active part in how our attitude and actions help or hinder our situations.

And the Holy Spirit can help.

Say: President Teddy Roosevelt is quoted as saying “Complaining about a problem without proposing a solution is called whining.”

Just in case someone hasn’t already told you, things in life don’t always work out how we would like them to work out.

For many people, the natural response is to complain.

“My food is cold.” 

“I don’t like this color.” 

“I didn’t get to do what I wanted to do.”

And it’s easy for each of us to get pulled into the trap of complaining.

There always seems to be a near endless supply of things to complain about, but if you notice, the people who complain are not much fun to be around.

Think about it.

Research has shown that complaining can actually do harm to your body, by rewiring your brain to continue doing what it does regularly.

So, if you complain a lot, your brain will think that is what it’s naturally supposed to do.

Read Philippians 2:14-15.

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. 

Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.

The first part of verse 15 reminds us not to argue or complain so no one can criticize us.

If you haven’t noticed, people who profess to be Christians are often criticized, and they were back in the Apostle Paul’s day too.

Paul wants followers of Jesus to not only realize that people who don’t know Christ are looking at them, but they are looking for ways to criticize us and our relationship with God.

Wecan show that our actions and attitudes are different since we’ve been changed through Christ.

Today, I want to share with you Three Things We Can Do Instead of Complaining.

1. Practice Gratitude.

It is a scientific fact that you can’t complain about something you are grateful for. 

Okay, it’s not really scientific but it is true.

When someone shows gratitude, it shows a thankful heart to those around and gives no chance for complaint.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says to “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

When people see thankfulness and gratitude, it becomes very hard to complain or criticize.

2. Encourage one another.

Encouragement is something that is easy to do, but is often forgotten.

People who often complain tend not to see the positive side of things.

You can show that positive message through encouraging them through a stressful, aggravating, or disappointing situation.

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” 

Paul was all about encouraging others because it is so much better than complaining.

Encouragement is actually designed to help you by the act of encouraging someone else– that’s kind of cool if you think about it.

3. Do something to improve the situation.

I want to share a quick story… A small group of people had been coming to a man complaining about the same problem for many weeks.

The man decided to tell the people a joke. 

They all laughed.

Just a few minutes later, the man told them the same joke again. 

Some of the people still laughed.

After the third and fourth time the man told the joke, no one was laughing anymore.

The man then told them “You can’t laugh at the same joke over and over again. So why are you complaining about the same problem over and over?”

Only we can change our action and attitudes when it comes to complaining.

When we each decide to stop complaining about a problem and become part of the solution, our attitude and our actions change.

Complaining changes our mood and the moods of those around us. 

No one likes to hear complaints, no matter how true they may be.

As a follower of Christ, we don’t want to give anyone room to criticize us or the Gospel message we show through our lives.

Choose gratitude instead of complaining and see the difference it makes in your life.

Close in prayer.


  1. How do you feel when you are around people who complain? Do you think complaining is “contagious”?
  2. In our lesson, we said that complaining does not actually solve problems. So, what is an alternative to complaining that is productive?
  3. In what way does complaining open us up to criticism from others?
  4. We talked about showing gratitude as an alternative to complaining. How can we do that in everyday situations?
  5. Sometimes when we hear complaints, we may feel the urge to join in and complain as well. What are some ways we can avoid that temptation?
  6. What does the act of complaining say about our character?
  7. You are out to eat with a friend and you order the same thing, however they begin to complain about their food. How would you respond?
  8. How does encouraging, instead of complaining, build someone up? 
  9. Have you ever seen a problem solved by complaining about it? Why or why not?
  10. As a Christian, what are character qualities you want people to see in you?


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