I believe we are all familiar with the term fair-weather friends. These are the individuals that only seem to stick around when things are going well, but as soon as the waters grow rough, they're nowhere to be found. Today, however, I want to talk about foul-weather friends. These are the people who seem only to come around when they're in trouble and need something. You know the type, right? So does Jephthah.
In Judges 11, the Scripture tells us of an illegitimate son named Jephthah. Though born to a harlot, the Bible says Jephthah was a mighty man of valor, just like Gideon. However, his stepbrothers could not see past his illegitimacy, and when they were old enough, they cast him out of the house and told him to never return. They wanted nothing to do with him… until, that is, they were in trouble.
And it was so, that when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob: And they said unto Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon. - Judges 11:5-6
Okay, a show of hands. How many of you have been in a situation similar to this? You were minding your own business, staying out of the way of those who wanted nothing to do with you when out of the blue, they come asking for a favor—typically, a big favor. I see those hands! Now, how many of you would be honest enough to admit that your first response to the request was the Biblical equivalent of "Not my circus, not my monkeys"? Okay, maybe you didn't say it out loud, but you wanted to, didn't you? So did Jephthah.
And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, Did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father's house? and why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress? - Judges 11:7
Yep, Jephthah could have easily used one of my favorite words—"Seriously?" He could not believe they had the audacity to ask a favor of him after the way they had treated him, yet they did, and after some negotiation, Jephthah accepted the request. My first thought upon reading this passage was that Jephthah must have been a better person than I am, but as I thought about it further, I realized that I probably would've done the same thing. Not because I'm good or kind or that full of the spirit, unfortunately. But rather because I hate to say "no" or to have others think poorly of me. No matter what they've done to me, when they ask, I come running.
I cannot know the motivation behind Jephthah's actions, but I know if I am only helping others out of fear of being disliked, left out or talked about, my actions are in the wrong. It's nice to fit in, and I believe we all want to fit in, but let me ask you this: if we constantly have to prove ourselves to others, are we fitting in or are we being used? The Bible teaches us to be good unto one another, but it does not advocate allowing others to treat us like dirt or to misuse us and our talents. God has given each of us a work to do, and many times, those foul-weather friends only distract us from our true calling.
Please understand, I am not saying we should not help others or we should never go out of our way to be a blessing. What I am saying is that we need to be careful not to let people take advantage of us as this leads to bitterness and resentment in our hearts. Foul-weather friends can be toxic to our health, attitudes and relationships. When it comes to their requests, I advise you to seek God's will before agreeing to help. Saying "no" may keep you out of the in-crowd, but many times, that is a blessing. Sometimes it's better just to say "no."
On the flip side, I would also like to urge you not to be a foul-weather friend. Don't make a habit of calling people only when you need something from them or only giving when you get something in return. Be a real friend, a faithful friend, a friend like Jesus.