In Judges 8:1 the men of Ephraim asked Gideon “Why did you fight the Midianites and didn’t call us?” Recall that Gideon asked for men to fight and received a huge response – 32,000 men. It’s highly implausible that the men of Ephraim were excluded from this call. Gideon handled their question with tact and diplomacy and diffused what could have become an ugly situation.
In Judges 12, they made a similar accusation to Jephthah – “Why’d you fight the children of Ammon and not tell us?” They also threatened to burn Jephthah’s house down.
Jephthah seems to be a no-nonsense, cut to the chase kind of guy because he responded by saying, “I called for you and you didn’t help, so God helped and delivered me.” Then Jephthah ended this nonsense once for all – he and his men fought against the men of Ephraim. Apparently, the men of Ephraim were better talkers than fighters for the scripture gives the impression that they were easily captured. Even in war, the men of Ephraim tried to be coy and evasive but Jephthah was one step ahead of them. He asked the Ephraimites to pronounce Shibboleth knowing that most of them did not pronounce the h due to a regional dialect. (It would be the equivalent of asking someone to pronounce tomato – depending on where you are from you would pronounce it differently). If you said Sibboleth it identified you as an Ephraimite and you met your end that day. 42,000 Ephraimites were killed that day and we never hear of the men of Ephraim complaining again.
According to ‘Psychology Today’ whining is when the dissatisfaction voiced is trivial or inconsequential and not worthy of special attention. There is a distinction between complaining and whining; whining is worse. Complaining involves voicing fair and legitimate dissatisfaction with the goal of attaining a resolution or remedy. When we voice legitimate dissatisfaction but do so without the goal of attaining a resolution we are merely venting.
The Ephraimites were cowards and chronic complainers who spoke up after the fact. This type makes leadership challenging because as a leader you have to assess the validity of a whiner’s complaint and then determine how to address it. Gideon diffused it but Jephthah got rid of it. Instead of whining after the fact, state your case and your willingness to assist, when plans are being made so that it is clear what your motives are and where your heart lies. Complaining and whining especially after the fact can lead to unintended dire consequences. Whining can wear a leader out – think parent and child or team leader and team members. A whiner is not usually viewed in a positive light. As a parent, if you have a child that’s a constant whiner, it wears on you (of course we can’t handle our whining children like Jephthah did).
There’s another interesting lesson here – you are known by how you speak. I have an accent, so when I speak one of the first questions asked is “Where am I from?” This is a loaded question because I’m often not sure how to initially respond. As humans when we interact with a youngster who speaks well and does not whine we almost automatically wonder who is this child and who are his parents. You want to see the source of the child’s behavior; in the same manner, our speech should shine as Christians. As a Christian, you can be clearly identified by how you speak.
Jephthah judged Israel for 6 years – one of the shortest on record, and then he died.
If you are a whiner, sincerely submit this to Lord. This may be a hard habit to change but you may benefit sooner than you anticipate as whining endears you to no one. As a leader, be prayerful and mindful as you determine the best course of action for dealing with whiners.
The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you. Matthew 12:37; Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. Matthew 7:20
Pray – Ask God to change your heart so that the words you speak are edifying not burdensome.