Americans love a good underdog story, probably because America is an underdog story. The tiny colony of misfit pilgrims throws off the yoke of a tyrannical monarch to become the world’s most dominant superpower. We love this rags-to-riches storyline. We love the entrepreneur that begins a Fortune 500 company in his garage, the insurance salesman who writes a best seller over his lunch break, the Valparaisos, Florida Gulf Coasts and Wichita States that ruin brackets every March. We eat that stuff up.
Any decent sports movie has this theme. Hoosiers, Rudy, Rocky, they all follow this pattern. Perhaps the ultimate underdog story – the underdog story by which all other underdog stories are measured – is David and Goliath. The simple shepherd boy who defeats the professional soldier towering over his enemies to carry his nation to victory could be a Hollywood prototype.
But what’s stunning is that David is not the exception in an otherwise spotless lineage of noble, qualified, exemplary fathers of the faith. These underdogs seem to be the biblical pattern. God consistently chooses the unlikely, weak, and disqualified in order to emphasize His glory and grace. Think about the great heroes of our faith. Now think about how they in no way should have ever been qualified to lead anyone. Abraham literally pimped his wife out to a king. Jacob was a habitual liar. Moses killed a guy. Noah was the community punch line. The apostles were blue collar, uneducated fisherman. And Paul, the premiere theologian and missionary of the New Testament, made his living by systematically terrorizing the early church.
So speaking as someone who, in terms of talent, is under-qualified and, in terms of sin, is disqualified, this produces a sincere hope that Christ can use someone like me. I believe this biblical pattern only further emphasizes that we are not saved by our resumés, however impressive or condemning they may be. We are saved because of Christ’s resumé. His perfect life, substitutionary death, and miraculous resurrection alone are sufficient for our salvation. In fact, the only thing we contribute to our salvation is the admission that we need it. The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the poor in spirit. The poor, the weak, the needy, the spiritual have-nots – they may enter the Kingdom.
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
God bless the underdogs.