Subtitled “Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.”
In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell reframes many underdog stories, some famous, some obscure, to reveal that there’s more to coming from behind than just luck and good fortune. The underdogs in his stories, including Huguenots hiding Jews in Vichy France, black children facing police dogs in Birmingham, Alabama, a scrappy basketball team comprised of short girls from nerdy families, Br’er Rabbit, and of course, David, the shepherd boy who became a king, won their fights because they refused to play by their opponents’ rules. To quote Don Draper, they changed the conversation. And their enemies were so big, so powerful, and so confident of their position that they didn’t and couldn’t course correct before a little rock took them down.
In Gladwell’s telling of David’s victory, David wasn’t a powerless boy, but an expert wielding a deadly weapon. Slingers were able to fire a shot at speeds that rivaled bullets. Goliath expected another trained soldier to meet him for single combat, with all the rules and procedures intact. David ignored protocol and took matters into his own hands, flinging his rock before Goliath realized that the battle was happening on different terms.
This being Christmas, and me being a pretty devout Christian, I can’t help but nod my head at the truth that Gladwell has revealed. When God set out to conquer sin and death, he didn’t come in his full power and glory. He came as a baby. When the enemies of Jesus put him on trial, Jesus didn’t fight back. He died. And before the powers of evil realized what was happening, Jesus rose again with his victory secured. The devil thought God had to play by his rules. And while God isn’t exactly an underdog (hello, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent Creator of the heavens and the earth), humanity certainly was, in the face of sin and death. There was no way we could win without a champion, and God chose a David, not a Goliath, to win the battle for us.
“Mild he lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die”