Like most people, I assumed that I had looked at the story of David and Goliath ( 1 Samuel 17) completely, discerning that it reminded us of the power of faith and, above all, the power of God. Recent readings and study, however, have given me a new perspective. The popular author and speaker, Malcolm Gladwell argues that David was not the quintessential underdog that we make him out to be. As a skilled user of the sling possessing great accuracy and technique, David could launch a stone faster than the best major league fastball with pinpoint accuracy. That skill, of course, came to David through God’s Grace and Will as applied to David’s background and experiences. David was no experienced warrior in the traditional sense when he brought Goliath down with a well-placed stone to the forehead. He merely used a God-given gift in the service of God to bring God greater glory. That, in a nutshell, is our mission in this life. Now it happens that, since Christ taught us that our purpose in this life is to love God above all else and serve others in love as Christ did, more often than not, the most effective use of our God-given gifts in the service of bringing greater glory to God is in the service of god through serving others. Therefore, our primary mission in life should be to discover and apply our God-given talents in the service of God through the example of Jesus Christ.
Many folks point out that David refused to confront Goliath on his own terms, in full armor in suicidal one-on-one combat. Such an approach would have been foolish because it would have played to Goliath’s apparent strengths of size, strength, and experience in hand to hand combat. Others argue, with valid points, that David so refused, not out of fear but, rather, out of respect for and comfort with his own skills, experience, and gifts. The lesson here is that we do not have to apply our skills as others would prefer we do but, rather, as is most fitting and effective to our unique style, temperament, and individuality. God provides the gifts, but He leaves the way we will apply those gifts to serve others up to us. Interestingly, there is no indication that Goliath knew a thing about slings, nor that he could hit the broad side of a mountain with one. David, then, attacked his obstacle on his own terms, using what God-given skills he had in the manner most effective and fitting for him. That is the crux of free will in the service of God. God gives us the ingredients of eternal greatness. It is up to us to prepare the soup using our own recipe which, however, must include Christ’s example and teaching as the key ingredient. As Catholics, of course, we can also include what we have learned from the examples of Our Blessed Mother and the Saints as well.
The story goes that David volunteered to confront Goliath upon seeing his disrespect and blasphemy against the people of God and, as well, the reluctance and fear to confront Goliath by the Israelite soldiers given his apparent strength and great size. God does not force us to apply our skills to serve God. He merely provides us with the tools which, in the course of time, will find opportunities for use. It is up to each of us to seize upon those opportunities to make a difference in others’ lives while serving and bringing glory to God. Obviously, if we use our gifts and those opportunities for self-gain, we will be corrupting the purpose of those gifts and will have to answer to God when the time comes to render accounts for what we have done with our talents.
Gladwell also argues that Goliath likely suffered from acromegaly and the poor vision often seen in people so afflicted. He bases his views on his own research and study plus Scriptural passages indicating that Goliath did not initially nor effectively assess David’s approach and may have even believed David to be carrying more than one stick, or staff, as he did. The lesson here, in my opinion, is that those apart from God will always have poor vision for what truly matters, and that will be one of their great vulnerabilities. By contrast, those who follow and serve God will have a greater vision of what matters to eternal salvation, and will be expected to use that greater vision to help others improve their “in” sight. Again, we see God reminding us to use any advantages He has given us to serve others rather than to crush them.
Many may argue that David was not exactly serving Goliath when he smashed him with a stone and cut off his head but, actually, he was serving God’s Will and God’s chosen people, the Israelites. This reminds us that we must serve God and God’s Will above all else, and that in the course of serving others we may, in fact, dis-serve others who oppose those we serve. Simply put, it may be practically impossible to serve everyone as everyone may wish, and that should not be our proper objective. Every teacher and leader knows that he or she who tries to please everyone is looking for disaster, and mayhem.
Finally, we should note that David did not compromise, dilute, twist, betray, or alter his purpose, mission, agenda, or actions in order to “reach out” or meet Goliath halfway. There was no settlement or tie here. God does not deal in ties or across-the-board equality as many clueless people argue a loving God should. God does not have weekend followers, sort-of followers, or appeasing followers. Ties and compromises are the work of the feeble who, lacking in the faith of their convictions and brimming with twisted notions of peace, play not to lose rather than to win for God at all costs and at all times. True service to God, and the eternal salvation which is promised through that service, is not for the faint of heart, the wishy-washy, or the ambivalent. John the Baptist, Joan of Arc, Thomas More, and Christ Himself did not play it safe. The true follower of Christ does not play prevent defense, kick field goals or burn the clock. He or she goes all out in the faith that God will always be there when needed. He or she knows that, as Gladwell puts it, sometimes our instinct or perception of where power comes from is wrong…if we do not refine and sharpen our instincts toward God rather than this world. Gladwell also reminds us that much beauty and power comes from adversity and struggle, and that those who appear to have no advantage by this world’s standards may actually be much more powerful than they appear to be. The implication, of course, is that God is the Ultimate Game-Changer, turning apparent earthly defeat into transcendent eternal triumph.
Now, I no longer see David as the patron figure of underdogs who overachieve or surprise against greater foes. Rather, I see a David in all of us, just waiting for the chance to overcome obstacles, achieve great things, transform lives, serve and love others, follow Christ and, above all else, place the gifts and talents God has given us at His Feet, knowing that we have used those gifts as tools, even weapons, of mass salvation!
Copyright, 2014. Gabriel Garnica. All rights reserved.