Underdogs in the Story in the Bible

Because Shih Tzu continues to threaten our team, you can imagine why we got hooked on this TV show of yours…

And we connected to this…

Real life is full of surprises about people who turn out to be nothing like we first thought.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey

And Paula Wong showed us another empathetic connection related to the Active Hero in the story in the Bible.

Jesus was an underdog.


And it looks like your God, the Great Storyteller, is into underdogs…

Finally, metanarratives through their claims of truth can lead to domination, but the biblical plotline reveals “a story of God’s repeated choice of the dominated and the wretched, the powerless and the marginal.”” The Bible begins with the book of Genesis, written when primogeniture–the passing of all the family’s wealth and estate to the eldest son-was the iron law in virtually all societies. Yet the entirety of Genesis is subversive of this cultural norm.“ God constantly chooses and works through the second sons, the ones without social power. He chooses Abel rather than Cain, Isaac rather than Ishmael, Jacob rather than Esau, Joseph rather than Reuben. And when he works with women, he does not choose women with the cultural power of beauty and sexuality. He does his saving work through old, infertile Sarah, not young Hagar, through unloved and unattractive Leah, not lovely Rachel. God repeatedly refuses to allow his gracious activity to run along the expected lines of worldly influence and privilege. He puts in the center the person whom the world would put on the periphery. Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann comments on the place in Genesis 25 where God prophesies through an oracle that he will be working with the younger of two sons, Jacob rather than Esau. He explains that the lesson of Genesis is that “the oracle is against all conventional wisdom.” 

Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God

I’ve come to believe that the story is much more powerful as truth than as metaphor; it demonstrates that God can ask things of us that seem impossible. I’ll bet old Noah looked pretty foolish, building that big boat in the middle of the desert, but that’s the whole point. We can all look foolish to others when we answer what we believe is a call from God. 

John Kasich, Every Other Monday

And Robert McKee says you want to star an underdog…

Avoid Overdogs

When casting your protagonist, bear in mind the self-contradictory dynamics of your fellow human beings. A person can find her identity in anything from torn jeans to a diamond ring, from Big Macs to haute cuisine. So while people use products to shape their sense of self, that doesn’t mean they empathize With the corporations that make them. People do not identify with power. They respect it, shelter in it, rebel against it, worship it, but they rarely empathize with it. The wealthiest of people, for example, often need high-end luxury goods to confirm their identity. Despite their obvious social prestige, they lie awake at night, feeling, in their heart of hearts, like an underdog. This perception is virtually universal.

When human beings survey their place in the world, they instinctively feel that they’re up against overwhelming forces that stretch from the unpredictability of love to the inevitability of death. Weighed against the sum total of negative forces in life, we all feel, to some degree, on certain days, like an underdog. When your story’s inciting incident upsets the balance of your protagonist’s life, the audience should sense that she is up against powerful antagonistic forces. The perception of underdogness draws empathy faster than any other cause. So above all else, avoid “overdog” protagonists. If you cast a corporation as protagonist, do not brag about its size, its reach, its wealth, its influence. If you cast a product as a protagonist, do not brag about its newness, its hipness, its celebrity. The world spares no empathy for an overdog; market with a graceful humility.

Storynomics, By Robert McKee and Tom Gerace


When human beings weigh their chances for achieving their deepest desires against the almost overwhelming forces of mother nature, social institutions, and even their own subconscious selves, they feel that they are an underdog. Indeed, no one feels like an overdog. Even the most powerful, wealthy, influential people fear, deep down inside, that everything they’ve achieved could be taken from them in a sudden moment of bad luck. Therefore, for a story to engage the feeling side of its audience, it must draw them into empathy or identification with a protagonist who, like the audience, is up against very powerful forces of antagonism.


The third way to persuade people is with story. You take all the facts that you would have used in a PowerPoint presentation, you take all the emotional impact that you would have used coercing people, and you create out of that a story that imparts those facts emotionally. And the story stars you, or stars the corporation, or your division as an underdog up against very powerful forcesand admits to the existence of the negative.

When you tell a story, it isn’t just and then, and then, and then, and we all lived happily ever after. It’s that and then, and then this and that, and that and this, and by admitting that somebody stole our patent and we had to go out and fight that in the court, but we got it back, some competitor stole our best people, but we rehired and we got even better people, and so forth.

Screenwriting guru tells all – Film Salon – Salon.com, April 21, 2010

And it looks like Shawn Coyne agrees with McKee…

Because I think part of growing up is learning perseverance and resilience and part of how we learn that is through what we read and what we enjoy in our stories. So I was always attracted to the stories where the hero is against all, that’s why we all love underdog stories….

Stealing Versus Inspiration, by Shawn Coyne

And look at this video Paula found… 

Top 10 From Zero to Hero Movie Protagonists

So, it looks like Jesus is an underdog in a story full of underdogs.

And, when we saw this… 

So when you’re thinking about action stories and you need to create a villain and you need to create — say you have a dream of eventually creating a trilogy of novels or whatever. One of the things to think about is the hierarchy of power. Meaning, the first thing you have to establish is that the villain has to be far more powerful than the hero. The villain has to be almost indestructible because you want to create a real chasm between — because we all root for the underdog, right?

Freud and Jung and You, by Shawn Coyne

… Paula Wong immediately remembered a famous story she had read in the gospel of Matthew.

“It’s in the beginning hook in the story,” she said. “And when I first read it, I laughed, because it was so much like what happens all the time in the famous television show, Game of Thrones!”

So we looked at it, and sure enough, Jesus came into the world as an underdog…

Matthew 2

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.

Paula was right.

And then she showed us this video, wondering if it gives us a way of seeing how the story of Herod pursuing the baby Jesus was setup somehow for climax in the story…

 Top 10 Movies Where the Villain Kills the Hero

This all has our attention in so many ways.

And one of them is that even though our version of the story we are in is a boring nonplot narrative, each of us, as we live out the stories of our lives, deeply connect to the underdogs.

So, we began to take a closer look, and found underdogs are all over the place in the story in the Bible.

As the Bible’s story line proceeds, we see God standing beside Israel in slavery against the oppression of the greatest empire in the world. Proceed to the story of Judges-the deliverers and leaders who one after the other led Israel Whenever it fell under the domination of more powerful nations. But readers have pointed out how often the man God raises up–Jephthah, Gideon, Samson–is someone from a smaller tribe, a low status family, or even the class of social outcasts. David the king is the youngest and smallest of Jesse’s sons (1 Samuel 16). Then in the New Testament, when Jesus Christ encounters a respected male and a socially marginal woman (John 3 and 4) or a religious leader and a tax collector (Luke 18) or a religious teacher and a fallen woman (Luke 7), it is always the moral, racial, sexual outsider and socially marginalized person who connects to Jesus most readily. 

Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God

And our team has begun to create an index to the underdogs in the story in the Bible, and this is our beginning …


Genesis 3:15

Micah 5:2

Psalm 22:1-18

Isaiah 49:1-7

Isaiah 50:4-9

Isaiah 52:13-15

Isaiah 53

Zechariah 9:9-10

Zechariah 12:9-14

Matthew 2

Matthew 8:20

Matthew 9:32-34

Matthew 13:58

Matthew 15:53-58

Mark 6:1-6

Mark 15:29-32

Luke 1:46-48

Luke 2:1-24

Luke 4:16-20

Luke 9:58

John 1:10-11

John 1:43-46

John 2:13-22

John 6:35-42

John 7:1-5

John 7:14-15

John 7:25-27

John 7:50-52

2 Corinthians 13:4

Philippians 2:5-11


Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

Hebrews 11:12

Genesis 12:1-6

Isaiah 51:1-3

Acts 7:2-5

Romans 4:18-24


Daniel 1

Daniel 6


1 Samuel 16:1-13

1 Samuel 17


1Kings 17

1 Kings 18

1 Kings 19:1-18


Esther 2:5-18

Esther 4


Ezekiel 2

Ezekiel 3


Judges 6:11-40

Judges 7

Judges 8


1 Samuel 1

1 Samuel 2:1-11


1 Chronicles 4:9-10


Genesis 25:19-34

Genesis 27:41-46

Genesis 28:1-5

Genesis 28:10-22

Genesis 29:1-30

Genesis 30:25-43

Genesis 31

Genesis 32

Genesis 33

Genesis 34:30-31

Genesis 35:1-7

Genesis 47:7-10

Deuteronomy 26:5-7

Hosea 12:2-5


Jeremiah 1:1-9

Jeremiah 1:17-19

Jeremiah 12:5-6

Jeremiah 15:16-18

Jeremiah 17:14-18

Jeremiah 18:18-23

Jeremiah 20:1-18

Jeremiah 26:7-24

Jeremiah 28

Jeremiah 36

Jeremiah 37:11-21

Jeremiah 38

Jeremiah 39:11-18

Jeremiah 40:1-6

Jeremiah 42

Jeremiah 43:1-3

Lamentations 3


Notice that Job starts the story as an overdog, but then quickly gets turned into an underdog.

Job 1

Job 2

Job 3

Job 6

Job 7

Job 9:13-35

Job 10

Job 12:1-6

Job 13

Job 14:13-22

Job 16

Job 17

Job 19

Job 21:1-3

Job 21:27

Job 30


Matthew 3

Matthew 4:12

Matthew 11:1-19

Matthew 14:1-12

Mark 1:1-8

Mark 1:14

Mark 6:14-29

Luke 1:5-25

Luke 1:39-45

Luke 1:57-80

Luke 3:1-20

John 1:19-34


Genesis 37

Genesis 39

Psalm 105:16-22

Acts 7:9-10


2 Kings 22

2 Kings 23:1-30


Genesis 29:21-35


Matthew 1:18-25

Luke 1:26-38

Luke 1:46-56

Luke 2:1-7


Esther 2:5-11

Esther 2:19-23

Esther 3:1-6

Esther 4

Esther 5:12-14

Esther 6:1-3


Exodus 1:8-22

Exodus 2:1-22

Exodus 3

Exodus 4

Exodus 5

Exodus 6:1-13

Exodus 6:28-30

Exodus 7:1-13

Exodus 14:10-31

Exodus 16

Exodus 17:1-7

Exodus 18:13-23

Exodus 32

Exodus 33

Exodus 34:1-9

Acts 7:20-40

Psalm 90:15

Hebrews 11:23-28


Nehemiah 1

Nehemiah 2

Nehemiah 4

Nehemiah 5

Nehemiah 6


Genesis 5:28-29

Genesis 7:23

Hebrews 11:7

1 Peter 3:18-20

2 Peter 2:1-6


Acts 9:1-16Acts 9:23-30

Acts 13:6-12Acts 13:44-51

Acts 14:1-7Acts 14:19-20

Acts 16:16-34

Acts 17

Acts 18:1-17

Acts 19:8-9Acts 19:23-41

Acts 20:3

Acts 20:17-38

Acts 21:7-14Acts 21:27-40

Acts 22

Acts 23

Acts 24

Acts 25

Acts 26

Acts 27

Acts 28

Romans 7:7-25

Romans 8:31-39

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

1 Corinthians 4

1 Corinthians 9

1 Corinthians 15:9

2 Corinthians 1:8-10

2 Corinthians 4:7-18

2 Corinthians 5:1-4

2 Corinthians 6:3-10

2 Corinthians 7:5

2 Corinthians 11:16-33

2 Corinthians 12

2 Corinthians 13:9

Galatians 2:11-14

Galatians 4:13-14

Ephesians 3:1Ephesians 3:7-8Ephesians 3:13

Philippians 1:12-14

Colossians 4:18

2 Timothy 1:15-18

2 Timothy 2:8-9

2 Timothy 3:10-13

2 Timothy 4:6-8

Philemon 1:8-9


John 21:15-19


Joshua 2

Joshua 6:17

Joshua 6:22-25

Hebrews 11:31

James 2:25


Ruth 1

Ruth 2

Ruth 3

Ruth 4


Genesis 12:10-20

Genesis 16:1

Genesis 17:16-21

Genesis 18:9-15

Genesis 20:1-18

Genesis 21:1-7

Isaiah 51:1-2

Isaiah 54:1-2

Galatians 4:27

Romans 4:18-19

Hebrews 11:11

I Peter 3:3-6


1 Samuel 9:15-21


Genesis 38


Psalm 105:12-15

Ezekiel 16:1-14

Esther 3

Esther 4

Esther 8

Esther 9

Isaiah 41:8-16

Isaiah 49:8-23

Isaiah 51:1-3

Isaiah 54

Jeremiah 31:11

Nahum 2:2

Zephaniah 2:8-10

Zephaniah 3:14-20


Romans 8:31-39

Romans 12:18-21

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

2 Timothy 3:10-13

2 Peter 3:3-9


1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Like I said, this has our attention in more ways than one. And especially because China has been such an underdog against America.

But you Christians in America might also want to listen to these guys…

Authentic Christians are a distinct minority in America. As such, we need to start thinking in an entirely different way. Like the early Christians, it’s time we embrace being underdogs! 

Phil Cooke and Jonathan Bock, The Way Back

There you have it. They get it. And you really may want to do some rethinking. Because, it looks like putting your trust in Donald Trump instead of your God has put you in a situation which may play out in America’s drama.

And if it does, you Christians in America will be underdogs like never before.