From Scarlett O’Hara and Scout Finch to Aslan and Sherlock Holmes, good characters make for good stories. When I read a book lacking likable or relatable characters, I’m unlikely to enjoy or even finish it (I’m looking at you, Pride and Prejudice!). I want to get to know the characters and, at some point, be able to identify with their actions and feelings. Stock, wooden characters don’t make for good literature, at least in my opinion. Perhaps you’re more of a plot-driven story person, so characters don’t matter so much to you. However, when we read the Bible, we all look for the characters that look like us—and usually get it wrong. We’re quick to assume the role of the human hero of the story and to roll our eyes or scoff at the ones who got it wrong. Does that match your experience? I mean, do you typically act heroically? Or are you more inclined to mess it up? I know which category I fall into, and it’s not the one slinging a rock at the giant’s head. It’s the one cowering in the corner, scared out of my sandals by the 9-foot champion. Today, I invite you to look at some familiar Bible stories from a different vantage point—the scoundrel’s.
- I’m not Noah: I’m a mocker, and my heart
is “deceitful above all else and desperately sick.” Some days it feels like I
do “only evil continually.” I’m much more like those sinking and in desperate
need of a Rescuer than like the one who did the rescuing. I am the rest of
- I’m not Joseph: I haven’t attempted the
murder of my brother, but I have done more than my fair share of envying and
hating. I’ve covered my sin and hidden in the dark rather than confessing and
asking forgiveness. I am underserving of mercy and grace from the One whom I
have betrayed time after time. I am Joseph’s brothers.
- I’m not Caleb or Joshua: When I look at a
scary situation, I don’t see the deliverance of God waiting to happen. My faith
is weak, and I’m prone to doubt. I see giants and enemies and forget about God’s
promises. I am the ten other spies.
- I’m not David: I am much more likely to
tremble at the thought of humiliation and defeat than to stand up to the
scoffer. I wonder where salvation will come from this time rather than running
to battle in the name of the Lord. I need Someone Else to save me, for I could
never defeat the giant. I am the Israelite soldiers.
- I’m not Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: I
have caved to peer pressure more times than I can count, been ensnared by the
fear of man, and fallen captive to the thought of ridicule. I wish it wasn’t
true, but I would probably eat the king’s meat and bow to the king’s statue. I like
to keep my head down and not make waves. I am every other Israelite captive.
- I’m not Daniel: Every day I demand that the
people around me flex to meet my expectations and live according to my kingdom
rules. I operate under the assumption that my word is the law. Since I love to
have my ears tickled, and my ego stroked, it would be tempting to me to make a
law forbidding my royal subjects to pray to anyone but me. I am King Darius.
- I’m not the grateful leper: I have been
cleansed from a disease infinitely worse than leprosy, a disease which I
brought on myself and deserved to die from. I petitioned the Healer, and He
healed me. Yet rather than living with a thankful heart, I often live with an
entitled one, wondering why my life isn’t better. I run off, embracing the
abundant gifts of grace, yet neglecting the Giver entirely. I am the nine
While our pride winces at embracing the identity of the scoundrel, this is clearly the position all of us are in. Consider the blemishes on even the heroes’ resumés. Abraham pretended his wife was his sister, not once but twice and allowed her to be taken by another man—all just to save his own skin! Jacob tricked his twin brother out of his birthright and deceived his father into blessing him rather than Esau. Moses committed murder and hid it, as did David, who also committed adultery. Elijah stood up to the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel but then doubted God’s presence and power by the Brook Cherith. The disciples left their livelihoods to follow Jesus, but seemed to mess up an awful lot. They forgot that Jesus could feed the multitude, bickered over being “the greatest,” and totally missed every prophecy Jesus gave them about His rising again. Peter denied Him, Judas betrayed Him, Thomas doubted Him, and they all abandoned Him in His moment of greatest need (well, all but John). No, the Bible doesn’t do heroes very well, but that’s okay because it comes with some great news.
God specializes in making scallywags and scoundrels into sons. The Gospel isn’t for the righteous; it’s for the rascal and the rogue:
And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”Luke 5:31-31
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. BUT you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.1 Cor. 6:9-11, emphasis added
The Hero of the Story isn’t Noah, Abraham, David, or Daniel, Peter, Paul, or John. The only true Hero the Bible knows is Christ Himself. So, the next time you read a biblical narrative, go ahead and take on your natural role, the scoundrel. When you do, the Gospel will be even sweeter.