Kids love Sunday school stories about Samson. Learning about the source of Samson’s strength; his crazy long hair; an Old Testament judge; and someone who definitely liked the ladies. The old flannel graphs from Sunday school pictured Samson looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger or the Incredible Hulk. But there’s no evidence for that. In fact, if he were so huge and muscular, what would have been so special about his super-human strength?

Instead, as one author has suggested, try and image your algebra teacher. Now imagine your algebra teacher ripping apart a lion with his bare hands during lunch period.

When Samson was born, God made it clear that Samson was to be a Nazarite and would one day take the Nazarite vow. This was God’s way of marking people who were completely devoted to him. Among the basics of the vow included not cutting your hair. Let’s just say Samson had a little trouble keeping all the details of the vow.

But now you remember the story: “Sunny” Samson runs into trouble with the Philistines but takes them out in spectacular fashion with a donkey’s jawbone, piling them up in heaps; makes a move on an unnamed Gaza prostitute, leaving in a hurry with the town’s gates on his shoulders, then encounters Delilah (lady of the night), gets a haircut in the devil’s barbershop, and with it loses his strength, and for his closing act, brings the house down on the cheering Philistines.

Did Samson have any idea how truly unique he was? If so, then why didn’t he live up to the Nazarite vow he made with God? And why was he so quick to sell out the strength of his unique identity to Delilah?

It reminds me of a rhyme I once heard: “sin will take you farther than you want to go; keep you longer than you want to stay; and cost you more than you want to pay.”

Do you stop and think how unique you are to God? Why do we, like Samson, so often give in to our own weaknesses? Take some time and think through your strengths—those unique gifts and talents God has given you. Make a commitment to God that you will not sell out these talents to anyone or anything. And when you do mess up, know that God is there to forgive and help you to do better the next time (1 John 1:9). Remember where your strengths come from and never get a haircut in the devil’s barbershop.

Samson and the Philistines (1863)

Carl Bloch • 96.65″ x 72.44″ • National Gallery of Denmark

Samson, the tragic hero