Monday, August 13th, 2018
If no one would ever know whether you or I did the right thing or not, would we still do the right thing? When no one is looking, do we wander away from our convictions and principles? In the first chapter of his book, Daniel was confronted with this type of situation. Let me briefly paraphrase this story for you.
Daniel was about 14 or 15 years old at the time of his capture by the Babylonians, at which time he and his friends were brought to Babylonia and trained for three years to prepare them to serve the king. Daniel was Jewish, and we read that “Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine…” (Daniel 1:8). To eat their food would have been in direct disobedience to God’s law, which Daniel knew very well.
If Daniel had decided to eat the king’s food, no one would have known. I’m sure it was tempting to do so, for it was undoubtedly rich food. He was totally separated from his Jewish community—his parents were not there, his teachers were not there, and there was absolutely no one checking up on Daniel to make sure that he didn’t break God’s law. But Daniel knew that he was accountable to God, and he stood true to his convictions.
When you’re away from home, perhaps on a business trip, are you tempted to immorality or dishonesty since no one will know? How about cheating on your employer or your customer? Are you prone to do that when you feel it can never be detected?
In our culture, the common thinking is, As long as you don’t get caught, it’s okay. However, if we break God’s laws and principles—even though we may think no one’s looking and, therefore, it will never really make any difference—it is still sin, and we can be sure that God knows.
Daniel understood that his ultimate accountability was to God because God was always watching. Daniel gives us a truly amazing example, as this young teenage man resolves not to defile himself. Let’s commit ourselves as Christians in the marketplace to do what’s right simply because it’s the right thing to do.
Tuesday, August 14th, 2018
How many times have you said something like, “She did the right thing but in the wrong way” or, “It wasn’t what he said, but the way he said it.” It’s very possible to do the right thing in the wrong way and, when that happens, we do more harm than good.
We saw from Daniel 1 that Daniel made a decision to do what was right—not to eat the king’s food. Now, he had to tell his superior, Ashpenaz, about his decision. Keep in mind that by refusing to eat that food, Daniel could put Ashpenaz in a very dangerous situation with Nebuchadnezzar, the king.
Verse 8 tells us that Daniel asked for permission not to defile himself in this way. Daniel didn’t go to this official and say, “Now, look. I’m Jewish and it’s against my religion to eat this food here. You people are pagans; you don’t worship the true God, and I refuse to eat your defiled food.” No, instead he asked for permission.
Proverbs 16:21 tells us that sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness. Daniel used words carefully and made it easy for his supervisor to handle what he had to say. He asked for permission rather than issuing an ultimatum. When we issue ultimatums to people, we invite problems. There are few times when ultimatums are appropriate.
Stuart Briscoe tells of when he was working in a bank in England and was told by his supervisor to change some figures and lie about a certain situation. Stuart replied to him, “I can certainly do that for you, but if I’m willing to lie for you, how can you be sure that I won’t lie to you?” Those were some wisely chosen words which persuaded his supervisor that he should not ask him to lie. Notice that they were given in such a way that the supervisor was not offended or angered. Sweetness of speech increased his persuasiveness.
There are surely times when all of us are faced with situations where we must choose between doing what is right and what is wrong. There’s no question what our choice should be, but as you make those decisions, ask God for the wisdom to do the right thing in the right way, to choose your words carefully, to try as best you can not to offend, to avoid putting others in difficult predicaments if possible, and to refuse to use the ultimatum approach which usually creates a no-win environment.
Wednesday, August 15th, 2018
Daniel gives us a good role model in doing the right thing in the right way: We see him determined not to eat the king’s food which would have been contrary to God’s laws, but he’s very careful to do the right thing in the right way.
By refusing to eat the food, Daniel put his supervisor in a tough spot. He was sympathetic to Daniel, but he said, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you” (Daniel 1:10).
Now, what does Daniel do? He came up with a clever solution: He asked for a test period of ten days, during which he and his friends would eat vegetables and drink water. Daniel said, “Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see” (Daniel 1:13) He offered a logical alternative for his manager, one that would work for both sides. In today’s terminology, we would call this a “win-win solution.”
Imagine how things could have turned out if Daniel had taken a different approach. Suppose, for example, that Daniel had been bitter toward these people who had made him their prisoner, and had a chip on his shoulder. He could easily have hated these people and felt justified for doing so.
Maybe you’re in a spot like that now, where your treatment has been difficult or even unfair, your rights have been violated, and you are not treated with respect. It happens to us even in our free society, doesn’t it? Has that caused you to take it out on others?
If so, think of Daniel. He didn’t take out on Ashpenaz all the frustrations he must have felt because of his circumstances. Even in dealing with people who had mistreated him, he was careful to be fair and not vindictive. God can give you and me the strength to act and react in the same Christ-like manner.
Thursday, August 16th, 2018
Doing the right thing in the right way—that’s my current topic. If you haven’t read the first chapter of Daniel lately, I encourage you to do so, for you will see how Daniel was strong in his convictions and uncompromising in his stand, but very wise in the way he went about it. In refusing to eat the king’s food, Daniel did what he knew was right for him, but because he was very careful to do it with the right words, he created a win-win situation for all involved.
Given the circumstances, I can imagine Daniel could easily have been bitter and said something like, “Look, I’m not here because I want to be; this has been forced upon me. I have to do what I think is right, and I refuse to eat your food. That’s all there is to it.” Bitterness brings out the worst in us and causes us to use the wrong words with the wrong attitude. With a bitter spirit, we usually do even the right things in the wrong way.
Notice also that Daniel did not approach this situation with a self-righteous attitude. “Listen,” he might have said, “you can eat that defiled food if you want to. But I refuse to partake of anything like that. I have never defiled my body with your contaminated food. All my life I’ve obeyed God’s law and I don’t intend to change now.”
Can you imagine the reaction of Ashpenaz, the manager, if Daniel had used that approach? Undoubtedly, he would have been antagonistic toward Daniel. Again, the right action in the wrong way makes the problem worse. Self-righteous attitudes turn people off, don’t they? How careful we must be when surrounded with non-believers that we don’t appear to be saying, “Look how good I am” as we take our stands and live by our convictions.
Surely we need more Christians willing to take those stands, more Christians committed to obeying God’s principles, and more Christians who will purpose in their hearts not to defile themselves in this world of sin. However, it’s equally important that we do it with the right words and the right attitude. Let’s ask God to make us that kind of witness as we go to our working worlds each day.
Friday, August 17th, 2018
Daniel chapter 1 gives us a marvelous example of how Daniel remained strong and true to his convictions and did so in the right way.
In completing our thoughts on this topic, one very smart thing Daniel did was to come up with an alternative which would not cause him to have to do what he knew was wrong, yet at the same time would allow him to meet his employer’s objective. Anytime we must take a stand that says, “No, I cannot do that,” we should do everything possible to follow it with, “But I can do this.”
My friend, Beth, worked for a manager who wanted her to tell people on the phone that he was not in the office even when he was. She couldn’t do that since it was a lie, so she very nicely explained this to her boss. He respected her so much (for, parenthetically, Beth’s life and her care for others had earned her the right to be heard), that they worked out an alternative: When someone called and he didn’t want to talk with them, he would physically go out of the office—totally outside the building—so that Beth could honestly say, “He’s not in the office.”
Daniel’s story has a happy ending in this case, but remember that it doesn’t always work out exactly that way. Daniel faced other situations where his stand for God was very costly. You remember the lion’s den; he was thrown in there for refusing to worship a false god.
My point is that we must be prepared to take a stand for God and for Christian principles, regardless of the outcome. When we do, there may be times that our stand for Christ will be costly.
However, don’t you think that many of us cause a lot of the problems we face when we do take our stand for Christ because we aren’t doing it in the right way? We should prayerfully and carefully approach these situations, always asking God to give us great wisdom in choosing our words and our actions.