It was a privilege to be able to speak at my church last weekend, and we have been working our way through the book of Daniel. I spoke on Daniel chapter 6, and did not capture a recording of my talk so cannot share it here. Instead, I will write a few posts giving you my thoughts on this well known chapter.
Daniel 6 tells the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den, a famous story which begins as follows:
It seemed good to Darius [who became king after Belshazzar] to appoint over the kingdom 120 satraps who would be in charge throughout the kingdom, 2 and over them three chief commissioners (of whom Daniel was one), that these satraps might be accountable to them, so that the king would have no loss [from disloyalty or mismanagement]. 3 Then this Daniel, because of the extraordinary spirit within him, began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and the satraps, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire realm. 4 Then the [other two] commissioners and the satraps began trying to find a reason to bring a complaint against Daniel concerning the [administration of the] kingdom; but they could find no reason for an accusation or evidence of corruption, because he was faithful [a man of high moral character and personal integrity], and no negligence or corruption [of any kind] was found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We will not find any basis for an accusation against this Daniel unless we find something against him in connection with the law of his God.”Daniel 6:1-`5 (AMP)
As a bit of a recap, Daniel was taken into captivity as a young man when the Babylonians took over. The events of Daniel 6 though happened many years later, when he is a much older man. King Darius is in charge of the Persian empire, who took over from the Babylonians. Daniel, once again, has risen to the top and prospered as a man who faithfully trusts and serves God. King Darius divides the kingdom into 120 regions, placing a governor (satrap) over each one. He then appoints three chief commissioners to be in charge of the group, of which Daniel is one. Notice verse two which tells us that they were appointed for the benefit of the king, and so that he might not suffer loss. This, I think, is a point of note which will be important later on in the chapter.
Verse three indicates that Daniel began to distinguish himself above and beyond his peers. His performance seemingly outstripped those around him so much so that the king planned to put in charge of the whole lot. This is what spurs the governors to try to find a complaint against him. Rather than celebrating his success, they are jealous of Daniel and seek to bring him down. Instead of being inspired to raise their own game, they would prefer to discredit him.
Jealousy is an ugly thing. It is rooted in selfishness. When we see someone with something we want, be it material possessions, positions of power or even relationships, desiring it for ourselves is to say “I want it…” “I should have it…” and “Why should they have something when I deserve it…” We are not thinking of them, but of ourselves. Rather than working for the king’s benefit, and supporting Daniel in his success, they instead want to destroy Daniel and in so doing, harm the king’s interest. All because they want to be “top dog.”
For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.James 3:16 (KJV)
Envy and jealousy not only cause confusion, but open the door to every evil work. While we may think of envy as just an internal sin, it can affect our heart and allow all kinds of evil. I urge you not to underestimate the danger of jealousy.
The jealousy drives the governors and commissioners to look for a way to accuse Daniel. They try to find any reason to raise a complaint against him. Perhaps he is a thief? Maybe he tells lies? Could he be open to a bribe? Yet they find nothing. Not a single skeleton in his closet, and not one thing they can use against him. He is a man of integrity, and he is neither negligent nor corrupt. Daniel is both reliable and trustworthy. If only we had such leaders in our nation! (Insert nation here!)
As I write these words, the UK (where I live) is going through a time of political turmoil. Our current (former?) Prime Minister has been accused of being untrustworthy, not telling the truth and this on the back of a fine for breaking COVID restrictions he himself put in place. One of the front runners to replace him, who is setting himself up as a trustworthy alternative, was also fined for the same thing so is not exactly above repute himself! I make no political statement here, but simply tell you what is going on. What a contrast to the man Daniel! I pray that our leaders might be half as honourable and reliable as he was.
How about you? How reliable are you? Would you describe yourself as trustworthy? You may not be a political leader, but it is as every bit as important that you live an excellent life. Excellence is not something we hear too much about, and yet integrity is critical for God’s people. We must have moral excellence, and be a people of our word. Why? Because the world is watching, and because Christ is making our appeal to the world through us.
The people of God should stand out from the rest of the world. If we look, think, talk and act like them, then what difference does our faith make? Paul says that:
So we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His appeal through us; we [as Christ’s representatives] plead with you on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God.2 Corinthians 5:20 (AMP)
The world is watching us, and if they see no difference or benefit, then our appeal will fall on deaf ears. It is right that we live to a higher standard, and it does not have to be some grand gesture, it can be in the smaller, everyday matters of life.
I recall a time I went clothes shopping with a friend. It is not my favourite pastime, but I went along and was following them around the shop. Clothes shops are sometimes packed with racks, and as you move around you can knock the hangers and leave clothes on the floor. With little else to keep me occupied while my friend shopped, I began to pick up items of apparel and put them back on hangers, and the hangers on the racks. I perhaps did it half a dozen times or more as I moved around the store. Little did I know that I was being watched… as we approached the checkout, a member of staff commented with a smile, “You’ve been doing my job for me today haven’t you sir?” She had apparently been watching me.
I don’t tell you that to say “Aren’t I so wonderful!” but rather just to say that being excellent is simply about leaving a place slightly better than when you arrived.
Leaving work five minutes early is not ok, and we ought to stay until our designated finish time. More than that, an excellent person might just finish the task they are doing even if it means staying an extra five or ten.
Jesus did not tell us to do the mile, but instead to go the extra mile. He expects us to do what we ought to, but instructs us to go above and beyond. Don’t just do the bear minimum you can get away with, instead, exceed expectations and do something extra. It won’t go unnoticed.
This is the kind of man that Daniel was. He didn’t spend the day surfing the Internet when he should have been working (if he had Internet that is). He didn’t arrive in the office at 9am, take his coat off, make a coffee and actually start work at 9.20. He didn’t take office stationary or use the copier without permission. He was diligent, hardworking and could be trusted with the entire empire. Can we say the same?
I know I can’t. Not that I’m confessing to anything particularly immoral, but simply that there are plenty of times when I do not go the extra mile or even fail to make the full mile itself! I do work hard, but I am far from perfect and there is room for improvement. Thinking about Daniel and his example, I come up short and feel challenged to step up.
Excellence does not equal perfection, let me add. None of us are perfect and we will all get it wrong at times. God is an excellent God, doing everything to the very best of His ability. God never says, “Oh, that’ll do!” And we ought to do our best in everything too. We will not achieve perfection however, and I do not want you coming away from this post beating yourself up for being human. Let us be honest with ourselves, check our motives and make sure we are doing our very best, but accepting we will not be perfect this side of heaven.
To close, and returning to our passage, we read that the commissioners realise they will not find anything to accuse Daniel of. The weak point they decide to exploit is not a week point at all, but rather one of Daniel’s strengths… his faith. If they are going to bring him down, then they will use the fact that he is truly faithful to God. We will find out how next time!