Jump Start # 2699
Daniel 1:8 But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.”
Young Daniel, as this great prophetic book begins, has been taken captive from Jerusalem to Babylon. His name has been changed that reflects Babylonian gods. He is being taught Babylonian culture. In many ways, he is being rewired to become Babylonian. Many captives throughout history would not find themselves in the wonderful care that Daniel was in. He was not in chains. He was not in a dark, damp dungeon. He was not being used as free forced labor. He was being groomed to serve in the Babylonian administration. He was excelling and God was with him.
But our verse today brings Daniel to a major crossroads. There was a line drawn in his convictions, and now he was being asked to cross that line. We are not told specifically why eating the king’s food would defile him. It could be that the food was unclean by Jewish law. It could be that the food had been sacrificed to Babylonian gods and that would appear as a compromise. But in Daniel’s mind, this was it. This had reached the limit. He could not do this in good conscience. There comes a time and a point where if you cross that line your influence is shot, your conscience is violated and in your mind and heart you have joined the enemy.
Several things for us:
First, do you have such a line drawn in your heart? If you don’t you’ll spend the rest of your life compromising your faith and tolerating things that are not right. Some do not want to draw attention to themselves so they quietly go along with things that they know are wrong. In doing that, they have just ruined their influence and watered down their faith. Afraid of others, yet not afraid of God is where this puts you.
Lines must be drawn. We need those at work. Companies will push you and push you into doing things that are wrong. Corporate American is driven by growth and profits, not convictions and what is right and wrong. Lying, cheating, and dishonesty are the steps many take to climb that corporate ladder. The environment is often toxic and for the child of God he stands in the shadows of Daniel. Do I defile myself by going along, or do I have to say, “I can’t do this.” There are always consequences that come with standing up. Some of those consequences can be harsh.
Lines must be drawn with our family and friends. As we head towards the holiday season, there many be many situations in which you have to decide for yourself, “this crosses the line with me.” I cannot go along or I cannot participate in these things. Family and friends may not understand. They may think the problem is you. Everyone else is going along, why can’t you? And, you know the answer, it crosses the line with you.
You need to have a line drawn where you cannot go any further. For Daniel it was eating the king’s food.
Second, notice how Daniel dealt with this. He was told to eat the king’s food and he just couldn’t. So he “sought permission” from the commander. He didn’t wait until the food was put in front of him and then throw it on the Babylonians. He didn’t get ugly. He didn’t protest. He didn’t burn down the palace. Some, in refusing to cross one line, cross dozens of other lines because of the way they respond and react. We can put ourselves upon the fires of a martyr by the demanding and offensive way we respond. Daniel wasn’t persecuted by the commander. His calm and kind way that he approached things invited a conversation and an opportunity for another way of doing things.
You are asked to cross a line in which you cannot. Now, how do you handle it? Do you quit your job on the spot, leaving the company in a pickle because there is no one to do your job. Do you cause a scene and make yourself look like a idiot? Do you make threats? Do you lose your cool? Do you see what Daniel did? He did not cross the line, but neither did he make matters worse by his attitude and spirit.
Third, others are watching you. There may be others who have the same problem with crossing lines, but they lack the conviction and fear repercussions. They go along because they don’t want to stand alone. Seeing how you handle things and seeing your faith makes them see you with great faith. This may have long lasting impact, even after this current issue has settled down. How we conduct ourselves and our spirit and tone can have a greater effect upon others than an invitation to come to worship. Being mean, aggressive, offensive kills the good that came from standing up for what we believed in.
From the pages of the Bible, through the first four centuries after Christ, believers went to their deaths with faith and hope. They didn’t go down swinging. They didn’t take out as many as they could. The stories abound of Roman soldiers reluctantly putting a sword to the throat of young Christian girls. She stands courageously. No tears in her eyes. One account tells how a young believer actually put the sword up to her own throat because the Roman soldier just couldn’t do it. Paul’s persecutions, Peter’s fiery trials, the death of Stephen, Antipas, James, are all powerful reminders of how the faithful dealt with persecution. They didn’t egg it on. They didn’t resist and fight back. They went to their deaths knowing that the Lord had died for them. We see courage, faith, hope in these stories. What we face is not death. It may be people talking about us. It may be the loss of a job. It may be social pressure. But how do we handle ourselves when we come to the line that we cannot cross?
Finally, Daniel came up with a plan that offered a reasonable solution. Let us eat veggies and drink water and you see who is healthy and strong. Daniel didn’t force this idea. It was presented as a reasonable alternative. It was tried. Daniel was right. Daniel gained more favor through all of this. Daniel didn’t put himself in an either or situation. If I must eat the food, then I prefer to die. Given that option, the Babylonians would have killed Daniel. When we put threats out to leave the company, report someone, or go to the news, we put them in a position to defend themselves. Daniel did not put himself in the option of food or death. He had thought out a way in which he would not cross the line of his faith and it would not threaten others. Notice, Daniel didn’t say, “Everyone eats veggies.” No, it was just the Jews. He was taking a risk that would not hurt the entire system.
Great things for you and I to think about. You need to know where your line is drawn. You need to think about what happens when you are made to cross that line. You need to think about how others are seeing you. You need to think about how you would respond.
Daniel, living in a culture that wasn’t helpful for his faith. We, too, live in a culture that is not helpful for our faith. It’s time to draw some lines and stand upon our convictions in such a way that good is done.