You probably know the story of Daniel and the Lion’s Den. Some of the top guys in the kingdom of Persia didn’t like that Daniel was getting so friendly with King Darius. So they tricked the king into signing a law that no one could pray to anyone but him for 30 days. Daniel, of course, only prayed to God, and did so three times a day. It was easy for them to catch him breaking the new law and have him sentenced to the lion’s den.
But there’s a part of this story that we might miss if we do not read the story slow enough. There is something for us to learn from Daniel and his relationship with his boss, King Darius.
When Darius learned that his actions and rules were going to bring harm to his friend, Daniel, he was beside himself.
When the king heard [that Daniel had broken the new law], he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him. . . .
[After sealing Daniel in the lion’s den] the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.
Daniel 6:14, 18 NIV
Darius was distraught. He was in agony. It was his fault that Daniel was sentenced to death. He had sent a friend to his doom.
What if your company made a rule that said no one could leave the premises on their lunch hour, you had stay on company grounds? You work for a great company that provides a lunch room with cold and hot selections, so you don’t have to leave to eat. And it’s that time of year where the company is in a crunch, so they want to make sure everyone stays productive. Anyone who leaves the grounds will be fired.
But let’s say that you volunteer at the local food bank during your lunch hour, and there isn’t anyone else to cover you on such short notice. What if you’re deathly allergic to something in the cafeteria, so you go to a local deli on your lunch break? Or maybe you have your quiet time with God at an open church a block away.
For whatever reason, you leave the grounds. There are people watching you, waiting for you to slip up. They have come up with this rule as a way to eliminate you from the team. So when you head out the door, they are on their phones, and when you get back you have an email asking you to stop by the boss’ office.
What is his face telling you? Are her eyes flaming with anger or are they trying to figure out a way to get out of this situation? Bottom line: If your boss had taken action that meant that you’d be leaving the company on the express bus, would it be good news or bad news to your boss?
Daniel is an example to us of how we should work and interact in the workplace to the point that our manager, team leader, business owner, or any other type of supervisor would be heartbroken at our leaving, especially if it were because of his or her actions.
The keys to Daniel’s relationship with King Darius are found earlier in the chapter.
Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. At this the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt or negligent.
Daniel 6:3-4 NIV
Daniel brought the following elements of his life into his work environment, shaping for him a special place in the heart of his king, and an unimpeachable reputation before his coworkers.
1) “Exceptional Qualities”
Daniel brought something unique to the workplace that made his stand out from those in a similar position. Other versions say that Daniel hand an “excellent spirit” in him. The word depicts excellence, being superior and extraordinary.
In our workplaces, are we known for excellence, or for maintaining the status quo? Or worse, does our quality of work or our attitudes stand out because they are below average, setting the bar for getting by instead of for excellence?
It was Daniel’s pursuit of excellence that catapulted him in the eyes of the king, and set him up for promotion over his coworkers.
Daniel was trustworthy. The Contemporary English Version expounds on trustworthiness by saying that Daniel “was honest and faithful and did everything he was supposed to do.”
When the manager was gone for the afternoon at an important meeting across town, Daniel kept working as if he were looking over his shoulder. When it was time for the monthly figures and reports, Daniel didn’t exaggerate or tweak the numbers.
Are we trustworthy, honest and faithful? If we are, what employer wouldn’t be fond of us? If we aren’t, then we might as well start working on our resume anyway.
This is more than being honest. This is more than doing what we are supposed to do. Integrity is the part that stumps our enemies when they are digging through everything in our drawers and cabinets to find that one little something they can use against us. It isn’t there.
Integrity is more than the sum of our actions. It is the heart of who we are; it is our lifestyle. Integrity motivates us to do what is right, not what will make us look good. It focuses on the good of our company instead of the direction of our career path. Integrity sets us on a higher level.
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These “exceptional qualities” set Daniel apart in the eyes of King Darius.
Did you notice who else was uplifted in the eyes of the king because of Daniel and his qualities? It was God. We usually tell the story that Darius was convinced of God’s greatness because Daniel was spared from the lion’s den. But Darius had faith in God’s hand to save Daniel even as he was lowered into the pit (see verse 16).
Endearing ourselves to our employer is more than a career bolster, it is being the salt and light that Jesus called us to be.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Matthew 5:16 NIV