He was forcibly relocated to the University of Babylon in 605 B.C. when his city was invaded by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon. He was young, smart, talented, and an outlier, so the King’s men took him away from his family and home in Jerusalem. Everything he knew and was familiar with was swapped for a new life in Babylon. The King’s goal was to strip away the moral center, worldview, and heritage of young leaders from cities and cultures in and around Babylon, and absorb them into the leadership pipeline of the Babylonian Empire.
This young man was given a room in the palace, and access to the King’s food service and chef that produced food and wine for the leadership of the Empire. The best of the best of the young people who were taken from their homes and countries were given three years of re-education. If after three years, any of them proved bright, teachable, and cooperative, they would enter into a lifetime of prestige, luxury, and privilege (not to mention comfort) in the King’s service.
But the young man was smart enough to recognize what Nebuchadnezzar was up to. He understood that eating the King’s food and believing the state propaganda was designed to put him on a path of compromise and abandonment of everything that made him who he was, especially when it affected his status as a son of Abraham, and a follower of the One True God.
Read Daniel 1:8 to see his decision. “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.”
I heard Andy Stanley say about Daniel’s situation: “Daniel understood something that most of us usually miss when it comes to the ebb and flow of culture. Daniel realized the principle that compromise does not erase the tension we feel…it only weakens our resolve.”
All of us grow up in a culture of family, neighborhood, school, state, region, etc., where competing ideas about morality, finance, politics, relationships, and religion are implied, practiced, ignored, and even in regular conflict. What our parents teach and model is often threatened outside the home. Other cultural ideas attempt to entice us to step over the boundaries (i.e., standards of behavior and matters of conscience) that our parents and families provide.
Daniel knew that refusing to obey the King’s order to eat his food would cost him something, maybe even his life. But he was rooted in what his parents taught and believed about the commandments and the Law of Moses. He had made up his mind before being taken off to college that his allegiance to God was more significant to him than anything else. One takeaway from Daniel’s example is to be sure to know what you believe and why before going to school. If you don’t, you may more easily succumb to the myriad of cultural “bait” that draws and woos us to the edge of potential disaster morally, relationally, financially, and spiritually.
Parents hope their children realize the value that “boundaries” provide. It often means doing the exact opposite of what culture says we should do. Christians know it always means trusting God for the outcome (see v 9). Daniel’s simple decision not to bend his convictions was the start of a journey of influence: remember the fiery furnace, the lion’s den, and his job promotions?
If you want to be a person others will follow, be sure you know and live your convictions. Serve globally. We don’t know how God will honor our resolve, but He will honor it.
Love is a verb,
©2013 by Mike Olejarz