27: Staying close to God in non-Christian settings (Daniel 1:8-14)

Scripture ReadingDaniel 1:8-14

The Book of Daniel begins with a disaster that has ended the Jewish kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has conquered Jerusalem, deposed its king, and taken some of its royals and noble young men captive.

Among the youth taken captive were Daniel and his companions Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The four were chosen for a select program, based on youth, aptitude, and appearance, to enter into training for a leadership position in the kingdom. This presented both an opportunity and a challenge. The opportunity was to make good lives for themselves in a hostile land, and perhaps to bring God’s power and justice to their new country. The prophet Jeremiah was urging the Jewish exiles to do just that.

The challenge Daniel and his colleagues faced was assimilation at the expense of loyalty to God and their people. Nonetheless, Daniel and his colleagues embraced the challenge, secure in the belief that God would protect their faith and loyalty. They enrolled in Babylonian education, but set limits to guard against actual assimilation into the pagan culture of their captors.

Christians in all kinds of workplaces today face pressures akin to what Daniel and his friends experienced at the Babylonian academy. The Book of Daniel provides no specific guidelines, but it suggests some vital perspectives. Christians who work or study in non- or anti-Christian environments should take care to avoid uncritical assimilation into the surrounding culture.

Safeguards include constant prayer and communion with God, firm adherence to material markers of the faith (even if they are somewhat arbitrary), active association and accountability with other Christians in the same kind of work, formation of good relationships with non-believers in your workplace, and adoption of a modest lifestyle, so that attachment to money, prestige or power do not stand in the way of risking your job or career if you are pressured to do something contrary to God’s commands, values or virtues.

Prayer: Lord, help me be rooted in my relationship with you. Give me discernment, that I may be in the world but not “of the world”, especially in how I work. Amen.

For Further Exploration: Read In Exile at Babylon U. (Daniel 1) from the Theology of Work Bible Commentary.

Author: Theology of Work Project

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Unless otherwise noted, the Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, Copyright © 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission. All rights reserved.