By, Isam Itson III
If you have ever felt trapped in your job or responsibilities keep reading.
23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. – Colossians 3:23-24
The person in the scriptures that speaks to me most in this regard is the prophet Daniel. Daniel lived and died in exile having served in the royal court of his oppressors his entire adult life. Yet, because of Daniel’s commitment to God, and his excellent service, his wicked masters glorified God and we are blessed with the fruit of his struggle with God, the book of the bible that bears his name.
Daniel was not always a slave. He is described in Daniel 1, verses 3 and 4 (Daniel 1:3,4) as a young, handsome, educated, intelligent, and wise member of an aristocratic family in Judah. He was privileged, responsible, gifted, and destined for a successful and influential career in the service of Judah, the southern kingdom of Israel.
Unfortunately when he was somewhere between 15 and 20 years old his homeland was invaded and Daniel was taken captive to be trained as a counsellor and administrator to the pagan king of Babylon around 605bc. According to the text, Daniel spent 70 years in government service, first to the Babylonians and then to the Medo-Persians, and died in the city of Babylon sometime after 535bc.
Under both administrations Daniel was recognized for his excellent service and the Kings of the Babylonian Empire as well as the King of Babylon under the Persians, praised the God of Daniel as the greatest of all gods (Daniel 2:47; 4:34-37; and 6:26,27). Daniel determined to maintain his integrity in relationship to God even as he was bound in service to godless people (Daniel 1:8). Let’s consider what Daniel must have gone through over the years.
Daniel was raised as a member of the ruling class and positioned to serve the kingdom of Judah, whose people had a history and heritage of dedication to the God of Israel. His life was regulated by the dictates of the Jewish religious calendar and the public worship of God at the Temple in Jerusalem. Though some of their kings and leaders were more faithful to God than others, all of them paid public acknowledgment to God. Similar to how the presidents and representatives of the United States all say “God bless you, and God bless the United States of America” at the end of their official addresses, even if their public policies or private lives do not display wholehearted devotion to God.
Just as Daniel was about to begin his life of public service to God and his people, he was taken captive and dedicated to the service of a pagan ruler in a society that had no regard for his God or his culture. All of Daniel’s gifts, professional prospects, and energies were now employed for the enrichment and success of a corrupt and vile kingdom. There was no room to express his dedication to God in public. There was no regard for his lifestyle. There was no respect for the God of Israel in his workplace.
Sound familiar? Many of us who follow Jesus Christ have felt this. We recognize the corruption in our societies or where we work and we wrestle with our place in this world as Christians. “How can I honor God and work for…?” I think Daniel wrestled with this all of his life. We know he prayed and meditated on God’s word. We know he dedicated himself to staying morally pure. He kept his integrity in relationship to God even as he was forced to adopt the manners and customs of his captors in service to their unrighteous and unjust goals of conquest and self promotion. But I believe he was often conflicted in why God allowed this to happen to him and his countrymen.
Daniel is known as a visionary prophet. God revealed his message to Daniel in dreams and then gave Daniel the interpretation. Our dreams are often the product of our unresolved conflicts. Daniel’s dreams recorded in Daniel chapters 7-12 (Daniel 7-12) speak to the conflicts between the tyrannical rulers of the earth and the coming of God’s ultimate rule of righteousness and justice over all of the other kingdoms. They are recorded as coming to Daniel throughout his career. In essence God told Daniel, “This situation you and your people are in is temporary. Enslavement to the wicked is not the end of your story as a people. In the end, you will be restored to me and you will share in my glorious victory. In the meantime, stay faithful to me. Stay true.” And as far as we know Daniel died as an old man in service to the Persians in the city of Babylon.
God chose Daniel to walk with him through a life of service in captivity to some wicked rulers and this uniquely prepared Daniel to receive a message that still speaks to us. Daniel’s life did not follow the path that he and his family hoped for when he was growing up. But had his good life not been taken from him we would not have his particular wisdom of how to stay true to God and shine for God through our excellent and faithful job performance in our godless societies and workplaces.
Sometimes we find ourselves working, even slaving, in situations that we would never have chosen or desired for ourselves. God knows what he is doing and sometimes he chooses us to live and die for him in dark places so that others may see him at work within us and place their hope in him as well. And like Daniel, our dedication to God can result in blessing others in the name of Jesus Christ beyond our lifetime into eternity when we stay true to God and his love for others no matter what.
1. Considering your situation and the resources available to you, how can God be glorified in your community or workplace?
2. What limitations are keeping you from making this happen?
3. After considering your limitations, what sustainable opportunities can you pursue that honor God’s value for the people around you?