If you’re a sports fan, you know that there are constant changes in leadership and player personnel.  It is rare these days for players and coaches, especially at the professional level to stay with one team their entire career.  The main determining factors for these changes are money and performance.  Of course, this doesn’t just happen in sports.  It happens in almost every organization, even the church.  However, there is another factor that plays a key role in the frequency of these changes, and that is the “culture” of an organization.  To put it simply “Organizational culture is the collection of values, expectations, and practices that guide and inform the actions of all team members. Think of it as the collection of traits that make your company what it is.”  (www.achievers.com)

Values, expectations, practices, or traits of an organization are usually established or determined by its leaders, the top dogs, head honchos, the big cheese, big kahunas; okay I’ll stop.  However, in what I would call healthier organizations, everyone from the top down has input, not just the people in charge.

A few years ago, I was introduced to the term “leading up”, which is the ability to influence decisions made by those at higher levels in an organization, like a supervisor.  In other words there is some influence coming from the bottom up, hence the term “leading up”.  It creates a more collaborative environment that I believe has a profound and positive effect on the overall culture of an organization.

That’s great Robby, but what in blue blazes does this have to do with Daniel?  Well, I’m glad you asked because this week we’ll see how Daniel went from being a slave to a major influencer in Babylonian culture.  The book of Daniel is a great example of someone “leading up”.  Instead of conforming, compromising, and being influenced by the culture around him, he flipped it on its head.  As well see, Daniel’s purpose or motivation was not about gaining power or working his way up the corporate ladder.  He was just being obedient to God.  As a result, God opened up opportunities for him to speak into, influence, and in some ways transform the culture around him, even at the highest levels.

Last week, we got an introduction into Daniel’s world.  He and the rest of the Israelites were conquered by the Babylonians, taken into captivity, and became slaves.  Daniel and other young men of Israel were chosen to serve in the “king’s service”.  In order to serve, they would need to be reeducated or indoctrinated to Babylonian culture.  For Star Trek fans, they would be assimilated, like the Borg.  They would become Babylonian in every way.  According to chapter one of Daniel that included language, literature, and even their diet.

As we learned last week, Daniel’s first act of defiance started with food.  Well, I don’t know if defiant is the right word because Daniel is actually pretty polite about it.  He asks nicely.

“8But 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.”  Daniel 1:8 NIV

Daniel’s decision to not “defile himself with royal or Babylonian food and wine” came from his conviction to obey God’s law.  In Mosaic Law, certain foods were forbidden or considered “unclean”.  For example, the blood of any animal, the flesh of swine or of animals that are found dead, and food that has been offered or sacrificed to idols.  In this case, food sacrificed to idols or another God was probably one of the main culprits in Daniel’s decision not to eat the food that was being offered.  Hopefully, they weren’t serving road kill, but if the Babylonians had brought out a platter of hamburgers, I would have been trouble.  Fortunately for Daniel, the Lord had caused one of the Babylonian officials to show favor to him, so when Daniel asks to opt out of the Babylonian menu the official listens, but there is a problem.

“9Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”  Daniel 1:9-10 NIV

Unfortunately for this official, Babylon was not an organization that had a healthy collaborative culture.  It was an absolute monarchy.  The king wasn’t just a ruler.  He was a god king who didn’t allow his subjects to “lead up”, especially a slave.  To say that this official had a lot riding on his decision to listen to Daniel would be an understatement, and as he states came with grave consequences.  Never the less, he chooses to listen to what Daniel has to say.

“11Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12“Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.”  Daniel 1:11-14 NIV

It is unclear whether this official shares this with his superiors.  He probably told Daniel in hushed tones, “let’s just keep this between us”.  In hip lingo he would have said, “let’s keep this on the down low”.  For a slave this is gutsy and shows a bit of business savvy for a young man.  Daniel is wheeling and dealing in a good sense of course.  One of the interesting things about this interaction between slave and official that we’ll see later is that Daniel is not trying to get this guy in trouble.  Daniel knows that this official is taking a big risk going along with this dietary maneuvering.  While he doesn’t owe the official anything, we’ll see later that he looks out for the Babylonians that help him along the way.  He doesn’t throw them under the bus, so to speak.

So how does this little dietary experiment work out?

“15At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.”  Daniel 1:15-16 NIV


Today we might not think about something as trivial as food being such a big faith decision or be a life or death matter.  After all Daniel wasn’t being asked to renounce his faith or bow down to another God.  It was just food.  What’s the big deal?

Compromise is one of the key themes of Daniel.  As we’ll see, this is not the only time Daniel stands his ground and refuses to conform.  He lives by faith and by his convictions.  As I close this devotional up for the week, I think it’s important to note that the decisions that we make big or small have an impact on our relationship with God.  We can rationalize our way around God’s commands; small compromises can turn into larger ones.  I know because I’ve done it, and it comes at a cost.  Daniel’s decision also came with a cost.  It could have all gone wrong.  He could have lost his head too, but for Daniel the greater cost would have been to “defile himself”, to disobey and damage his relationship with God.  That was a cost he was not willing to pay.

Tune in next week as we continue to watch Daniel “lead up”.

Love y’all!  Have a great weekend!

Robby Morris
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Coordinator – Andrews UMC