The story of Daniel teaches us that it is possible to live a faithful life even during exile in a pagan land and amidst a culture antithetical to God’s law. As if spurred on by Jeremiah 29, with competence and character, Daniel contributes with “an excellent spirit” to the prospering of Babylon. Other high officials, jealous of Daniel, “sought to find a ground of complaint against Daniel with regard to the Kingdom”, but they could not because Daniel was faithful. When thrown into the lion’s den, God delivered Daniel and protected him because he trusted in God. As Christians in the marketplace, we must approach our work in the same fashion: we must strive to be faithful and we must trust God.
How can we be faithful while working in Washington D.C., the Capitol of “an empire” that is confusedly both somewhat rooted in Christian values and, now, increasingly attached to an alternative relativist moral system and all its distortions?
Truly we, as exiles in a strange land, are already in the lion’s den. Abstract – but very real – idols and sinful attitudes such as materialism, careerism, perfectionism, and cynicism tempt our hearts and find increasing expression in concrete laws of the land. If it hadn’t been clear already, Obergefell vs. Hodges shows us that this country we live in had already changed from what we thought it was. In a word, we were always exiles. Previous generations were wrong to think otherwise.
To live faithfully in the land, we need to fully step into this identity. An exile knows where his or her true home is. Our identity as exiles clarifies, crystallizes, and even simplifies our calling. As exiles, we do not pretend that Babylon, or America, is the Promised Land. As exiles, we live as distinct people in a mission-field, in a lion’s den. We are not safe, but there are profound opportunities to live an incarnational life and reach our lost neighbors around us, to show them the power of our God.
We must trust God. After we have done our best to serve our bosses, after we have completed all our tasks with excellence, our hearts must continue to trust God and nothing else. We cannot trust in our own successes. Faithful service in the workplace may sometimes act as a window to help our “pagan” co-workers see the God we trust in. Just as He did with Daniel, we can trust that God will use us in this way.
God uses our work to accomplish good in this world: to create good and just laws that help and bless people and which multiply common graces, to care for the sick and hurting, to create value in businesses that materially bless billions, etc. God cares about our physical, not just our spiritual, reality. Through Daniel and others, the Kingdom of Babylon prospers and Daniel prospers too.
At the same time, God uses our work to reach the spiritually lost, to reveal His glory, and to bring glory to Himself. As Christian leaders, we need a full vision of work. God’s ways, after all, are higher than our ways. We do not work only to witness in a spiritual way to our co-workers. We witness to a very physical and coming Kingdom. Our work matters to God. As exiles in a foreign land, we must strive to be faithful and to trust Him as He uses us and our work in powerful ways.
Thomas Kent interns on Capitol Hill and is a member of the 2015-2016 Falls Church Fellows Program.