As I read through Daniel 6 it struck me that there was not a hint of dualism between the sacred and secular in Daniel’s life. Rather, his faith informed his work and in turn his work, enabled and blessed by God, informed his faith in a succinct type of cycle.
We read bits and pieces about Daniel’s work—he was one of three administrators appointed by king Darius to hold accountable the 120 satraps that ruled throughout the kingdom. Daniel was distinguished by his exceptional qualities, that there was no corruption or negligence found in him and that he was trustworthy.
I am reminded of Dorothy Sayers’ essay Why Work in which she reminds her reader “no piety in the worker will compensate for work that is not true to itself; for any work that is untrue to its own technique is a living lie” (p. 139). Later she exhorts her readers in their work by saying “work must be good work before it can call itself God’s work” (p. 140). We read in Daniel 6 that Daniel was indeed a pious man—his character was sound, however, his work too was so “good,” to use Sayers’ word, that the other administrators and satraps could not find any fault with it.
I don’t think it is a stretch to say that Daniel’s superb work ethic and character were an outflow of his faith and relationship with God. Later in the chapter we read that Daniel prayed three times a day, giving thanks to God. I imagine that on the day the decree was made, Daniel dropped on his knees and gave thanks to God and asked him for help because he knew that he could not separate his faith from the rest of his life.
At the beginning I noted how Daniel’s faith informed his work, which seems quite evident, but I think his work, which was blessed and enabled by God, reinforced his faith as well. It was because of Daniel’s work that he found favor with the King. After God saved Daniel from the lion’s den, King Darius was ecstatic and issued a decree that every part of his kingdom worship the God of Daniel. It was because Daniel was faithful in his work that he found favor with king Darius and it was king Darius who issued a new decree, that everyone worship God. In the end Daniel continues to be faithful and his work and is again able to worship and pray to God openly.
A couple summers ago I worked at a food service shop in downtown Chattanooga. After working there a few weeks I began to take note of how other employees would take ice cream or other products without paying for them or give their friends free ice cream. In the same manner, employs slacked off in their work and didn’t perform the minimum requirements.
I can at times be a stickler for rules, but I also have a rather vigilant conscience. Honestly it wasn’t so hard for me, when I first began my work there, to maintain an honest character and to do good work, but it became increasingly more difficult over time. The mentality and work ethic of the employs around me wore me down and in time my work became more lax. I tell this story because it contrasts Daniel’s faithful work.
Daniel remained faithful in his work because his faith consistently informed his work, perhaps because he got on his knees and prayed three times a day, thanking God and seeking his help. As I continue my work now and in the future I hope to emulate Daniel’s example of intentionally allowing my faith to inform my work and so staying the course and producing good work.
Morgan Sharpe is a recent graduate of the 2015-2016 Chattanooga Fellows Program.