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 (Manna 56: Holidays)
Office Relationships Series: King Darius, the Secular Boss
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Office Relationships Series: King Darius, the Secular Boss

Ruth Huang—Elizabeth, New Jersey, USA

Working in the world often involves working under a secular boss, which entails making decisions and handling problems in secular ways. These “secular ways” may not go against the teachings of the Bible, but when they do, they become challenges to us in our workplace.

It is tough when we are faced with decisions that test our faith on a day-to-day basis. Most of the time, these trials may be subtle and harmless at first glance. What we tend to forget is that Satan often masks himself to be very appealing and innocuous and slowly leads us astray from the truth.

THE DILEMMA

If you are blessed enough to have an understanding supervisor, it’s usually not a problem to not participate in anything against your beliefs. On the other hand, if your boss has little to no respect for your beliefs, it creates many opportunities to compromise and make decisions that go against your morals or beliefs. It seems that spiritual growth often involves sacrificing career success.

Living up to Your Ethics

Most career websites will advise you to steer clear of unethical practices because it will come back to bite you in the end. A common logical solution to immoral conduct is to back up every incident with documented evidence and maintain an ethical and professional attitude at work.

If all else fails, careerbuilder.com recommends the following: “After analyzing the political landscape in your company, if you decide the game is one you can’t play, prepare to move on. It’s not typical, but some organizations actually condone—even promote—dishonest, ruthless or unethical behavior. The game of office politics in this situation is not one worth winning.”

Living up to Your Religion

This is sound advice coming from a secular and moral point of view. Most people who aren’t consumed with the desire for power and money want to work for a company that makes ethical decisions. As Christians, there is no question that our career should be ethically based.

But in addition, we who seek to abide by the truth face a dilemma that covers a much wider spectrum of circumstances, ranging from something that is straight-forward, such as working on the Sabbath, to something that falls in the gray zone, such as participating in office politics or gossip.

To put in the extra effort that will earn recognition in front of our managers, do we forgo Sabbath once in a while without inquiring if Sunday was a possibility? To maintain a pleasant working atmosphere and camaraderie among fellow coworkers, do we indulge in office gossip or take sides in trivial office politics? Do our colleagues know not to tell dirty jokes in front of us because we are Christian?

Although it is easy to put the dos and don’ts of being ethical in writing, it is not always easy to put them into action when we encounter a difficult situation. Therefore, it is important to equip ourselves with God’s teachings to prepare for common and uncommon circumstances.

One Bible character whom we often turn to as an example of maintaining a strong faith while working successfully in the world is Daniel. Let’s look into how he dealt with his secular boss and colleagues.

LESSONS FROM DANIEL

Daniel was a successful governor and one of King Darius’ elite. King Darius was a great boss who respected and favored Daniel above his colleagues. But spiritually, King Darius did not know the one true God and consequently signed a decree that was at odds with Daniel’s belief.

The decree stated that for thirty days anyone who petitioned to any god or man except for King Darius would be cast into the den of lions. Even though the king did not mean any harm, he did not understand Daniel’s beliefs and endangered both Daniel’s career and physical life.

Put God Above the Boss

Daniel could have made it easy for himself and bowed down to the king during those thirty days. However, he chose to go against the decree and continue to offer prayers and thanks to his God. Daniel put full faith in God and did not worry about what his colleagues would think or what the consequences would be.

When faced with such a situation, whom do we choose? God or mammon? Sometimes, we waver and choose God only when it is easy and convenient—only when it requires no sacrifice. But the Bible states it is impossible to serve both God and mammon (Mt 6:24).

We need to be unconditionally certain about the one we serve, not only when the timing is right. When faced with a dilemma like Daniel’s, we must acknowledge in our hearts that any raise or promotion in a career is temporary, but the treasure we store in heaven by honoring and worshipping God is eternal.

Daniel was willing to suffer the consequences of disobeying the king’s command. As a result, he was thrown into the den of lions.

However, Daniel’s faith in God had a solid foundation that made his decision both effortless and immovable. He was completely confident that God would take care of him in life or death and was content with the fact that it could go either way.

When we are asked to choose God or mammon, let us choose God. Put God above the boss.

Don’t Compromise Your Beliefs

To refrain from compromise during a trying time is a very difficult thing to do. Daniel’s attitude is exemplary because it reminds us how important it is to do what is biblically correct and stand by it.

He did not say, “I know God is the only God in my life. The important thing is that I believe it in my heart, because God can see my heart. I’ll just follow the decree to keep the others quiet. In doing so, I can save my life to continue working for God.”

On the surface, this train of thought may seem wise, but on a deeper, more fundamental level, it is distorting two basic truths: there is only one true God, and we should not worship any other god. If a Christian cannot exhibit through actions what is in his heart, then his faith is truly dead (Jas 2:17).

In addition, because Daniel held such a high position and was favored by the king, his colleagues were envious and plotted against him. Without letting pride over his status drive a need to be vindicated, he willingly submitted to authorities and let God have full control of his future. We should not dwell on how unfairly we’ve been treated, but let God handle those who wrong us.

Having the faith and courage to stand up for what we believe in, instead of cowardly compromising to save face, can only come from the power and mercy of God.

God is faithful and He will not give us anything that we cannot bear, but we cannot just wait and do nothing and expect God to take care of our problems. We need to seek God’s guidance through tribulations and failure and remember to praise and give glory to Him when we garner recognition and success.

For Daniel, there was no dilemma. He was in the king’s high graces because he had an “excellent spirit” within him. He didn’t step on anyone to get there nor did he ever compromise his beliefs to appear more desirable to the king.

Stay on Top of Spiritual Cultivation

The king’s decree did not stop Daniel’s custom of praying to God three times a day. He chose to accept the consequences rather than bow down to man. We must follow Daniel’s example and cultivate our spirituality so that the decision to sacrifice secular gain for things that are eternal is an easy one to make.

Daniel’s life of prayer is evident in the decisions he made in his career. He was very successful, and he knew God gave him his success. He did not once doubt or get frustrated when his colleagues plotted to have him terminated. He remained peaceful and gave thanks and supplication to God.

Daily cultivation reaps greater benefits than prayer and scripture reading on random days or only when we are feeling down. We must spend the time and energy to build an intimate relationship with God. Without daily cultivation, the line between what is biblically correct and secularly reasonable can become indistinguishable, causing us to risk compromising our entire faith.

Daniel’s daily spiritual cultivation helped him maintain a peaceful heart during a very stressful time. His job and status could have been taken away from him and his life instantly over. In the end, he was not eaten by the lions; instead, his enemies were devoured. Daniel continued to prosper and God’s name was honored and praised throughout all the land.

FOCUS ON THINGS ABOVE

It would have been hard to make the right decision if Daniel did not maintain an intimate relationship with God. It is hard to accept being laid off, demoted, or patronized. Many secular concepts focus on individualism and empowering oneself. It is easy to get caught up in these concepts and lose focus.

But as Paul reminds us, our focus should be on “Set[ting] your minds on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col 3:2), for “the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor 4:18).

After the incident, a new decree was issued and it was clear to King Darius, a Gentile, that the God Daniel worshipped was the God that the entire kingdom must fear, because He was the living God that remained steadfast forever. Daniel’s boss, who did not previously know God, now knew that God’s kingdom was indestructible and enduring. Daniel was able to glorify God and edify others by focusing through spiritual cultivation on things that were eternal.

Doing well in our career to support our family and ourselves is one of our duties. But sometimes we are so engulfed by getting that promotion or raise that we forget that God is our ultimate Provider. Our vision of things that are eternal becomes blurred because our hearts have leaned more towards mammon than to God due to lack of spiritual cultivation.

To ask God for the strength and courage that Daniel displayed in his most difficult hours is not an impossible thing to do. We do not need to be a prophet or have deep spiritual wisdom to overcome the trials we face in society. Entrusting our careers and lives into God’s hands takes only a mustard seed of faith that can move mountains. May God give us attributes like those of Daniel so that we can embrace our status as God’s elite.

            But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Pet 2:9)

 

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Author: Ruth Huang
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