What would it take to turn it all down? If offered nice things and notoriety, riches and royalty, and power and position, what would it take? You would not have to do anything illegal or immoral; it would be compensation for your expertise, that’s all. But that’s never really all. There are always strings attached, even if they're invisible.
In the fifth chapter of the book named after him, an older Daniel gives us insight into what a life of contentment in God operates like in the face of seemingly innocuous temptations. Daniel has been brought over as an exile with his friends known most commonly as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Through his time in Babylon Daniel has outlived King Nebuchadnezzar having denied the king’s food in chapter one, interpreted a couple dreams in chapter two and four, and witnessing Nebuchadnezzar’s punishment and restoration chapter four as well. All of this however is forgotten when Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Belshazzar, inherits the throne. Similar to his father’s earlier way of life, pride accentuated Belshazzar’s lifestyle leading to a confrontation with The Lord.
During one of Belshazzar’s party the fingers of a human hand write something on a wall that the neither the king or his party guests can read. Perplexed by what he sees, and leaving all the wise men of Chaldea flummoxed, someone remembers and summons Daniel to interpret the cryptic writings on the wall. Before Daniel speaks, the new king, reminds him of the rewards he will receive if he is indeed able to enlighten the king. The spoil for the individual able to aid the king will be clothes of purple, a chain of gold around their neck, and to top it off will become third in the entire Kingdom! You don’t feel me though. Remember whom this is offered to. Daniel, the exile from a captured Judah, living in a foreign land, among people that don’t look like, live like, or like him. He wasn’t used to the finest clothing. His status had elevated because of previous favor from God, but not to likes of purple and gold. That wouldn’t be just an honor for LSU fans, this is denoting royalty, and power. The same reason people wear clothes to red carpet events and award ceremonies, to show they have it. This is a lifestyle change punctuated with the reality that he would be third in power while living in the most powerful kingdom in the world at the time. Only Joseph in Genesis compares to this rags to riches story. The ramifications this would have on Daniel’s life are astronomical! His answer is equally magnanimous,
Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation.
– Daniel 5:17
Daniel is offered gifts of purple, gold, and higher position. Before he even gives the answer, he refuses it all. Keep them. Why? Daniel must have something better than Belshazzar can offer. He has the love and favor of the true King that gives kingship to all kings, and breath to all things, what need does he have of gifts that the Giver has given another to disperse. He knows who to trust, and whose favor actually matters. He has a position with the Lord, and that position does not change with his performance, so why jump into the game when that would make him compete for the favor of men. Lord, please make us content as Daniel is in you. I don’t need gifts if I have the giver, I am placed already in the Lord, therefore I don’t need or covet the place people can give. Amen! Notice that Daniel still served and did what the king asked, but he was free from the chains and strings that striving for human favor and reward brings. Christ cuts those chords for us when we know that his sacrifice provides for us a favor that will not fade, or run out.
The very things that Daniel refused were given to him anyway: purple clothes, gold chain, and becoming the third ruler of the kingdom. A king that died that night gave them. What did it amount to? Nothing, there was a new ruler among men, that would not know Daniel, not care for his garments, or allow him to maintain status a ruler of this new kingdom. Daniel had clear insight deferring the gifts of the king of man. Because he understood there will always be another king until the True King comes, whose camp Daniel was already in. Even to an unbeliever God is still God. So, what’s a king to the God-man? Nothing.
…for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”