Today’s culture encourages a much more relative set of values – a sort of if-it-helps-you-succeed-it’s-okay mindset. While that’s not absolute, it’s enough to be incredibly dangerous. The definition of success can become warped, with an emphasis on short-term financial success at the exclusion of the long-term impact. The victims often include careers, families, relationships, communities and even people’s physical health.
When we look at the stories of respected business leaders who are suddenly under investigation for fraud or other unethical behavior, what we see are the inevitable results of a long series of poor choices. These downfalls don’t manifest overnight. They start with what may seem like one small “harmless” indiscretion that opens the door for a damaging flood of wrong choices.
Proverbs 10:9 says, “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.” Ask Bernie Madoff. He’s serving a 150-year sentence after being convicted of 11 counts of fraud, money laundering, perjury and theft.
While most of us will never take our indiscretions to this extreme, we still need to take extreme care in protecting our integrity. How do we do it? Daniel teaches us some valuable lessons.
- Know and commit to your values – Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” When we know and commit to a set of values in our hearts, those values guide and direct every decision, even when we have to choose between two “good” things. Daniel and his friends knew God’s commandments and had already committed to follow them in their hearts before they ever started toward Babylon with all of its temptations.
- Go to God in prayer – Philippians 4: 6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Daniel and his friends were in danger of being killed with the rest of the king’s “wise” men because none of them were able to tell the king his dream or its interpretation. Instead of reacting or freaking out, they joined together in prayer. God not only gave them favor, He showed Daniel the interpretation of the dream and Daniel was rewarded.
- Speak the truth with courage – While you may avoid doing things you know are wrong, are you saying what you know needs to be said? Avoiding conflict or letting fear stop you from speaking up can also be very damaging to relationships, to a team and to the success of an organization. Daniel was called to interpret another dream that turned out to be a message to the king. God wanted Nebuchadnezzar to know that he would lose his kingdom if he didn’t change his ways and take care of the poor. Daniel delivered a tough message with respect and courage.
Each one of Daniel’s bosses over many years found him to have “an excellent spirit within him.” When we commit to our growth in Christ, others will take notice. Not only will we see the fruits of that excellence in our own lives, but even more, we will influence others to develop themselves into leaders of integrity and excellence.