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What is the single most important trait of one who desires to truly make a difference in our culture and world today? Some might say intellect. After all, knowledge is power and many believe that the most important thing they can have in addressing the culture is intellect. Someone else might say intensity, a spirit of conquest, a passion that is contagious. Still others might say it is insight. That is, good old common sense and the ability to see through issues and use discernment. However, in the long run there’s one word which describes the single most important characteristic of one who finishes strongly and makes a lasting difference in the midst of a culture. The word is integrity. Now, more than ever, it is what our world needs.
I’ve known those with intellect who had keen knowledge and persuasive abilities but who had little or no integrity and are no longer in the race. I’ve also known those with a tremendous amount of intensity and passion but who had little or no integrity, and they, too, have already dropped by the wayside. I’ve also known those with a keen insight and the ability to make wise decisions but who ultimately showed that they had little or no integrity and they, too, are out of the race.
Daniel certainly had intellect. We read that he was “. . . gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand . . .” (Daniel 1:4) He certainly had intensity. The Bible records that Daniel “. . . purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself . . .” (Daniel 1:8) He also had insight. We discover this in Daniel Daniel 2 and Daniel 5 when he keenly discerned King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and the handwriting on Belshazzar’s wall. However, what truly set Daniel apart from the others and enabled him to achieve such incredible success in Babylon was his integrity. The Bible says, “then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps because an excellent spirit was in him . . .” (Daniel 6:3)
Integrity can be defined as the steadfast adherence to a moral or ethical code. It is the state or quality of being complete; the freedom from corrupting influence or motive. It speaks of consistency. That is, the word “integrity” defines someone who is in public what he also is in private. Integrity is what causes the professional golfer to turn himself in on an infraction when no one else sees it. It is what causes a witness to tell the truth on the witness stand when no one else will know. Integrity is what keeps employees from cheating on overtime hours or expense accounts. Integrity is what keeps us honest as April 15th rolls around each year. Integrity is what keeps us faithful to our wives or husbands when away on business trips.
Our contemporary culture is crying out to see men and women of integrity. Many of our recent national leaders have sent the wrong messages. We have seen a generation of leaders pass from one moral crisis to another — from Watergate to Monicagate. Scandals have been a part of the highest office of the land. Does anyone see that our culture is reaping the results of the lack of integrity in high places of leadership? It is no wonder polls and voters seem to indicate that character does not count in America anymore. Integrity does not seem to be as important as it used to be.
What does all of this have to do with the familiar story of Daniel and the lions’ den found in the sixth chapter of Daniel? Most who approach this chapter put their entire focus on Daniel’s deliverance from the lions’ den. After all, it’s one of the most familiar stories in all the Bible. It is among one of the first Bible stories our children learn. Pictures of Daniel lying down with docile lions adorn the walls of our nurseries. However, the real message of Daniel 6 is often overlooked in the familiarity of the lions’ den. The real message of this chapter has to do with Daniel’s conduct, not while in the lions’ den, but before he ever got there! It is a message about integrity and how this character trait was honored by God himself.
Each of us, like Daniel, lives in the midst of four distinct spheres of life and influence. You have a private life. There’s a part of you and me where no one else really goes. Those closest to us, our husbands or wives, do not know all of our private thoughts. No one lives in our own private world except ourselves and God, who truly knows us and searches our heart.
You also have a personal life. This describes that part of you that is shared by a small circle of family and a very few friends who really know you in intimacy. Usually outside of our immediate family it includes only two or three other people who know us as we really and truly are.
We not only have a private life and a personal life, we also have a professional life. This is the part of our world that is a wider circle and consists of dozens or scores of men and women with whom we come into contact weekly at the office or at school or at work or in the civic or social arena.
Finally, we have a public life. This is our widest sphere of influence where anyone and everyone with whom we have dealings is touched with some impression of us throughout the course of the week. Even those we do not know professionally, much less personally or privately, hear our names and form an opinion about us one way or another in the public world. Some people call it our public persona.
Some wonder why there is such little integrity today. Some of us try to put on a good impression publicly where only our public persona or image is projected from a distance. However, when it comes down to the professional level, it’s a little harder to disguise. Then, when we enter the level of our personal world it becomes difficult to keep up the act in front of those who really know us in all areas of our lives. Perhaps it is at this point that some preachers’ kids fall away as they watch a bit of an image in the public and professional arena they know is a facade because they see something quite different in the personal world. Finally, we come to the private circle. It is here where we only exist with God Himself and we cannot hide from Him.
Where is our integrity rooted? Some think it is rooted in the public life, but it is not, it is only revealed there. Ultimately, it will be revealed whether we have it or not. Others think it is rooted in the professional world where on the anvil of personal experience we beat out the principles of integrity. However, it is not rooted there, it is only reinforced there if we truly have it. Others would be quick to say it is rooted in our personal life where we live in close intimate relationships with one another. But it is not rooted there, it is only reflected there. Integrity is rooted in the private life, that part of us that is alone with God and that part of us that will live as long as God lives. Therefore, once rooted in the private world it flows into the personal level. Here our family and close friends can see something in our interpersonal relationships that is good and godly; that issues out of a private life.
From the personal world integrity then widens to the professional world. Out in the workforce it is reinforced in what we do. Finally, in the public world where our reputation is made our integrity is revealed. Integrity is conceived in the private world, born in the personal world, grows in the professional world, and it matures in the public world for God’s glory.
As we seek to address and engage our current, contemporary culture around us, Daniel tells us that there is nothing we can do that will go as far in making a difference than living lives of integrity. Integrity is our most vital asset in addressing the culture. Don’t leave home without it!
I. Integrity is rooted in our private life (Daniel 6:1-3)
After the fall of Babylon, Darius the Mede reorganized the kingdom with 120 governors to whom were delegated authority over all local matters. Over these 120 governors were three commissioners who were assigned to administer the affairs of the kingdom. Daniel was elevated to one of these three commissioners and put in charge of the entire kingdom. The king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm. (Daniel 6:3) What was it about Daniel that caused him to stand out above all the others? Time and time again we see him rising to the surface. Something was different about him. It was his integrity and it was rooted in his private life. Daniel 6:3 says “. . . an excellent spirit was in him.” It wasn’t because of what was outside of him. It was because of what was within. We call it integrity. An excellent spirit was within him. This is where integrity finds its roots, in our private world.
Daniel excelled because of an inner strength. In our fast-paced world of self-promotion and “who you know,” integrity in the private life is becoming a lost characteristic. Daniel was elevated because of what he was on the inside, not who he knew on the outside. It was his integrity, not his intelligence nor intensity nor insight that brought him into his place of responsibility. Yes, integrity comes from within, not without. It is not rooted in the public life, nor the professional life or even the personal life. Integrity finds its roots in our private world, in the secret place where the Christ-life replaces the self-life.
Integrity stems from an inner power, not an outer promotion. The world has seen enough men and women like those out on the plain of Dura who promote themselves outwardly but have no inner strength, no integrity. At this writing the aged Billy Graham is stricken by disease and is presently in the hospital. Dozens of times people have asked him on talk shows and the like, “Why you? Why is it that you have had a world platform and presidents and kings have sought your counsel?” Integrity is the single thing that has separated Billy Graham from so many others. It is not what he is in public that gives him influence. It is what he has been in private for over half a century that issues out into the public persona. There have been others along the way with keener minds and more persuasive speech, but they are no longer in the race today. How did Billy Graham’s influence last so long? What made him so influential, so believable? Was it his intellect? Was it his intensity? No, in a word it was his personal integrity that is rooted in his private life. Solomon had it right; “the integrity of the upright guides them . . .” (Proverbs 11:3)
When the Bible says that Daniel had an excellent spirit in him it simply means that the Spirit of God dominated Daniel’s life. It is what is inside of you that gives integrity, not what is outside of you. How do you think of yourself? Do you think of yourself as a body who happens to have a spirit-soul being? Or, do you think of yourself as primarily a spirit-soul being who happens to live in a body? Think about it. Integrity is rooted in the private life. If you’re primarily body-conscious, then self-exaltation will manifest itself in your relationships in the personal arena and spill over into the professional arena, and finally, where reputation is made, into the public arena. However, if you are spirit-conscious, then integrity will be rooted in the private world and will ultimately be revealed publicly for the glory of God. We are spirit beings who live in a body that is deteriorating and will one day go back to dust. Integrity is rooted in that part of us that is immaterial, that part of us that will live as long as God lives.
There are two primary tests which come our way in life and have much to do with revealing what is truly in our private life. One is the test of adversity and the other is the test of prosperity. Daniel faced both of them in Chapter 6 and passed with flying colors because of the strength of his inner character and life. Integrity that is rooted in the private life of the spiritual realm is what brings character.
Integrity is often used interchangeably with honesty. We have often heard architects, engineers, or builders say, “this building has structural integrity.” That is, the public structure rests upon its private unseen foundation that is solid. The Lord Jesus addressed this point at the end of His famous Sermon on the Mount when He spoke about the wise builder who built his home on the foundation of solid rock. He was speaking of the man of integrity. When an inquirer responded as to the meaning of the solid foundation, our Lord replied that this was the man who hears the Word of God and puts it into practice. Integrity clearly is a matter of the heart. It is rooted in our private world.
Daniel made a difference in his world and culture for 70 years. How? Because of his integrity. Because his integrity was rooted in that private place along with God, then it followed that it was reflected in his personal life and thus reinforced in his professional life and ultimately revealed in his public life for God’s glory.
II. Integrity is reflected in our personal life (Daniel 6:4-5)
Since Daniel’s integrity was rooted in his private life, we now see the result was that it was reflected in his personal life. Daniel had an inner circle of close and personal friends not the least of whom were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Time and again his integrity was reflected in relationships with those who knew him best. It was reflected in front of those who saw him in his most personal moments interacting and interrelating with this small group of friends and associates. His personal life was one of purity and transparency. He was faithful and there was no error or fault found in him. (Daniel 6:4) This is quite a statement. His integrity was reflected in his personal world. Think about that statement in verse 4 for just a moment. Those who shared Daniel’s most personal moments, those who were his closest confidants, those whose sat in meetings with him and went to lunch with him observed him day by day and said, “He was faithful.” Daniel’s word was his bond and he could be depended upon. He didn’t change with shifting winds of public opinion or personal pressure, much less political expediency. His integrity was reflected in his personal dealings.
An interesting thing develops in Daniel 6. Those who were in competition, those who were self-promoters and protecting their own turf became quite uncomfortable when someone with integrity came upon the scene. There’s a sense in which they’re always afraid they’ll be exposed. Note that in the plot that develops in this particular chapter, this group of devious individuals stake out his house like reporters hiding in the bushes with a hidden video camera. They bugged his room. But Daniel avoided every appearance of evil. His life was beyond reproach. The Bible says, “they could find no charge or fault because he was faithful . . .” (Daniel 6:4) Daniel’s life matched his lips. He was a man of integrity who had rooted that integrity in the private life and now reflected it in his personal dealings.
Those seeking to investigate him and hoping to find something on him with which to sabotage him could find nothing. The world is a poor judge of our Christianity. However, it is a very sufficient judge of our conduct. I wonder if many of our lives have measured up the scrutiny and surveillance that Daniel went through inDaniel 6 by those who were so filled with jealousy and animosity toward him? Do our private lives spill over into our personal lives as his did?
These evildoers now devised a plot to entrap him. They said, “We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.” (Daniel 6:5) Thus, they came to King Darius with a proposal. They were so filled with jealousy toward Daniel and wanted his position that they sought an evil plot. They brought to the king the plan that “. . . whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions.” (Daniel 6:7) In fact, they reported to the king that “. . . all the governors of the kingdom . . . had consulted together to establish this royal statute . . .” (Daniel 6:7) That was a lie. All had not agreed. In fact, the main one, Daniel, knew nothing about it. In essence, the plan was to make King Darius god for a month. They appealed to the king’s own ego and got him to make a law “. . . according to the law of the Medes and the Persians.” (Daniel 6:8) This simply meant that this law could never be broken. Thus they sought to put man in God’s place. This is the sin of our own day. This was Babylon’s sin. This was Rome’s sin as the Caesar became known as lord.
It is not much different in modern America. Secular humanism which deifies man is deeply ingrained in our culture today. When those evildoers left the palace of King Darius they were convinced of three things. One, King Darius could not and would not break the decree since it was according to the law of the Medes and the Persians. Two, Daniel would never defy his faith in the living God. Three, their plan was foolproof. Now all that was left was to put it into effect.
The decree was made. What will Daniel do now? “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows opened toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.” (Daniel 6:10) His integrity which was rooted in the private world is now reflected in the personal world. Daniel simply kept his personal schedule. Consistency was his theme. He went about his prayer time as was his custom since early days. Daniel did not change one thing about his lifestyle. All he had to do to save his skin was stop praying openly and publicly for one month. He could have even been subtle about it and at least closed the windows. Or, he could have prayed in bed when his lights were off at night. He could have reasoned that God knew his heart. But Daniel was consistent. That is the mark of a man of integrity. What he was in his personal life is what he was in his private life. Those who are inconsistent with convictions will never be known as people of integrity.
Look at Daniel. He knelt. When I read the text I personally stopped at this word. I was impressed at how Daniel got down on his knees to pray. So many of us today are too sophisticated or perhaps too proud or maybe even too sensitive about how it looks to others to get down on our knees and pray. I’m so thankful there’s a pattern for all of us here.
We can learn much about the secret life of Daniel. (Ezekiel 6:10) He had a set time when he prayed. He had a set place in which he prayed. He had a set posture when he prayed. And, what kind of prayer did he pray? He prayed a prayer of thanksgiving. Daniel was consistent. He thanked God in days of delight when things were going his way and he thanked God in days of difficulty when they were not. Daniel did not wait until the crisis hour to find his strength. This was his custom. This consistent integrity had been the practice of his personal life since his teenage years when he purposed in his heart not to eat the king’s meat. (Daniel 1:8)
Daniel is showing us that to have influence and to make a difference in our culture, integrity is the key. We might have all the intellect and intensity and insight in the world but without integrity we will never influence our culture. Integrity is rooted in our private world, and consequently, it is then reflected in our personal world.
III. Integrity is reinforced in our professional life (Daniel 6:4-10)
What about your professional life — that sphere of life that is ever widening? If integrity is, in fact, rooted in the private world, it will be reflected in the personal world and thus reinforced in the professional world. Note that as Daniel’s jealous peers sought to find fault with him they sought to find it concerning the kingdom. (Daniel 6:4) That is, the government affairs of his professional life. Those who have integrity find that it is reinforced in the professional life. One of the first places integrity truly shows up is in our employment. They could find nothing wrong with Daniel in the discharge of his duties. (Daniel 6:4) Proverbs 20:6-7 says, “Most men will proclaim each his own goodness . . . the righteous man walks in his integrity.” Integrity is reinforced on the anvil of personal experience in the marketplace. One of the biggest problems with businesses today is in finding personnel. Many business owners do not have to be as concerned with outsiders stealing from them as much as they do insiders. Kickbacks are a common theme in many organizations. Integrity is a lost word in the professional life of many people.
How should we as Christian employees behave? Integrity should be reinforced in our professional lives. Paul makes this very clear in Ephesians 6. He addresses the point clearly. He says, “. . . be obedient to those who are your masters . . . with sincerity of heart as to Christ.” (Ephesians 6:5) Men and women of integrity are characterized in the marketplace by obedience. They recognize authority. The one thing the Christian worker is commanded to do is obey those in authority over him. As Christians we’re not anarchists. We do not believe in the abolition of authority. We recognize authority in the home, in government, in the church, why shouldn’t we recognize it also in the marketplace? They could find no charge or fault in Daniel “. . . because he was faithful.” (Daniel 6:4)
One of the problems in America today is leisure time. Some of us who are quick to remember the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8) forget that the Bible also says, “six days you shall labor and do all your work.” (Exodus 20:9) When you show up for work on time, give an honest day’s work, are loyal to your employer, you are doing what you ought to do as a Christian. We ought to be extra-loyal, extra-enthusiastic, extra-hardworking. We ought to be the second-milers about whom Jesus spoke. This is Christian integrity being reinforced in the professional life. When we sit at our desk and daydream, read the paper or novels, or listen to talk radio while at the office, it is a poor witness for Christ in the marketplace. The best way integrity can be reinforced on the job is to give a full day’s work. The Christian realizes that his time is not his own but it belongs to his employer. We have no right to use our employer’s time for our own personal endeavors, even to evangelize. What if the cashier at the grocery store stopped and witnessed to everyone who came through the checkout line? There is a sense in which when we take our own time on the job, we steal time from our employer. If you work for someone else and do not give them eight hours in an eight-hour workday you are not reinforcing integrity. If you come in late, loaf around on the job, take extra time for lunch, spend a little bit longer on breaks, you are as much of a thief as if you robbed a bank. If you are paid for eight hours and you slough off an hour and work only seven hours, in essence you have stolen an hour’s pay. You might as well have gone to the petty cash drawer and taken it out when no one was looking.
The believer is to be a person of integrity in the faithful discharge of his duties. Like Daniel, there should be found no charge or fault in us. Paul also says in Ephesians 6 that we are to serve our employers “not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart . . .” (Ephesians 6:6) This speaks of those who keep an eye on the boss more than they do on the task. The believer should do the same quality work in the absence of supervision as he does in the presence of it. The marketplace today is our biggest opportunity to engage our culture and transform it by personal integrity. Those with integrity should not be “men-pleasers.” Some are obsessed with what he or she thinks about this or that. Some people’s entire lives are controlled by the opinions of others. Those with integrity don’t poll popular opinions before making decisions. Why? Because their integrity is not only rooted in their private life and reflected in their personal life, it is reinforced in their professional life.
Paul goes on in the Ephesians epistle to conclude that we are to do our work with goodwill doing service as to the Lord and not to men. (Ephesians 6:7) This was Daniel’s philosophy. As followers of Christ we are serving the Lord whether we work in a textile mill, a service station, a high-rise office building, an assembly line, a hospital, or behind a desk in some office. As believers we are on our honor. Integrity is reinforced in the professional life. When we work as to the Lord it gives labor a new dignity. When the waitress in the restaurant serves the customer as to the Lord it brings dignity to what she does. When the medical doctor attends to each patient as to the Lord it brings dignity to what he or she does. Can you imagine what would happen in our culture if believers in the marketplace began to capture the philosophy that Daniel had and Paul wrote about? If our culture is ever to be addressed and transformed, it must take place in the marketplace — not in the church house.
Our greatest opportunity to make a difference and engage our culture is in the same place it was in Babylon — out there in the marketplace. It is imperative that as Christians we be men and women of integrity who reinforce that integrity in our professional life. There is a very small percentage of our cities in church on any given Sunday morning. However, on Monday we scatter into the workforce by the multiplied thousands and touch hundreds of thousands of lives for good or bad. This is how the Christian faith spread in the first century in its most explosive growth. Men and women with integrity became salt and light every day, everywhere they were.
Our culture is much like the culture in exile we find in the book of Daniel. Who made a difference here? The preachers who came into exile? No, the laymen. Men like Daniel, civil servants and politicians, people like Nehemiah, faithful laymen who reinforced their integrity in the professional world. Daniel was a man of integrity. It showed in his professional life. Those with integrity stand out above others in the workplace. This is also true in the school or in the community.
Daniel is our classic example of a man whose integrity was not only rooted in the private world and reflected in the personal world, but reinforced in the professional world. We cannot begin a life of integrity in the professional arena. We must have it before we get there. It is not rooted there but it surely is reinforced there. Integrity is the most important ingredient we can have in engaging our culture. Don’t leave home without it.
IV. Integrity is revealed in our public life (Daniel 6:11-28)
Now Daniel is thrust into the spotlight of the public arena for all to see. Daniel’s commitment to God was public. It was not simply practiced behind closed doors. His commitment was not something he compartmentalized on Sunday morning and left in the box on Monday through Friday. Here was a man, not a preacher but a civil servant, a business administrator, a politician, if you please, who because his integrity was rooted in the private life is now revealed in the public life. Once we’re thrust into the public life it is too late to look for integrity if we don’t already have it. Daniel’s deliverance from the lions’ den was because he believed in his God. (Daniel 6:23) What he was in private was revealed in public.
What an evening we read about here in Daniel 6. Daniel is thrown in the midst of a den of hungry lions. But he slept like a baby that night. King Darius was up all night pacing back and forth, concerned and confused. At dawn he rushed to the lions’ den, cupped his hands and shouted, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” (Daniel 6:20) Daniel awakens, rubs his eyes, stretches out his arms, wipes the lion’s hair from his head where he had pillowed his head, and answers, “O king, live forever. My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before him; and also O king, I have done no wrong before you.” (Daniel 6:21-22) The king’s question to Daniel is one our culture is asking us today. “Is our God whom we serve able to deliver us?”
Daniel’s faith won the victory. The Bible says he was delivered because he believed in his God. (Daniel 6:23) It is one thing to face adversity when we’ve done wrong. It is another to face it when we’ve done right. Daniel did not panic, he simply kept his faith in God. This is the mark of true integrity that is rooted in the private world. It follows that it finally is revealed in the public world.
There is a lesson here for all of us. Daniel was not in the lions’ den because he had done something wrong. He was there because he had done something right! It seems confusing doesn’t it? In our world it is not always true that if we do wrong, we’ll be punished and if we do right, we’ll be rewarded. Sometimes the opposite seems to be true. Some people like Daniel pay a big price for doing the right thing. Paul listed the heroes of our faith in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews and although Daniel is not mentioned by name there we do read these words in Daniel 6:33, “who through faith subdued lions, worked righteousness, obtained promises and stopped the mouths of lions . . .” Daniel’s God is our God! Integrity is revealed in the public arena.
Note the outcome of the experience of the lions’ den. Daniel did not take credit for the victory. He was quick to say, “My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths . . .” (Ezekiel 6:22) A man of integrity does not take credit for something God does. Daniel did not exalt himself but exalted his Lord before the king and the people. Thus King Darius made a decree. “To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: peace be multiplied to you. I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. For He is the living God, and steadfast forever; His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall endure until the end. He delivers and rescues, and He works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions. So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” (Daniel 6:25-28) The world stops to take notice of the man of integrity. Integrity is revealed in the public life. Sooner or later this is always true.
Integrity is ultimately revealed in the public life. Everything King Darius knew about God he learned by observing Daniel’s public life of integrity. We’re being watched and the world is asking “. . . has your God whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” (Daniel 6:20) And, they will never know unless we are men and women of integrity.
Our current, contemporary culture brings new challenges to our Christian faith with each passing day. Daniel was a young man who grew up like many of us, rooted in a Judeo culture of traditional family values. One day, also like us, he unexpectedly found himself in a culture that was foreign to everything that he had known. His value system, his truth claims, his moral compass was challenged repeatedly at every turn. His world evolved into a world of pluralism and paganism. But Daniel had a different spirit in him. He was a man of integrity who not only addressed his culture but also engaged it and influenced it for good. Daniel’s God is our God. The challenge to us is to: “dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone, dare to have a purpose firm, and dare to make it known!” Integrity: don’t leave home without it!
O.S. Hawkins is president and chief executive officer of the SBC Annuity Board. He is a Contributing Editor to Preaching.