The Book of Daniel was once something I associated with ferocious lions and fiery pits. With deeper study, I see Daniel has an example of honor and integrity, as well as encouragement for anyone struggling to find balance between healthful and hurtful eating.
Daniel decided that he wouldn’t pollute himself with the king’s rations or the royal wine, and he appealed to the chief official in hopes that he wouldn’t have to do so. ~ Daniel 1:8 (CEB)
Daniel and the Israelites were prisoners, or slaves, and lived in exile in Babylon. At the time, the nation was experiencing growth, prosperity, and everyone seemed to get along – even with prisoners. The king, Nebuchadnezzar, found favor with Daniel because of his dream interpretations. Eventually, Daniel was allowed in the king’s inner circle as a student and learned the culture and language. He was now in an exclusive club with special privileges but that didn’t change Daniel’s faith towards God.
His first act of disobedience came at the evening meal. Being in the king’s court and sitting at the royal table provided Daniel with unlimited access to decadent food and free-flowing drinks but he refused the extravagance and opted, instead, for a plate of vegetables and glass of water. This refusal was a shock, particularly to the royal official in charge of Daniel. It was an obvious sign of disrespect to refuse the host’s offerings but, by not eating adequate meals, the official was afraid Daniel’s body would weaken and he’d be unable to do his job in the king’s intern program. The official’s job was essentially on the line if Daniel became ill.
God takes care of those who honor him and Daniel is no exception. He had a special position that afforded him unlimited extravagance but he insisted on keeping his body (God’s temple) holy. Daniel drew a line in the sand. His faith, and being respectful to God’s temple, was more important than pleasing an earthly king or eating a fine meal.
For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. ~ Daniel 6:26-27 (NIV)
Every day, there are many opportunities to make concessions or exceptions to my eating plan or exercise routine. I can make excuses – indulge in unhealthy foods or cut corners at the gym – and no one would know … except God. Daniel could have easily assimilated himself into the culture and been like everyone else, but he refused to turn his back to God. He drew a line between selfish desire and faithful obedience and didn’t cross it.
Today’s culture invites me to compromise my heavenly values for earthly desires. You won’t get caught. No one will know! If the label says fat-free, eat the whole carton. One bite won’t hurt. Enjoy this big meal and start your diet/fitness routine tomorrow! While I have not defeated my cravings entirely, I am getting better at honoring God’s temple (my body) by saying no when I want to say yes. Taking cues from Daniel, I am drawing a line in the sand.
C.S. Lewis said, “Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.”