Workplace Politics: Be As Wise As Serpents And Innocent As Doves
Daniel is one to the most distinguished men of the Old Testament scriptures. The story of Daniel and the Den of Lions in Daniel 6, is probably one of the most popular Bible stories. We remember the story about a king who threw Daniel into a den of lions because he prayed. And because he was a good guy, the lions suddenly decided he was not tasty and did not eat him. And then we are told: Pray and God will keep you safe from all harm. But there is more to that. Daniel was a victim of some pretty vicious workplace politics.
In Daniel 1, Daniel was a young Jew, aged 15, captured by the Babylonians, and living in Babylon in exile. In chapter 6, Babylon has fallen, there is a change in leadership and Daniel, now in his early 80s, is still a Jew living in exile.
The new king is Darius, the Mede, and the first thing he does is to establish his cabinet. He appoints 120 provincial governors, or satraps over the provinces of his empire. Then he names three high officials to oversee the governors. Daniel is appointed as one the high officials. It isn’t long before it becomes clear to Darius that Daniel is the most competent among them.
The other satraps and high officials were jealous and insecure because of Daniel's rise to power. After much brainstorming, they came up with the idea of passing a new law. So, they told Darius that he should pass a law that for 30 days, nobody would worship any god but the king himself. That way he will be able to quickly established his rule over the kingdom and people will know and respect him as their king. The conspirators also knew that when the king gives his word to establish his ordinance, it will not be revoked. But little did Darius know what he had just signed off. By signing the document, the king signed Daniel’s death warrant. As always, Daniel got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God.
Workplace politics brings out the worst in the people who practice it. They become manipulative, deceptive, vicious, or evil, and such actions are clearly incompatible with Christian teachings. The conspirators then run to the King. “You know Daniel, the exile from Judah? He pays you no attention to you. He prays three times a day to an alien god. This is a direct act of rebellion, you know.”
The King was a mess when he heard who had broken his edict. He knew immediately that he had been used in a deadly game of workplace politics. Daniel is sent to the den of lions. The king, trapped by his own law, gives the command he most doesn’t want to give. The only thing he feels he has left is to stand at the mouth of the den and offer hope, “May your God deliver you, Daniel!” The stone is laid on the den and the king seals it shut with his own signet. But the king is devastated. He can’t sleep. He can’t eat. All night he stays awake, pacing back and forth. The minutes tick by like hours.
As soon as day breaks, the king hurries to the pit of lions and calls out Daniel’s name. Daniel replies: “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions' mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before Him; and also, before you, O king, I have done no harm.”
The fact that he was found innocent before God became a protective measure in his life.
Workplace politics can become our den of lions sometimes. What do we do if we find ourselves thrown into it? Will we stand firm or compromise our Christian values?
Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 10: 16,
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
Jesus reminds us that we are living in a fallen world, and therefore need to be on guard against the hostilities of others. We must be wise (avoiding the snares set for us), and we must be innocent (serving the Lord blamelessly).
Daniel knew about the signed document, and there were several ways he could have reacted. But he was wise to put God first. Whether in life or in death, he knew God would vindicate him in the end, So, he was willing to die for it.
As Christians in the workplace, we must be prepared to be disadvantaged because we do not follow the norms of this fallen world. We rely on God’s wisdom to stand firm and to act boldly to accomplish God’s purposes.
Proverbs 3:7–8 says: Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.
Help me to see that all office politics is petty and temporary, compared to the immeasurable and eternal promises of God. Help me to see Your purposes and the things I can learn from the work that You give me. I choose to be spiritually mature and acknowledge that there will also be hardships in this world. May I not be self-centred about work but use work to glorify You
In Jesus’s name I pray.