Handling Rewards for Service
But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” 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 5:16-17 ESV
Daniel was summoned into the presence of King Belshazzar and asked to give an interpretation of the writing on the wall in the king’s banquet hall. A hand had suddenly appeared and written an inscription which no one could understand. Daniel had interpreted the dreams of King Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar’s father, and thus there was hope and expectation that he could help solve the puzzle.
Note that King Belshazzar offered to reward Daniel with status (purple robe – royal colors), wealth (gold chain) and position / power (become the third ruler in the kingdom of Babylon). The great offer of reward for his service was no doubt enticing for Daniel who had been serving in the kingdom’s administration for many years by this time. But Daniel politely refused the offer of reward for his service, telling the king to keep his robe and gold chain and give the position to another.
Daniel boldly and courageously interprets the meaning of the inscription, telling the king that he was arrogant and self-serving like his father. “And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven…” (Daniel 5:22-23 ESV) He then gave the king the bad news – God was bringing judgment upon him and would take away his kingdom and divide it among others. This happened later that night as King Belshazzar was killed. (Daniel 5:30)
Having given the king the meaning, Daniel was rewarded just as the king promised. In receiving these rewards from the hand of the king was Daniel being duplicitous or compromising his values? Or was he being prudent and wise in his relationship with the king? I would suggest the latter.
It would have been foolish for Daniel to twice embarrass the king in front of this banquet guests by refusing his rewards. He had already delivered the sad news of the king’s pending demise in front of the royal court at the banquet. Now he humbly accepted the king’s reward having already made the point that the rewards were not his motive for service. Note that within a day the kingship passed to another, Darius the Mede, and Daniel would once again be asked to serve a different leader and in a different position.
Rewards often come for Kingdom leaders and their service. But do not make them your motive. Be willing to humbly accept them for a job well-done, but don’t seek them out as a motive for serving in your God-given strengths.
PS A Primer for Kingdom Leaders: 100 Reflections for Improving Your Leadership – A collection of 100 of my most popular blogs – compiled, edited and available for FREE download. See Tom’s Books page above to download.