Daniel 5:1-12

During the basketball season I watched the Jefferson Dragons play against one of its rivals.  (Not against Hart County as photo shows.)  Our team put up a good fight against a school with taller players and overall better talent.

The game was tense at times.  There were a few technical fouls called. The referees J-jhs-basketball-austin-thompson2had to huddle a couple of times, separate the teams, and make sure they had control of the game.

I must say, I was disappointed with how the opposing coach allowed his star player to incite anger in our players and in the crowd after a rather spectacular dunk.

Everything about the player’s body language and what he was saying brought attention to himself that was unsportsmanlike and arrogant, as he taunted both the crowd and the players.

The player’s talent was obvious to everyone. He had a smooth shot inside the paint and outside the three-point line and he glided to the rim with Jordanesque style.  But the one word to sum up the young man’s play was “cocky.”

His coach did not do him or his team any favors by allowing him to play with that kind of attitude, because eventually cockiness always comes back to bite you.  Eventually, the best of the best and the strongest of the strong are humbled.

Whether we are playing a game, leading a work crew, a business, a family, a team, the way we lead says a lot about who we are as persons.  The way we lead says a lot about our values and how we approach life.

All of us have a certain amount of influence on the people around us.  Our energy and attitudes are picked up by others like Super Mario picks up coins.th

The more gifted we are, the greater power and responsibility we are given, and the greater opportunities we have to lead people toward Jesus or away from Him.  Our attitude, body language, the way we conduct business, carry on conversations, accept responsibility, lead others, or accept instruction says a lot about our whether we are disciples of Christ or not. We don’t even need to mention Jesus because people will draw their own conclusions about us based on our actions.

It’s very difficult to convince people that we are followers of Jesus when we exude an arrogant, boastful, egotistical, showy attitude.  When we do this we do not come across as people of integrity.  Why? Because this is the very opposite of the nature of Christ.

In Daniel chapter 5, “King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them from gold and silver goblets that his father, King Nebuchadnezzar, had taken from the temple in Jerusalem.”

I guess you can say this was the king’s way of saying, “I’m kind of a big deal.”

th-1The gold and silver goblets from the temple were sacred relics to the Jewish people.  This was an arrogant display by the king and a complete disregard for the faith of the Jews.  These goblets came from their temple and were sacred to them.

This was more offensive than Cam Newton snatching the Seattle Seahawks 12-man flag and throwing it on the field after they won the game against them last season.  It was as offensive as someone in the Middle East burning the American flag.  It was as offensive as someone painting a Swastika on the side of a church or synagogue.

This King believed he was untouchable, unreachable, and unaccountable to anyone.  This led to his arrogance and his attitude toward the Jews and his invitation to his people to join him in his boastful celebration.

Please be careful about the superior attitudes you have toward others.  Whether tth-6hey are people with less education, people on food stamps, people who are having relationship issues, people with a criminal record, people who have brought problems on themselves, people with financial problems, people of a different religion or race, people that you think have a backwards way of looking at life, people that might not talk as if they are very intelligent, be careful that you do not set yourself up in a way that belittles and degrades their humanity or their worth as human beings.  Because just as soon as we begin to do that, the writing is on the wall warning us how our arrogance can lead us to our own downfall.

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.”  (Proverbs 16:18-19)

The sixth chapter of Daniel tells us this is exactly what happened with King Belshazzar.  The phrase, “The writing’s on the wall,” is traced back to this chapter in the Bible.

th-7During the King’s arrogant display of plunder over the Jewish people a hand appeared and wrote something illegible on the wall of the royal palace, which must have prompted some of those who drank from the gold and silver goblets to think, “Wow, that was some really strong wine.”

The text said that the king’s face turned pale and he was so frightened that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way. I do believe this is to be read with a bit of humor.

Do you see how quickly the cocky, arrogant king becomes afraid, unsure, and needy?

He calls for the enchanters, astrologers and diviners to be brought in and says to these wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing and tells me what it means will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck, and he will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom”  (v. 7)

However, none of them could read the strange writings.  Then the queen remembered that Daniel had been appointed under the Kings during his father’s reign as the chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers, and diviners.  She remembered that he was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding and that he had the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems.  So the king called for him.

Daniel came and he offered his services but he made it clear that he was not doing it for the rewards that the king was offering.  Furthermore, the message that Daniel had was damning to the king.

He told the king that the days of his reign were numbered and it would be brought to an end because he had not measured up as a leader, so his kingdom would be divided and given to the Medes and Persians.

To the king’s credit, he kept his promise and at his command Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom.  Maybe the king was hoping he could buy some favor with all this nice stuff.

“However, that very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.” (31-32)

Why is it such a temptation to be like Belshazzar?  Why are we drawn to the overconfident, arrogant, in-your-face, personalities of this world?  Why do we want to have some of that in our lives as well?

We are even sold a brand of that type of Christianity through the health and wealth gospel where everything is always bigger and better and everyone who is “doing God’s will” is healthy and wealthy and preachers boast about it and tell everyone else, “If you were doing God’s will, you could be healthy and wealthy like me.”

But something about this doesn’t square with Paul, who said, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage.” (Philippians 2:4-6 )

When you teach that the mantra of the gospel is that if you follow this path it will make you healthy and wealthy, you have misheard Jesus’ message.

Jesus didn’t come to us in order for us to live for ourselves.  If that were true, Jesus would have used to his advantage his equality with God, the God who spoke and created the oceans, the earth, and the heavens, and formed us from the clay of the earth and breathed into us the breath of life. Jesus was equal to God, but he did not fully take advantage of it.  He limited himself for our sake.

Instead, the writer says… he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on
a cross! (2:7-8)

We have made a great discovery when we learn that humility is a strength.  It is not a weakness.th-8

Jesus was a charismatic leader but he wasn’t cocky, boastful, egotistical, and showy.

The greatest leaders are those who live for a purpose greater than themselves.  They use their charisma to bring attention to the needs of others.

Integrity or the lack of it can’t be hidden for long.  It will surely come to the fore for everyone to see, because leadership elevates.” http://newaccra.com/humility-integrity-and-purpose-leadership/

Integrity lifts up everyone around.  If you see leaders who are constantly tearing everyone else down, there is no integrity in that.

We all have influence.  We all are leading someone.  Someone is watching how we live.  We are either lifting people up or we are letting them down by the way we are living.

What areas in your life need to be strengthened?  What areas do you need to elevate?

This morning, if God were to write on the wall for you and everyone else to see the one area of your life that is lacking in integrity, or needs to be strengthened, what area would it be?

If you need some help finding that area, think about the area in your life that is the easiest area for you to be selfish.  Where is it most difficult to give others credit because you want the spotlight, you want the credit?

Now that you’ve identified that area, what are you going to do to elevate your game? What step toward humility can you make today?  Make this commitment to God,   Humble yourself before Him now and choose a different path before the day comes when you see the writing on the wall.