Scripture: Daniel 6:6-16

In the television series “Antique Road Show,” people bring in an antique and have it appraised by an expert.   Sometimes people leave disappointed because they think they have something really, really valuable.  It may have sentimental value or the story that’s attached to it might be false.  The item could be a fake.  They come thinking they have a diamond and they leave knowing they have a zirconium.

There are other times just the opposite happens.   People bring something they think has worth but they leave with a lump in their throats because they realize they are rich.

In 2010, a woman came in with some items her father brought back from China during his time in the army.

The woman’s father grew up as a Kentucky farm boy.  When he joined the army he learned Chinese.  He was sent to China in the late thirties and early forties.  (Ibid)

While there he met a Mr. Leong who sold him four pieces of jade from the Chen Lung Period, which dates back to the 18th century. (Ibid)

The man told his daughter that one of the items contained a royal seal, which means it was made for the Emperor of China.   As it turned out, the seal was authentic.  The piece had actually once been owned by royalty. (Ibid)appraisal4

Appraiser James Callahan estimated the value of the four items between $710,000 and $1,000,070, the highest appraised items in the history of the road show at that time.  (Ibid)

What we don’t know is whether these pieces of jade started a fight among this woman and her siblings, whether they put them up for auction, or whether they had so much sentimental value that they were not for sale at any price.

What do you have that’s not for sale at any price?

In January 1937 the syndicated newspaper columnist O.O. McIntyre printed a story of a powerful Canadian media magnate and politician, Lord Beaverbrook, who was visiting a Yankee actress.

In a game of hypothetical questions, Beaverbrook asked the lady: “Would you live with a stranger if he paid you one million pounds?”  She said she would.  (Ibid)

Unknown“And if he paid you five pounds?’  The irate lady fumed: ‘Five pounds.  What do you think I am?” (Ibid)

Beaverbrook replied: “We’ve already established that.  Now we are just trying to determine the degree.”  (Ibid)

Maybe you’ve heard the expression, “Everybody’s got a price.”   Well, it doesn’t have to be that way.  For some people, it’s not about money.  It’s not about what they can get, extort, or sell out for.  For some people what matters is doing what is right, even when doing what is right is costly, because the cost of not doing what is right is always greater in the long term.

Some people live with a price.  Others live on principle.

So you are at the checkout at Home Depot.  The woman has totaled up the nails, the plumbing and the electrical supplies, but she failed to charge you for the five 1 x 4 eight-foot boards.  How could she have missed something so obvious?images-2

If you mention it, the price is going to be 20 more dollars.  But you are a person of principle because walking out of that store knowing you didn’t pay for those boards is equal to stealing them.   No one’s going to charge you for shoplifting, but it’s the principle of the matter that causes you to say, “Mam, you didn’t charge me for the 1 x 4’s.”

Your boss asks you to do some mathematical calculations and manipulate them.   If you comply, you are likely to remain in your boss’s good graces.   If you refuse, you might be placed on a list for the next scheduled easy-to-explain layoffs.    Are you going to put your job’s value as your sold-out price, or do you choose to live by principle?   While you might lose your job, do you have faith to believe God will honor your obedience to His principles?

In our text today, we discover that Daniel had enemies in King Darius’ administration.  They were jealous of Daniel because he had been advanced to third in command so they developed an elaborate scheme to trap him.

The first part of their plan was to get the king to issue a decree and enforce it so that anyone who prayed to any god or man during a thirty-day period would be thrown into a lions’ den.   This was the kind of self-loving and self-promoting thing that kings loved to do and Darius signed off on the idea.

The genius behind their plan was that they knew Daniel was a man of prayer and principle.

images-3Daniel prayed from his upstairs room every day.  He opened his window toward Jerusalem and got down on his knees and prayed three times a day.  While he did this in privacy, apparently others could hear him praying.

When Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he did not change his routine.  That’s exactly what these men were counting on.  When they found him praying to God as before, they went back to the king and informed him that Daniel had broken his edict and now he must carry out his pledge to throw him to the lions.

Of course, all Daniel had to do was not pray for thirty days.  Or he could have prayed silently.   However, he was not going to be deterred, frightened, or threatened into changing his prayer life.  It was a matter of principle.

The king thought highly of Daniel and was distressed that Daniel was caught in this mess.  He tried to come up with a way to get him out of it but in order for his own words to have any integrity with the people, he had to let them stand, so he ordered Daniel to be thrown into the den of lions.

As he did, he said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”

A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed.

Much like the Romans sealed the tomb of Jesus, and placed guards around it, this was a way of insuring the integrity of the process.  Everyone in the king’s court knew that the king had kept his word and did as he said he would do.

When morning came, like a child rushing to see if Santa left a present on Christmas morning, “the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 20 When he came Unknown-1near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” 21 Daniel answered, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king.” 23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.  (Daniel 6:20-23)

I wish I could tell you that it works that way every time you put principle before price, that no wound will come to you.

We know that it doesn’t always work like this.

For example, I mentioned earlier about a boss asking an employee to make some unethical accounting calculations.   That happened to my wife and not long after she refused to do what he asked her to do, she was laid off from her job.   She put principle before price and it was costly.  While she couldn’t prove this was the reason she lost her job, to use a phrase from Daniel, the writing was on the wall.

However, God gave her a new job and it paid more money and had better benefits.  I’m not saying it always works out like that, either.   However, God will honor those who Him.

When we put principle before price, we should be prepared to pay a price to do what’s right.  However, we should be prepared to pay a greater price if we take the easy path and sell out because eventually a lack of integrity will destroy us, according to the Bible.

imagesThe greater wounds come when we do not trust God, which is symbolized in the story as King Darius ordered those who tried to have Daniel killed to be thrown into the lions’ den.  Not only were they thrown in but also their families.

This reminds us that when we do not maintain our integrity, when we sell out, it not only affects us; it also affects our families.

Remember the Proverb from last week: “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity” (Proverbs 16:18).th-1

What is it that you can be bought for? What interrupts your commitment to the Lord?  What stops your obedient giving? What keeps you from praying like Daniel? What takes the place of your worship of God?

The good news is that Jesus does not want us to be consumed by the times we have sacrificed principle for price. That is the reason He left heaven and came to earth.  God demonstrated His love for us through his Son, Jesus.

The greatest temptation Jesus had was the temptation to avoid the cross and take an easier path. What was the price for that?

Well, once “the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me’” (Matthew 4:8-9 NIV).

thThe devil wanted him to believe that there wasn’t a need for a cross if all the kingdoms of the world were his.  But would they have really been his? Remember, Jesus was talking to the father of lies.  He knew there would have been a price to pay for bowing down to the devil.

So it is for us.  Any time we sacrifice principle for price, we might think we have gold, but all we have is fool’s gold.

Eventually we will discover that we have negotiated a price that is too high, a price that we cannot pay.

So, let me remind you once again that Jesus went to the cross because he knew we would need our debt paid and our principle restored.  None of us can stand on our own merits because we all sell out at times.

th-2Jesus’ love to us on the cross reminds us of the price he was willing to pay to bring us back to a life of integrity.

God wants us to search our hearts.  Wherever we discover that we are selling out to the world and and taking price over principle, God wants us to confess that to Him.  Then He wants us to accept His forgiveness.

With our sins forgiven, He wants us to go live differently, so that our lives will be like Daniel’s – that regardless of the price, we will stand firm in our faith and follow God’s ways as we live out a life of integrity.   As we do, others will be influenced by our lives and led to the Lord.