The book of Daniel can be summed up in one sentence: If you want to make a difference, then you have to be different. You have to be distinct from Babylon in some very crucial ways. For Daniel and his friends, that manifested in the food they ate (or didn’t eat), the way they prayed, and where they placed their highest allegiance.
They resolved to be guided by the Bible, not Babylon.
Today, we show we are different by living according to unique values in some particular areas. Saint Augustine said that followers of Jesus are most distinguishable from the world in their attitudes toward three things: money, sex, and power.
Money in Babylon
Babylon approaches money from the standpoint of acquisition: Get all you can and keep all you can. You might give away a little to show you are a good person and maintain favor with the community. But in general, money is lifeblood and the key to “the good life.”
For the believer, because God is their trust and treasure, they have a different attitude toward money. Yes, we still use money to live, but we also recognize that it is something entrusted to us for the advancement of God’s kingdom. So, as God prospers us, we’re not just thinking about how to advance our standard of living; we ask how we can advance our standard of giving.
We must ask which is true of us: Do we live sufficiently and give extravagantly, or do we give sufficiently and live extravagantly?
Sex in Babylon
Babylon approaches sex from the standpoint of, “It’s all about me. And if it feels good, it can’t be wrong.” The Christian sees sex as God’s gift to be used for God’s purposes, according to his design, within a covenant-based, lifelong marriage between a man and a woman.
It was said of the early Christians that they stood in stark contrast to other Roman citizens because they were “promiscuous (which means ‘dispersing freely’) with their money and guarded with their beds,” while other Romans “were guarded (stingy) with their money and promiscuous with their beds.” Christians seemed totally backwards then. They seem totally backwards to many today.
Then again, maybe “backwards” is just a more antagonistic way of saying … different.
Power in Babylon
Babylon approaches power with the idea that whatever power you have, you press it to your advantage. That could come from your looks, your money, your talent, your cultural status, your connections. It’s not so important where that power comes from. What matters is that you use it to win.
The Christian, on the other hand, sees power and privilege like Jesus did: an opportunity to serve and lift up others. Followers of Jesus ask how they can use their positions of power or privilege to lift up those around them.
Dancing to Drake
When our lives are shaped by the Bible, we’re going to be stranger and more offensive to those around us than Daniel was in Babylon. But we can’t make a difference in Babylon unless we’re different from Babylon.
In a marching band, everybody always has their eyes trained on the conductor, and they march in beat with his or her baton. But imagine there is one guy who is listening to Drake on his AirPods, and he’s marching to that beat. He’s going to look pretty strange among the rest of the marching band, even chaotic, because he’s dialed into music from another place.
What are you dialed into? Are you marching according to Babylon’s values, acquiring as much money as you can, using your power and privilege to get ahead, and using sex however feels best?
Or are you marching to heaven’s values? The rest of the band might think you’ve lost it. But you know that their song doesn’t lead to life. It’s the same old Babylonian melody. It sounds good at first, but it never delivers. Only the gospel leads to life.
Don’t chase the Babylonian Dream. It’ll only make you a slave to money, sex, and power. Dance to Drake. Sure, you’ll be different. But you’ll also make a difference.