Daniel 5:13-31 (Part 1) – Your Soul for A Down Payment on Furniture!

Posted: June 8, 2016 in Book of Daniel

Daniel 5:13-31 (Part 1)

Daniel Explains the Writing

“Keep your gifts and give them to someone else, but I will tell you what the writing means,” Daniel says. Have you ever had the opportunity to compromise the truth just to gain or maintain financial rewards? Have you ever been asked not to tell the truth so as not to make another person look bad? These are ethical quandaries that many of have faced in our lives and sometimes many times in a lifetime. For example, as you may know from previous posts, I am the comptroller for the company that I work for. Since there is no other financial person ahead of me at my company, I am basically the de facto chief financial officer even if I do not have that title. I am the ultimate decision maker for financial and administrative matters at my company. It is a position that is of high trust. Recently, that trust was put to the test, at least in my mind, by the way the question was asked.

 

This past month, the month of May 2016, we suffered our first net loss for a month in 33 months. Things have been going pretty well for the past three years to say the least. The bottom line has been good every month and by year end for the last three years we have made more net income than each proceeding year in that stretch. Each of the past three years have been record years for net income. However, one of our biggest customers has been slowing down the last few months as the struggle to keep new and fresh products on the market. At the same time, my company is getting ready to move the main office in California into a new facility. If you have been to our current main office out there, you would think from a furniture standpoint that we got a bunch of hand-me-downs back in the 1970s and never replaced them. So, with the move, we are upgrading everything about the furniture and accessories of the new main office in California. We recently had to put a rather significant deposit on the furniture that we are buying for the new office. Since my boss is on the west coast and I work here in Duncan, SC, there are usually quite a few emails that are sent to me after I leave work at 5:30 or 6:00pm on the east coast. Being the technology geek and workaholic that I am, I check my work email frequently during the evening. That’s when this question got asked.

 

In an email from my boss, the president of our company, I was asked if there was any way that I could keep “the down payment on the furniture off the books” in June and not report it until July. His reasoning was that we were going to have another loss month in June before getting back to profitability in July. As an accountant, I was shocked at what I perceived as the request. As a Christian, I perceived myself to be in a moral dilemma. The bigger shock was that I know that my boss is a good Christian man. In a company that is purposely non-religious, he has made no bones to me about his faith. So, what I perceived the request to be was shocking to me. Was he asking me to commit financial fraud? Even though keeping $100k off the books for a month was nothing compared to Enron or Worldcom back in the day it was still an ethical quandary based on how the question was asked. I read that email and re-read that email. What was he asking me to do? What was he asking? The way the question was phrased was unfortunate. It raised an ethical conundrum for me. My perception that he was asking me to act as if the transaction had not occurred which would be ethically and morally wrong. And, for the first time in my life, the Holy Spirit roared in my chest to say NOOOOOOO! I was willing to tell him that I could not do what he asked and I was willing to suffer whatever consequences there were for saying it. That shows what the Holy Spirit has done in my heart over the past few years. My job at this company has been very, very good to Elena and me. Very good. In the past, I would have had no issue with turning my head the other way. But, now in this stage in my walk, I was willing to tell my boss no. I was willing to say that the transaction stays on the books because it actually happened and that we could not hide it or ignore it. Not to pat myself on the back or anything but it just shows how far I have come from the man I was before I met Jesus Christ as my Savior.

Then, I remembered that my boss is a salesmen with very little financial background and that I have taught him a great deal about finances since he became president. He still has trouble with the difference between the balance sheet and the income statement. The balance sheet is for assets and liabilities whose value extend beyond a single accounting period. This is where you hold those types of expenses and many of these assets and liabilities are dispensed to the income statement over time. The income statement is for those incomes and expenses that apply to the current period. A purchase of furniture is thus a balance sheet item. It will be charged to the fixed asset accounts and over the life of the furniture, we will charge its value to the income statement as an expense called depreciation. My boss was misunderstanding this concept when it came to this $100k charge. He thought it was fully going to hit our income statement in June, a month that we know is going to be bad already. He didn’t understand that furniture is a fixed asset and would be charged to the balance sheet and meted out to income statement as depreciation expense over 7 years. So, remembering that my boss often misunderstands this concept, I framed my response in that manner. Instead of accusing him of asking me to commit financial fraud, I reminded him of the distinction between balance sheet expenses and income statement expenses. Moral crisis averted. He even realized that how he phrased his question sounded bad and apologized for any heartburn that he had caused me from the phrasing he used. He said that he should have said, “off the income statement” and not “off the books!” It does sound bad when you choose your terms badly.

 

It got me to thinking though what I had been working for a boss that was playing fast as loose with the financials just to bolster his image or increase his bonus. What if I had been asked to do the real thing that I though my boss was asking me to do. The fact that I was willing to chuck it all at the mere thought of impropriety shows me that I have grown in Christ over these past years. In the past, my job that has made many financial strides for us over the past 8 years possible would have been more important than my ethics. Now, it seems that I have seen a glimpse of the new me in Christ, one where I will indeed stand up for my ethics rather than my checkbook.

 

It was that thought that came to mind ironically a few days later when I read through the passage, Daniel 5:13-31, today. Let’s read it together:

 

13 So Daniel was brought before the king, and the king said to him, “Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah? 14 I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom. 15 The wise men and enchanters were brought before me to read this writing and tell me what it means, but they could not explain it. 16 Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”

 

17 Then Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else. Nevertheless, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means.

 

18 “Your Majesty, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor. 19 Because of the high position he gave him, all the nations and peoples of every language dreaded and feared him. Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to death; those he wanted to spare, he spared; those he wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he wanted to humble, he humbled. 20 But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. 21 He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like the ox; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and sets over them anyone he wishes.

 

22 “But you, Belshazzar, his son,[a] have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. 23 Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways. 24 Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription.

 

25 “This is the inscription that was written:

 

mene, mene, tekel, parsin

 

26 “Here is what these words mean:

 

Mene[b]: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.

 

27 Tekel[c]: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.

 

28 Peres[d]: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

 

29 Then at Belshazzar’s 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.

 

30 That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians,[e] was slain, 31 and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.[f]

 

You notice in the first part of this passage that Daniel tells the king to keep his gifts and give them to someone else. He was going to tell the truth anyway regardless of the gifts. Daniel was not motivated by material rewards. His entire life had been characterized by doing what was right in the sight of God. Daniel never compromised his beliefs to satisfy an inner need for approval or comfort. That is the man I want to be. That is the man I want to become. That is the man that I think I am becoming. Daniel wanted to demonstrate that his interpretation was an unbiased one and one not dependent on maintaining the king’s favor. Doing the right thing in the eyes of God should always be our first priority and we should trust that He will protect us. It may be that we lose our job if we do the right thing but God will provide for those who trust Him. It may not be in the way that we have grown accustomed to living but He will take care of us in perfect timing. Would you not rather have a clean heart and joy in your heart at doing what is right rather than compromising your soul.

 

Once we compromise our soul, it gets easier and easier to do that which is wrong. Our hearts grow cold and we become slaves to the greed in our hearts. Ethics become situational. Ethics then become something you just remember from when you were younger. May we not be a people to sell our souls for comfort. Help us to be a people, oh Lord, who stands up for that which right no matter the cost. Help us to trust you instead of our things. Help us to see injustice and call it that. Help us to fight for that which is right and moral and true. Help us to then trust you with the outcome. It is the Daniel way. It should be our way.

 

Amen and Amen.

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