[Diocesan Bishop of Kunnamkulam-Malabar Diocese, Marthoma Church]


"Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm." [Daniel 6:3]

We are living in a world, which offers us with very many options in every walk of our life. Options are something chosen or available as a choice. An option is the right, but not the obligation, to do something. Plenty of options are available in front of us for shopping, employment, marriage, house, place of living and in all aspects of our life. To discard all available options is also an option. William James defined, 'When you have to make a choice and you do not make it, that itself is a choice.' Also, this is an age of specialization. We are at free will to choose or select out of all available options in front of us. The standard of life of a person is deeply depended on the selections or options he/she makes in his/her life at different stages of their life. So selection is an important criterion of our life. There are many lives ruined by wrong choices and many lives prospered by right choices in life.

The Holy Bible starts with an option given to the first human beings. After the creation of man and woman, Lord God commanded them, You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die. When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. When the devil beguiled Eve, she could have very well deny the inducements of Satan, but she opted and exercised her freewill by refusing to accept Gods command and disobeyed Him by eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge. The man, Adam, repeated the same option. Eventually it caused them to become apostate from the realm of grace of God and rebel against Gods crown and dignity.

In the cited scripture portion, Daniel always selected the best out of all options in front of him. So he could excel himself as faithful. The background story is well known to us. When the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, he ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some youths of Israel from the noble and royal families, who are intelligent, handsome and have no defect. Daniel was one of the young Jews who were selected to be trained for service to King Nebuchadnezzar. Their food was from the table of the King and he and his friends were offered with wine so that their countenance will be brightened after three years before they will enter the personal service of the king.

Daniel had a different option of his own and was resolved not to defile himself with the choice food or with the wine or with any pleasures of Babylon and to live upon pulse and water. Daniel had many hindrances before him to go ahead with his choice. He was still firm to his character and religion. Though the Chaldeans changed his name according to their god, they could not change his character. Daniel, to satisfy the Commander that there would be no danger of any bad consequence, desires the matter might be put to a trial, which, having tried it, the master of the eunuchs allowed them to do, finding that it agreed very well with them. Daniel was a favorite with the prince of the eunuchs, as Joseph was with the keeper of the prison. Both of them opted to be away from the pleasure of life, which was freely offered to them as legal and attractive options before them. They both knew that the hope of impunity is a great support to all iniquity, and impenitency involved with it.

As for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams. When Daniel heard about the fury of the King Nebuchadnezzar, against the wise men of Babylon, magicians, conjurers, sorcerers and Chaldeans as they could not make known to the King, the dream of the King and its interpretation thereof, he went to his chamber and sought counsel from his friends and prayed to God. Daniel could inform the King, both dreams and its interpretation which Chaldeans considered to be possible only by gods, whose dwelling place is not with mortal flesh. As per the right options of Daniel, the King made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. Later Daniel was made a governor under Darius.

As Daniel became powerful in the land, the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs. But they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him. They plotted that they can find fault against him only with regard to the law of his God. The King gave orders to cast Daniel into the lion's den. The God of Daniel sent His angel and shut the lion's mouths and they have not harmed him. Further we read that the King ordered to cast the malicious accusers of Daniel and their family to the lion's den, and they had not reached the bottom of the den before the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.

Daniel could make his right choices always mainly out of three value based attributes of his nature.

  1. Character over comforts:
    [kpJtemep]Xbvp AXoXamb kz`mht{ijvTX]
    The comforts and luxuries of the palace was not forbidden or prohibited for Daniel. It was only his right to enjoy them as he was selected to be trained in the palace. It was an enticing life offered to Daniel in palace of the King, which was enticing to any youth of the world. We may see many options in our life for carnal pleasures or gratifications of this world. It may be in different forms of tasty food, luxury life, wealth, palatial mansions, comforts of living, sexual pleasures etc. etc. When we renounce our noble character for the sake of these worldly comforts we are making wrong options in our life. When we disregard these comforts, we may be loosing many things in our life we may consider great in the worldview. When Joseph disregarded the pleasure, he was trapped to be in the prison. In order to make the right choice while we are enticed with the worldly comforts, we need a moral strength and courage. Mother Teresa had told, 'You are called not to be successful, but to be faithful.'

    Billy Graham told, "If wealth is lost nothing is lost, if health is lost something is lost, but if character is lost everything is lost". Winston Churchill quoted, "Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones. All comforts are vanities of life. Fame is vapor, popularity is accident, riches takes wings, and only thing endured is character.

  2. Discipline of devotional life:
    [BobPohnXnep inWw]
    Daniel had chosen a disciplined life pattern over a disordered and absurd life. When Daniel heard about the trap against him, he entered his chamber, kneeled down three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously - a habitual discipline of life. For a well-disciplined life we need controls of our organs. We need to control our tongue. In Epistle of St. James we read, 'If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless.' [James 1:26] ' Tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!' [James 3:5] More people are run down by gossip than automobiles. How many souls are wounded by our loose words. Impersonation is more cruel than murder. Families are broken, society is disintegrated, and Churches are disoriented with the careless talk of people. Great mind discuss ideas, average mind discuss events, but small/mean mind discuss people.

    Secondly we need to discipline our devotional life. The evangelization and gospel work starts in the family. What are our preferences and what are our priorities? Our disciplined pattern of Church life is to be relayed to the new generation as good traditions. Thirdly we need a discipline over disorder.

  3. Love of God over life:
    [kzbPoh\XoXamb ssZhkvt\lw]
    Though the life was in danger in the lion's den Daniel selected to be in the love of God. Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold the command was given, peoples, nations and men of every language to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up. But Daniel and his friends, who were appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, have disregarded the verdict of the King and opted to worship only the living Lord God. Daniel and his friends had their reason to disregard the King, "If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of the hands of the King." What a courage Daniel was exposing? We can love God only if we can love our co-beings.

Eleanor Roosevelt had quoted; 'One's philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And, the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.' With the right choices of the options before Daniel in all stages of his life, he enjoyed success in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian. There are many options in our life. Graham States chose the right option over all his family calamities. Fr. Damien chose to work among the lepers in spite the fear of infection. Mother Teresa chose the gutters of Calcutta over all luxuries she could have in her land. Sadhu Kochoonju Upadesi chose to work among the infected with Malaria. Daniel was considered noble because of right choices at right time. If we just live under our own fleshly desires and powers we will always fail. We need to exercise our freewill so that we can be vessels, which God uses.

[Extract from Message delivered at Maramon Convention 2006
Original in Malayalam : Translated by Editor Dr. Rajan Mathew Philadelphia, USA]

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