Motives and Motivations

Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. 14 I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods[e] is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation. – Daniel 5:13-17


Henry Leu Gardens | Orlando, FL | January 2018

Gary Chapman has written a book, The Five Love Languages, in which he identifies the five ways we give and receive love. These are words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, touch, and acts of service. Some people’s love language is obvious; he loves to give and receive gifts. She is delighted when she hears the words, “I love you.” Others find great joy in serving others as an expression of their love.

Daniel’s love language seems clearly not to be receiving gifts. At least he seems not to be at all concerned about being treated well or rewarded financially for telling the king the interpretation of the writing on the wall. He is not willing to receive the gifts that the king offers. He might well realize that such gifts will only make him beholden to the king’s future pleasures and purposes. He may think that such honor is not proper for simply using the gift of discernment and interpretation that God had given him.

He will, nonetheless, read the writing to the king and tell him the interpretation. It is not clear whether Daniel knew beforehand that the news would be unfavorable. He is confident that he will be able to read the handwriting to the king. He is certain he can interpret the words. He was certainly aware of the king’s lack of humility before God, and his dismissal of advice of Daniel. Daniel had been put on the back burner of the king’s wisdom cohort. Daniel may have realized that the king had abandoned any sense of humility or groundedness; the news was likely not to be good.

Once I asked a colleague whether he would be willing to serve as the president of our national church body. His immediate answer was, “No.” When I asked why, he said, “Why would I want to be king of nothing?” Whether you agree with that sentiment or not, the assessment of one’s power and prestige may have led Daniel to turn down the king’s offer.

Daniel will receive the honor and gifts he had declined. But they were not the motive for providing the interpretation to the king. That seems to be much more about giving glory to God and revealing his truth to the king and all who are in his entourage.

1 comment
  1. Although I can’t gather how old Daniel is by now, the thing that strikes me is that his identity as being of the character of the God he was taught to know as a child (before captivity in his youth) remains strong. He still doesn’t want anything to do with “stuff” of the foreign gods of the kingdom in which he lives. It’s the same Daniel who didn’t want to eat food that had been offered to idols. This consistency is impressive and a fine example for us all. He believed God and the truth of HIS Word. Love his steadfastness! Thank you Father for saving Daniel’s story into your Holy Scriptures so that we can feast on it, learn from it and be emboldened by it. Amen

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