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Eternity, Family, Governance, Investing, Leadership, Proverbs, Workplace

Developing a Spirit of Excellence

Integrity at Work - Geisler & Douglass

Daniel shows how to develop a spirit of excellence

Going with the Flow
Chapter 8, Integrity at Work [Edited]
By Norman L. Geisler & Randy Douglass

Daniel, a successful leader in national government and an old man, faces the choice either to take a moral shortcut and “go along with the flow” or to end up in the lion’s den. 

In Daniel 1-4 Nebuchadnezzar was the king.  After he died in 562 BC, a succession of kings sat on the throne.  Chapter 5 occurs only twenty-five years after chapter 4, and seventy years after the events of Chapter 1.  Now Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson, sits on the throne.  Daniel 5 shares only one day from the life of King Belshazzar – his last day!  At the end of chapter 5, Cyrus the Great conquers Babylon and slays Belshazzar.

Darius the Mede, the commander who marched on Babylon for his Persian monarch Cyrus, is rewarded by being placed in charge of Babylon [Dan. 5:31; see also 10:1].  Cuneiform texts refer to Darius the Mede as Gubaru, who was appointed governor over all of Babylonia.  Daniel refers to Darius as a “king” in 9:1 because Cyrus divided his empire into 120 provinces and appointed a satrap, or governor, to rule each.  Each new governor, such as Darius, replaced a former king.

When one considers the Darius replaced Belshazzar, king over Nebuchadnezzar’s great and enormous kingdom, it is easy to see that Darius was the second greatest ruler in the world at this time, behind Cyrus.  We also see that Daniel was correct when he wrote that Darius “received the kingdom” [Dan 5:31] and “was made king” [9:1].

So it was Darius who threw Daniel to the lions, not for doing something wrong at work, but for doing something right.  The scene is set for us in Daniel 6:1-4.

It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, to be over the whole kingdom; and over these, three governors, of whom Daniel was one, that the satraps might give account to them, so that the king would suffer no loss. Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm. So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him.

The Promotion

In Daniel 6, we find that Daniel’s old boss, King Belshazzar, is gone and a new boss named Darius is in charge [6:1].  This was a hostile takeover and merger to say the least [just read Chapter 5]!
Daniel’s new boss is a pagan who cares nothing for the religion of Daniel or his God.

Darius the Mede is the second most powerful man in the world and not one who accepts inferior work, excuses or insubordination.

Darius appoints 120 governors [satraps] to rule the kingdom.  To keep the governors in check, he appoints three commissioners, or federal judges, to rule over the governors.  Daniel is one of these three commissioners, but he rises in Darius’s esteem so much that he is named top commissioner, with authority over the other two.

The Investigation

Any man or woman in business must wonder, “What did Daniel do to so impress his boss?”  Fortunately we find out, but not in the way one might expect.

Before Daniel was promoted, his enemies carefully investigated Daniel’s life.  This investigation was not to find out if he was qualified, but rather to find some evidence to disqualify him!  It was an evil investigation to say the least, as they tried to find some charge they could throw at him. 

What they found, however, were the three reasons Darius was so impressed with Daniel and wanted to promote him:

1.  He had a spirit of excellence [6:3].  “Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm.”

What was it that Darius saw in Daniel?  He saw his “exceptional qualities”.  The Hebrew can be interpreted “excellent spirit”. 

This means at least two things.  First, Daniel had a spirit of excellence in all that he did at work.  He was an excellent employee and employer.  He was not satisfied with subpar performance or effort but demanded the best from himself as well as from everyone around him.

A person with a spirit of excellence is a rare person indeed in the workplace.  This person will stand head and shoulders above everyone else, as Daniel did.  This is why Proverbs 22:29 says “Do you see a man who excels in his work?  He will stand before kings, he will not serve before obscure men.”

Daniel’s spirit of excellence was also seen in his attitude.  The NASB translates this phrase as “extraordinary spirit”.   This refers to Daniel’s positive attitude and teachable spirit.  His positive attitude at work was noticed by others.  The king, Daniel’s boss, noticed how Daniel responded to his new responsibilities and was planning to reward him by making him the second most powerful man in the kingdom.

It is important to note that Daniel was in a difficult setting.  Some readers may respond, “But you don’t know how difficult my boss is!  You don’t know how horrible my co-workers are!  I have a terrible job and I hate going to work!”  But think about Daniel’s work environment.  He was a slave with prestige, but he was still a slave.  His country was in bondage.  He lived in a godless land, under a pagan man who had absolute power over his life.  Also his co-workers were evil schemers who wanted him dead.

But Daniel was a victor, not a victim, and he saw obstacles as opportunities for God’s glory to shine through.  His attitude was so positive that the king wanted to promote him.

Not only that, but excellence was Daniel’s constant response.  “Distinguished” here is a Hebrew participle that means that Daniel continually demonstrated his spirit of excellence. 

2.  He was ethical in his business dealings [6:4“At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so” [Paraphrase]

Daniel was honest at work and did an honest day’s work.  He did not steal from the boss or from others.  He was not deceptive in his business practices to profit at another’s expense.  When Daniel gave his word, people could trust him to keep it, even to his hurt [cf Psalms 15:4].  Ethical excellence, or a “distinguished spirit” was his constant response.

The prophet Micah talks about this kind of character and says that God expects “justice” of us [Micah 6:8].  He expects us to do the right thing.  As a result, when Daniel’s enemies began their investigation, they came up empty handed.

3.  He had personal integrity [6:4“They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.”

Daniel was  man of integrity.  His enemies could find no wrongdoing, no sin and no spiritual lapses in his personal life.  Holes are fine for Swiss cheese, but not for the Christian! 

The Old Testament word for “integrity” has the idea of a person who is whole and complete, with no spiritual gaps in his or her life [see Psalms 7:8, 25:21 & 41:12].

Our English word integrity comes from the Latin integritas, which means “wholeness”, “entireness” or “completeness”.   Daniel was such a man of integrity.  He had no holes in his life.

David was another biblical character who displayed such integrity.  “David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skilful hands he led them” [Psalms 78:72].   David’s heart [his integrity] guided his hands at work.  David had no holes in his life, despite his moral relapse with Bathsheba, from which he quickly repented once he was confronted [2 Samuel 11-12, cf 1 Kings 15:5].

Daniel 6:4 clearly shows Daniel’s integrity, both in what was not found in his life as well as in what was.  Daniel was found not to have any “corruption” in his life, which means there were no errors or something amiss.  “Negligence” was also not found, which means that he was found not to be corrupt, having neither faults nor spiritual decay.  There was nothing Daniel’s enemies could point to and say “Aha! Now we’ve got him”.

On the positive side, Daniel was found to be a man who was ‘trustworthy”.  In other words, he was faithful in the discharge of his duties.  When he said a project would be done, it was done.  When he gave his word, he kept it [Psalm 15:4].  A trustworthy man is a rare find as Proverbs 20:6 says “Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, but who can find a trustworthy man?’ [NASB].   Daniel was certainly impeccable in all of his life.

The Trap

As a worker, Daniel was a man of excellence.  He always did his job well.  He tried to go above and beyond in his business dealings with others, and the king noticed this.  So when Daniel’s enemies tailed him, spied on him, and searched through his personal effects, they discovered that nothing was lacking.  He had no skeletons in his closet.  No hidden dirt.  Nothing!  Character is not made in crisis; it is revealed in crisis.  Had they found some dirt, they certainly would have tried to use it to blackmail Daniel or to get him fired. 

The question that leaps off the page of Daniel 6 is why Daniel’s enemies felt so threatened by his imminent promotion.  Why were they so fervent to get rid of him?  Of course they were jealous of him, and they may have had anti-Semitic feelings as well.  But the situation seems to show that this was far more serious than that.

The reason for their attack had more to do with a business decision than anything else.  You see, Daniel’s ability threatened them, but more so his honesty.  The king was delighted to find a man of ability and honesty, but these very traits were a threat to the corrupt leaders of the kingdom.  They could neither corrupt Daniel nor deceive him. 

So if Daniel was promoted to be their boss, his integrity would mean that their system of corruption, which Darius was trying to correct [Dan 6:2] would end immediatelyA godly man in authority is a threat to the shady dealings of every ungodly man under his authority.

The only “weakness” these enemies could find in Daniel’s life was in his consistent worship of his God. [Dan 6:5].  So they devised an ingenious trap that would pit Daniel’s religious convictions against the government.  The enemies got the king to disallow the worship of anyone except him for thirty days.  If anyone violated the written law, he would be thrown into a den of hungry lions.

If Daniel chose to follow the pack, he would lose his integrity with God.  If Daniel chose to follow his God, he would face the consequences.  Daniel was in a seemingly un-winnable position.

Examine the facts

Daniel did not make his decision without knowing all of the facts.  He knew that his enemies had devised this crafty plan to trap him. [6:5-9].  He learned of the requirements of the king’s decree that he was not allowed to pray to his God.  There was no fog in Daniel’s mind about what the facts were or what was required of him.

Seek the Truth

What did God have to say about this matter?   Daniel knew that to pray to anyone or anything other than the Lord God was idolatry [Exodus 34:14; Psalm 81:9].  He knew he could not bow his knee to any man or idol.   Daniel also knew that he was to pray daily [Psalm 55:17].   Daniel knew he was to pray for God to deliver his people who were held in captivity [1 Kings 8:48-49].   Finally, Daniel knew he was to obey God by actually praying for the blessing of the king and the kingdom of Babylon  [Jeremiah 29:4-7].


Was there anything about Daniel’s decision that might have made him hesitate before proceeding with praying?   He would have had good reason to be afraid to pray – at least for the next thirty days!  Darius believed in capital punishment and had a lions’ den in place with hungry lions inside.  The threat of the lions’ den was not an idle one.  [Dan 6:7-9].  But if Daniel had any hesitations, he did not show them.

Identify the Greater Good

Daniel needed to identify the greater good and obey the higher law.  Thus he had a choice to make: should he obey God or man?  The greater good was to obey God over man [Dan 6:10], which Daniel did.

Stand for God

As in Daniel 1, Daniel made up his mind to stand for God no matter what [6:10-11].  Daniel’s suffering in the lions’ den [vv. 16-20] led to his glory [6:21-28].  Daniel’s integrity made him a success with his boss and with God [v.28].  Daniel’s integrity made him a successful businessman.  He could be trusted, he had a good attitude in difficult circumstances, he was not corrupt, and he always did his job well. 

Some want us to go along with the crowd at work and take a moral shortcut-or else.  We always have pressure to “go with flow”, but we must be strong.  Daniel faced this same ethical dilemma at work and suffered for taking a stand for God.  Yet God rewarded their commitment, and he will reward your commitment to stand for him as well.  


Daniel in the Lion's Den



10:4    Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.

12:11   He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment.

12:14   From the fruit of his lips a man is filled with good things as surely as the work of his hands rewards    him.

12:24   Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labor.

13:4      The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.

13:11    Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.

14:23    All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

21:5       The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.

26:15     The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth.    

27:23     Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds;

30:24-28    “Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise:   Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer;  coneys [fn] are creatures of little power, yet they make their home in the crags;  locusts have no king, yet they advance together in ranks;  a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings’ palaces.    


13:4        The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.

18:9        One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.

19:15      Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless man goes hungry.

20:4        A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.

21:25      The sluggard’s craving will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work.

Copywrite 2007 – by Norman L. Geisler and Randy Douglass

Integrity at Work – Finding your Ethical Compass in a Post-Enron World


About steveblizard

Steve Blizard commenced his financial planning career in 1988 from a background of life insurance broking, a field in which he still works. He is a member of the Financial Planning Association and the Responsible Investment Association. His experience ranges from administration of Superannuation to advice regarding insurance, retirement, remuneration and investment planning. Steve is an accredited Remuneration Consultant, specialising in salary packaging. He is a columnist for the Swan Magazine and the WA Business News


7 thoughts on “Developing a Spirit of Excellence

  1. Wow, this seems like a pretty awesome book! My friends and I would always joke about doing things with a spirit of excellence. We would say, “if you’re not doing things in a spirit of excellence, there’s no point in doing it!! Strive for the best.”

    Thanks for the reminder!

    Posted by Lakia | January 26, 2010, 3:25 am
  2. Truly excellent article! Thankyou! Do you consider there is a difference between a person with” an excellent spirit” and one functioning with a “spirit of excellence”?

    Posted by Kathy Booth | January 27, 2010, 9:37 am
  3. Hi Steve, this is a cool blog – its look postmodern and emerging!
    John y

    Posted by john yates | February 18, 2010, 10:49 am
  4. thanks this a great remainder.

    Posted by omowumi adegboye | June 28, 2010, 11:09 am
  5. Me my mother and my 2 year old son where having a cup of coffee at a coffee shop, a man came up to us and told me that the Holy Spirit just told him that my son had the Spirit of Excellence…………

    I was wondering, how to go about, becourse it is indeed a rear and exeptional fruit of the spirit and a blessing to have.

    Please help me, with any suggestions to help me firstly to help my son, to become a grown up man with the Spirit of Excellence shining through in his life.

    Kind Regards
    Colette Grobler
    South Africa

    Posted by Colette | July 25, 2011, 2:35 pm
  6. Great article. Am blessed.

    Posted by tade | September 17, 2012, 12:01 am


  1. Pingback: Extraordinary spirit | The Spirit of God - September 8, 2016

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