"Choosing to Cheat" part 2 (based on the book by
When Work and Family Collide
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
January 7, 2007
Main Passage: Daniel
Last Sunday morning, we
spent some time talking about the two major aspects of our lives. We
began by talking about our work, and we saw that our work—whatever kind
of work it is—on average takes up about one third of our waking hours.
Our work is important to us. We have career goals, we have
responsibilities, and we saw that God actually wants us to work hard.
Often, we think of work as being a bad thing… a result of the Fall. We
might be under the delusion that before sin entered the world there was
no such thing as work. But we learned last week that work is something
that God actually created—it’s not the result of sin—and He created it
before the Fall of man. When He created Adam, He immediately gave Adam
work to do. So work is a good thing, and we should work hard. It’s a
major aspect of our lives.
And then we saw that a second major aspect of our lives is Family…
either pursuing a family or maintaining a family. Family is a wonderful
thing… it’s a gift from God. And if work takes up one third of our
waking hours, then family takes up a good percentage of the other two
Problem is, these two good things are often in conflict. There’s a
tension between the demands of our work and the demands of our family.
Both of them require and deserve our attention. So which one wins? When
work and family collide, which one comes out on top?
All too often, I believe the answer is work. I know I’ve been there
myself. We pour ourselves into our work to the detriment of our family.
Hey, our family’s going to be there for us anyway, right? But our work…
if we want to keep our work, and if we want to be successful, and if we
want more income, if we want that promotion, and if we want to get our
egos stroked… then we feel that’s where we need to be. And the problem
is, that often happens at the expense of our family. We cheat our
family in favour of work.
Now Derek… poor Derek… Derek helped us out last week by demonstrating
what happens when we cheat our family in favour of our work. I brought
with me a 30 pound bag of potatoes, and I asked Derek to help me by
holding it. He didn’t know why he was doing it, but I asked him to
trust me and I told him it was important for him to hold it. And so
while I spoke last week, Derek stood over here to the side holding that
thirty pound bag of potatoes.
Oh, every once in a while, I looked over at him and promised that I’d
get to the point soon. And I’d be there to help him hold it. But more
and more time went by, and after twelve or thirteen minutes, Derek was
just about ready to drop it. I wasn’t that he didn’t want to hold it
any longer… and it wasn’t that he didn’t trust me (although he may
never trust me again)… but he just wasn’t able to hold it much longer.
And so we applied that to how we treat our work and our family. And we
saw that when we cheat our family in favour of our work, we’re
basically telling our family, “Trust me. I have something else to do
right now. You’re going to have to get along without me for a while.
But I’ll be there soon. Really. I just have other more important things
that I need to do first.” And when we do that, we leave our family… we
leave our spouse… holding the bag.
Oh, they trust us. They believe in us. They love us. They want us to
succeed. They know our work is important. And they want to help out any
way they can. And so they agree to hold that bag. Problem is, they can
only hold it so long before the weight of it becomes too great. It’s
not that they don’t want to hold it any longer; they just can’t.
[And so Derek… sit, I’m not going to do that to you two weeks in a row.]
Okay, so we’ve got our work and our family… two major aspects of our
lives which are both important but which are often in conflict. And
when we have to choose, too often we choose to cheat our family in
favour of our work. But the operative word there is “choose” because
that’s what we do. We choose. It’s a choice we make to cheat our
family. It doesn’t just happen. We choose it.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. God does value a good work ethic,
yes, but He also values family. In fact, the Bible tells us that we
should do our work as unto the Lord and we must love our family. Not
the other way around.
Now let me show you something else…
Here on the screen you see a simple example of the cash flow for a
fictitious bank account. You know what the goal of a bank account is,
don’t you? The goal is to always have more deposits than withdrawals.
And here in this example, you see this. The deposits always total more
than the withdrawals. And when that happens, you’re on your way to
But what happens when you turn that around? What happens when the
withdrawals surpass the deposits? Then you end up with an increasingly
negative balance, and you’re on your way to what? Financial disaster.
Now imagine that each of those dollar amounts represents the emotional
and relational deposits and withdrawals you make with your family. When
you’re making more withdrawals than deposits, where are you headed?
You’re headed for disaster.
Now, none of that is news for you. We all know that our families need
to come first. We agree… at least intellectually… to that concept. I
mean, no one has ever said on their deathbed, “If only I have spent
more time at the office.” No one has ever said that. We at least give a
nod to the idea that our families are important.
But still, we can find ourselves in the position where we’re cheating
our families because of the demands of our work. And what you need to
understand is that no matter how much you give, work will always demand
more. There’s always more you could do. And so it’s up to you to
determine the boundary. It’s up to you to say, “This far and no
But how do you go about that? I mean, you’d be pretty stupid to go into
your boss’ office and start making demands. You’re liable to wind up
with a lot more hours to spend with your family than you really want.
So what’s a good, reasonable way to go about setting the boundaries?
How do you stop cheating family in favour of work? How do you
reprioritize family over work?
Well, I don’t know that there is a fool-proof method. For the rest of
our time, we’re going to look at the example of Daniel, but that’s all
it is. It’s an example. It’s what Daniel did, and it worked for him.
But I also think it makes sense.
And by the way, if I can do a little commercial, most of what we talked
about last week and what we’re talking about this morning can be found
in this little book by Andy Stanley, “Choosing to Cheat.” I’d love to
go through this with the Men’s LIFE Group sometime, chapter by chapter.
But if you want to read a bit more about what we’re talking about, then
you can pick this up for yourself. Plus, Andy shares some personal
examples from his own life and the people he knows.
All right, let’s talk about Daniel and how he resolved the conflict
when two opposing sides demanded his loyalty.
Now, in Daniel’s case, the conflict was not between work and family.
That wasn’t the problem he faced. But he did face a serious conflict,
and how he handled it can be a pattern for us in our work-family
So what was the conflict that Daniel faced? Well, let’s set the stage
and see what it was.
About 605 B.C., a new empire was developing in the area of Southwest
Asia. It was the Babylonian Empire, and at the time we’re talking about
this morning, it was under the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar. Well, the
Babylonians swept across the land, eventually arriving at Israel. At
this point in their history, most of the Israelites had turned their
backs on God and had thus rejected His protection. So the Babylonians
were quickly able to conquer them. And then, the Babylonians took many
of the Israelites captive and led them back to Babylon. Here… let me
show it to you on a map.
[PowerPoint] The Babylonian Empire was centralized around here, and
Israel is over here. The army swept across the land to Israel,
conquered it, and then took many of the Israelites back to Babylon into
captivity. Today, this area is just a small country that goes by the
name Iraq. Maybe you’ve heard of it.
Among these captives was a young man named Daniel. And Daniel, as it
turns out, was a faithful follower of God and was also a very gifted
young man. So gifted, in fact, that he was chosen by King
Nebuchadnezzar as one of the elite Israelites to be trained for service
in the king’s palace. So Daniel actually got to move into the palace to
receive all kinds of training.
And one of the perks was that he was even given the best food… food
straight from the king’s table. Yes, that’s right… it was food fit for
a king, which sounds pretty good to me. But there was a problem. The
food that Daniel and the others would have been offered would have been
previously offered to idols. And thus the conflict.
Daniel had determined to be loyal to his God, but if he accepted the
food that had been offered to the Babylonian gods, he would be
accepting the authority of those gods.
Now, this may not seem like a big deal to you and me. I mean, come on,
Daniel. If you don’t want to eat the food then don’t eat the food. Just
order some take-out or grab a sandwich at the nearest Tim Hortons.
That sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? But keep in mind that Daniel was a
captive. He had been given a special privilege to live in the palace,
but he was still a captive. And the king himself had ordered this food
to be the food given to him. He really was in no position to refuse. If
he did, he’d be defying the king. So what did he do? How did he handle
this conflict? Well, the Bible says…
Daniel 1:8a (NLT)
But Daniel made up his mind not to defile
himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king.
So for you and me… when it comes to handling the conflict between work
and family… the first thing you need to do is…
How to Reprioritize Family over Work:
1. Make Up Your
In that verse, you can
underline the words “Daniel made up his mind”.
Daniel made up his mind. He just wasn’t going to eat the food. And he
was specific about it. He didn’t say, “Well, I’m going to try to do
better. I’ll only eat enough that it won’t cause any waves. I’ll eat it
but I won’t enjoy it. I’ll eat it for now, but someday… someday I’ll be
in a position that I don’t have to.” No, Daniel was specific and he was
decisive. He wasn’t going to eat any of it. He had made up his mind.
And it didn’t matter what the eventual outcome might be; he simply
wasn’t going to compromise. He began with a decision.
And for you and me, choosing not to cheat at home begins with a
decision. A decision to stop cheating. And it’s a decision that can’t
have a bunch of conditions attached to it… like “when I’m more
financially secure” or “if I get this promotion”. Because once you
start slapping conditions on your decision, it shows that your family’s
not your priority after all.
And you know what really helps? When you’re specific. Daniel was
specific – he wasn’t going to eat any of the food. How specific can you
be? How about, “I’m only going to work 45 hours a week, no more.” Or,
“I’m going to be home every evening for supper.” Or, “I will not work
on my day off.” Or, “I’m going to limit my business travel to 10 days
per year.” Or, “I’ll be at every baseball game my kid plays.” However
you need to structure it, be specific in your decision. The more
specific your decision is, the easier it is to say “no” to other things.
It was April 21, 1519. Hernando Cortez landed his ships along the
Mexican coast and prepared to go ashore to conquer the Aztec Empire.
Quite a bold goal… trying to conquer an empire with less than 400
But that’s exactly what he was there to do. He had made up his mind.
And so his first order? Burn the ships. If he was going to conquer the
Aztecs, then retreat could not be an option. The focus needed to be on
going forward, not going backward. And so he had his own ships burned.
And so with that option eliminated, Cortez was successful in conquering
Here’s a little language lesson. The Latin root word for the word
“Decide” (decidere) literally means “to cut off”. So when you decide
something, you’re not just selecting one option. You’re eliminating the
other options. You’re cutting them off.
So when you decide to stop cheating your family, you need to cut off
the other options. You need to make up your mind… “I’m not going to
cheat my family any longer.”
Daniel had made up his mind. He wasn’t going to eat the food that had
been offered to pagan gods. But then what? I mean, he could have just
made up his mind and boldly announced, “I’m not eating this food. I
don’t care what you do to me; I’m not eating it.” And I guess it could
have worked… he would have never eaten the food because he’d be dead.
No, Daniel was a little smarter than that. He tempered his decision
with diplomacy. He was dogmatic about his convictions, but not so
dogmatic in his approach. Instead, we’re told…
Daniel 1:8b (NLT)
He asked the chief of staff for permission
not to eat these unacceptable foods.
Circle the word “Asked”. Daniel asked permission. He didn’t demand, he
asked. So that’s number two…
2. Ask, don’t
Now, depending on your
work situation, you may have no one to ask. So this may not be that
applicable for you. But if you do have someone you need to ask, then
don’t avoid doing this. I know it can be intimidating… you might think
you already know what they’re going to say… but make “the ask” anyway.
Do you realize what Daniel was doing by asking? He was acknowledging
the authority that the chief of staff had. If he had gone into the
office demanding his way and presenting ultimatums, he would have been
challenging that authority. And I think the response would have been
very different. But because he asked, he was showing respect for the
position and inviting the chief of staff to be part of the process of
finding a solution. It wasn’t a threat, it was an invitation.
But Daniel could have demanded his own way, and that wouldn’t have
turned out very well. What else could he have done? He could have kept
the chief of staff out of the loop. He could have deceived him. And
that wouldn’t have been very good either. I mean, he could have assumed
that the chief would have rejected his request anyway, and so Daniel
could have tried to do something underhandedly or secretly. He could
have snuck his meat into his napkin – I don’t know what he could have
done. But I’m sure he could have found some way to subvert the
authority of the chief of staff.
But you know what? The chief would have found out. Sooner or later, he
would have found out. And I can assure you, if that happened, the chief
would not be all that favourable toward Daniel then.
In other words, if you choose that you’re not going to cheat family,
then don’t decide that you’re just going to sneak out of work early,
hoping the boss doesn’t notice. Because he or she will notice, and then
you will wish you had made the ask.
Daniel respected the chief’s position, and so he did make the ask. He
didn’t make demands, he didn’t deceive… he made the ask. Then what did
he do? He listened.
3. Listen and
Daniel listened. So what
did the chief say? Verse 10…
Daniel 1:10 (NLT)
But [the chief of staff] responded, “I am
afraid of my lord the king, who has ordered that you eat this food and
wine. If you become pale and thin compared to the other youths your
age, I am afraid the king will have me beheaded.”
“So let’s not lose our heads.”
So by listening to what the chief of staff had to say, what did Daniel
learn? He learned that the chief wasn’t really all that concerned about
what Daniel ate; he was concerned that Daniel might become pale and
thin. He was concerned with how Daniel looked and performed. And he
didn’t want Daniel’s performance to suffer, because then the king would
make sure he suffered, too.
And by the way, that’s your employer’s concern, too. They’re not nearly
as concerned about how much overtime you put in as they are about your
Now, you might think you already know what your boss’ reaction would
be. But you know what happens when you assume, right? Sometimes you’re
wrong. So listen. Listen for what their real concerns are. Don’t argue
with them; listen. Ask questions, clarify the concerns… sure… but
And after you’ve listened, you can say something like, “I understand
those are some serious concerns and I certainly don’t want to
complicate things for you. Let me think about it a bit more and see if
I can come up with a solution that will address those concerns.”
When you do that, what have you done? You’ve left the door open. You’ve
given yourself some time to come up with a solution. And you’ve given
your boss time to think about it, too, and maybe they’ll even change
their mind. As long as you don’t attack them and put them on the
defensive, there’s a good chance they’re going to work with you to find
Now, Daniel came up with his own solution and he presented it as a
test… he presented a test for himself and for three of his friends who
shared his convictions. Daniel said…
Daniel 1:12-13 (NLT)
“Please test us for ten days on a diet of
vegetables and water,” Daniel said. “At the end of the ten days, see
how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s
food. Then make your decision in light of what you see.”
What a great idea. He offered a trial period. Still no ultimatum… still
didn’t threaten the chief’s authority… just suggested a trial period.
Surely there wouldn’t be any irreversible damage in just ten days. And
so that’s just what they did.
And maybe that’s what you would need to do with your boss. Offer a
trial. “Let’s try this for a month and see what happens.”
For me, I’ve shifted some of my schedule around so that I’m working
when Shera’s working. And that means that I have more free time when
she’s not working. I started doing that a few months ago, and I’m
noticing a difference.
You need to figure out a solution that works for you… rearranging your
hours, working more strategically, delegating more effectively,
Look, our jobs are important. We have to work and we should work hard.
But the tendency for many of us is to overdo it. And our families are
cheated because of it. So figure out a solution. And you might discover
that it really is possible to stop cheating family in favour of work,
and you can turn that around. And something that’s important to
remember is this… Andy Stanley points out…
“… Cheating at work isn’t really cheating at all. It’s merely testing
to see how well the requirements of your job can be met under a
~ Andy Stanley, Choosing to Cheat p. 112
And if all the concerns your boss has can be addressed in a respectful
and practical way, then you’ve found the solution.
Now, there is one extremely important component in all this. And it’s
4. Watch for
God to Intervene
There are a couple of
key verses in Daniel chapter 1 that we haven’t looked at yet. One of
them is verse nine. Right after Daniel made “the ask” to the chief of
staff, we’re told…
Daniel 1:9 (NLT)
Now God had given the chief of staff both
respect and affection for Daniel.
Circle the words “Now God”. It was a “Now God” moment. Daniel was
committed to his values and convictions, he was faithful to His God, he
responded humbly and obediently, and because of all that he experienced
a “Now God” moment.
Think about this: If Daniel has already concluded that there was no way
the Chief of Staff would listen to him so he wasn’t even going to ask,
what would have happened? He would have missed out on this “Now God”
Makes me wonder, how many times do you and I miss out on “Now God”
moments because of our fears and preconceptions? Just a thought.
Daniel acted according to his God-given values… which seemed to be
completely out of place in the Babylonian palace… but because he acted
anyway, God had the opportunity to intervene. “Now God…”
The other verse I want to point out is after the test has been carried
out… Daniel and his friends have come through the test with flying
colours and so from then on they were going to be fed food that fit
with their convictions… and then we read this…
Daniel 1:17 (NLT)
God gave these four young men an unusual
aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom. And
God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of
visions and dreams.
Do you see what happened here? These four young men… Daniel in
particular… had been obedient God, had upheld their integrity, and
stuck to their convictions… and because of all that, God blessed them.
“God honours those who honour Him. Honour Him at home and experience
His blessing there. Honour Him in the marketplace and look for Him to
show up there as well… He is as capable of intervening in your office
on Monday afternoon as He is in your church on Sunday morning.”
~ Andy Stanley, Choosing to Cheat, p. 115
Well, it’d be really easy to stop right there. Honour God, and He’ll
work everything out. I believe that is true, but I don’t think it means
you’ll necessarily stay in the same job. What if your boss isn’t
cooperative? What if your boss places demands on you that require you
to keep cheating your family? Well, then there may come a time when you
need to walk.
5. Be Prepared
to Walk Away
Now, what you don’t want
to do is throw a tantrum. You’re acting on your own convictions, and
your boss has no obligation to go along with them. Chances are they
will, but they don’t have to. So you can still respect their authority
and work out an exit strategy. If your work is cheating your family,
then it’s going to lead to disaster. So your options are to find a
solution or get out.
Now, Daniel didn’t actually get to this point, so it’s hard to say
exactly what he would have done. But we do know that he was determined
not to defile himself by eating food that had been offered to pagan
gods. And I don’t believe that he would have compromised on that. Hey,
five chapters later he found himself thrown into a den of hungry lions
because he refused to compromise his values.
But maybe you’d argue, “But Daniel lived at a different time. Things
are different now.” You’re right, they are. You probably won’t be
executed if you have to leave your job. You should be glad things are
different now. They’re easier. And so if your work continues to demand
that you cheat family, and if there’s no flexibility there, then it may
be necessary for you to walk away.
I mean, what are the arguments for staying? You need to save up for
retirement? You need to pay off the mortgage? You need to provide for
your family? But none of that will matter because you won’t have a
family anymore. You’ll be saving up to pay lawyers and trying to figure
out who gets the house, not how to pay the mortgage on the house.
And if you’re still worried about it, remember that making your family
your priority is not just a good idea, it’s a God idea. The New
Testament clearly establishes that your responsibility is to your
family, not your work. Work hard as unto the Lord, but love your
family. So you tell me, is God more likely to bless you for upholding
His priorities or rejecting them?
Jesus Himself talked about how we can get all caught up in seeking
riches and security and possessions, and He reminded us that we can’t
serve both God and money. And then He said this…
Matthew 6:33 (NLT)
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and
live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
If you believe that, then you need to live it. Put God and His
priorities first, and then watch Him work.