Should We Be Raising Monks or Daniels?

“I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel; for he is the living God and enduring forever, and his kingdom is on which will not be destroyed, and his dominion will be forever.” -King Darius

Many parents today are scared to death.  They are terrified about the future of their children and want to protect their sons and daughters from anything that could hurt them physically, spiritually, or otherwise.  Some parents even believe such fear is virtuous and because they care. 

As a Christian school leader, a theme I address on a regular basis with staff, students, and parents is that we seek “to graduate Daniels into Babylon,” influencers into a pagan culture increasingly hostile to biblical principles and faith.  Recall the story of Daniel and his friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, from the early chapters of the Book of Daniel.  The Babylonians removed these devout Jewish boys from their homeland and brought them into captivity in Babylon.  They were identified as some of the best and brightest of the Jews and selected to join the aristocracy of their new country.  They received the finest Babylonian education and learned history, science, math, philosophy and religion, all in conflict with their own Jewish upbringing and Mosaic Law.  Yet, Daniel continued to pray regularly, which got him into a lot of trouble with the authorities (Daniel 6).  The other three friends refused to bow to the golden idol set up by King Nebuchadnezzar and they got into a lot of trouble as well (Daniel 3).  God did not only save them from these situations, but blessed them.  The kings (different ones on each occasion) were so impressed with these men that the practice of their Jewish religion became legal.  Laws were changed because of them!  Their influence continues today.  Biblical historians recognize that during the Babylonian exile Jewish synagogues were established where Jews met to pray, read Scripture, hear a sermon, and worship God.  This meeting format was adopted by Christians for church services after the resurrection of Jesus and the Day of Pentecost.  What an impact these men had!

Fast forward to the Dark and Middle Ages Ages, which saw the rise of monasticism in the church.  Down through the centuries, some Christians believed it best to protect themselves from a corrupt world by detaching from society so they could live as faithfully and righteously as possible.  They built monasteries and convents in rural areas away from population centers.  Depending upon their monastic order, monks and nuns committed to various rules such as poverty, celibacy, silence, and heavy prescriptions of prayer and Bible reading.  

In theory, the purpose of seeking holiness seems commendable, and there were some fantastic monks, like St. Francis of Assisi, who served the sick and the poor, and is a model for all Christians.  But how does intentional isolation balance with Jesus’ teaching that his followers are to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13-16)?  How does this reconcile with the influence of Daniel and his friends in Babylon who affected major change from positions within the government of Babylon (and then Persia)?  

We don’t protect our kids by isolating them, but by preparing them.  Let’s raise influencers who will impact the spheres of education, business, finance, medicine, law, politics, and Christian ministry. Don’t snuff out the light in our children, but let them shine bright in a world desperate for the hope that can only come through Jesus Christ.

In a practical sense, what can we do?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Set limits for your kids.  Give them boundaries for how much time they can spend online and always know who they are with.
  • Give them your time.  Kids need our approval and undivided attention more than we think.  
  • Forgive them when they have done wrong.  No one is perfect and when they cross the line of acceptable behavior, let them know, but then forgive easily.
  • Model a Godly lifestyle.  The kids are watching us closely and will value what we value (eventually!).
  • Don’t be afraid. Let’s show our kids the courage we want them to develop in their own lives.

Dr. Bill Maier, in his article, “How to Protect our Kids from Negative Influences,” says this, “As we seek to teach, train and protect our children, we may be tempted to isolate them in a Christian cocoon.  But Jesus told us to ‘go into all the world and preach the good news’ (Mark 16:15), and our kids can’t fulfill this command if we isolate them from the world.”  He is absolutely correct.  

Let’s raise up Daniels, rather than monks.  Monks separate themselves from the world, while Daniels change it.  

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