Summary: Why struggle for the approval of worldly things when the things of heaven are better in so many ways?
Mary Mallon was a very ordinary woman. She had the same desires as you and me. She was born in 1869, died in 1938, and because of that the career options opened to her were different, but the impulse was the same. She just wanted a better life.
She had been born in the aftermath of the Irish Potato Famine and emigrated to America like so many others. And, like so many others, that meant starting at the bottom – in the hot, wet, laborious job of the laundry. But she was hard-working and caring, and so, she slowly rose through the ranks of the servant ladder, until by the turn of the century, she was a cook – in effect the head servant for any family she that hired her.
Like any of us, she was driven by mixture of emotions. She had a desire to succeed; she had a fear of failure. After all, being stuck in a New York slum isn’t something I’d look forward to. In fact, the only man I knew whose ambition was to spend his life on such as those had been crucified 1900 years earlier. In short, I’d have to tell you, Mary Mallon was just like any one of us. She didn’t want to rock the boat; she didn’t need to the Queen. She just didn’t want to lose out on the American Dream.
Contrast that, if you will, with this morning’s text. I had promised you that we were going to get back to Daniel. Now, I suspect most of you have heard this story. I have the text in your bulletin, and I’d encourage you to read it, but I’m going to simply summarize the action this morning for you, if you’ll indulge me.
We begin where we left Daniel – uprooted from his conquered home and sent off to a Babylonian Boarding School – the Oxford and Eton of its day. There, they are going teach him what it means to succeed in their world. There they are going to accustom him to the decadent pleasures that are the reward of living by their rules.
The king wasn’t a fool. He knew that if he could convince these kids that they had a stake in his empire, he’d be well rewarded for their labors. So, just as a matter of course, he lets these kids eat his kingly food.
Now, if you’ve ever worked in an office, you know that every few days, somebody brings in donuts. If you’re really lucky, they bring in pizza. Only once have I ever seen somebody bring in tomatoes, and never anything healthier than that. Let’s face it, for a certain segment of the work world, that’s the real motivation for coming into work. I’ve wagered my bosses that you could cut a programmer’s salary by the cost of a pizza per week, but if you spent that money on a pizza a week for him and the whole office, he’d feel like he was getting a deal. That’s what this king was doing. He was simply giving out the leftovers as motivation. Not a bad system, even if it does play havoc with the old figure.
So, anyways, these kids are munching on the king’s leftovers – and sometimes are even invited to the table itself. Talk about great face time with the boss. It’s an opportunity to move up and fill out all at the same time. What’s not to like?
Well, Daniel found something not to like about it. He didn’t want to participate. Likewise, his buddies – you remember: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? They wanted no part of the system. So, very politely, Daniel talks to the guard.
He simply says, ‘I just don’t want to be a part of this.’
‘Are you trying to get me fired,’ the guard responds. ‘You know, if you don’t eat this, you’re going to look like I’m starving you and the king’s probably going to think that I’ve been stealing your portion! So, umm, no!’
Well, Daniel’s pretty reasonable, so he suggests a compromise. ‘What if we just try this out for a few days?’ You keep your caviar and your croissants; just give me some good old carrots and lettuce and cucumbers – maybe hold off on the bagged spinach. Let’s see how I look in a few days.’
And, so, the reasonable guard sees this as a reasonable request. If Daniel and his friends are bound and determined to miss out on this stuff, who is he to stop them?
Ten days pass, and per the terms of the deal the guard takes a look at them. Now, in those days, they didn’t read all those studies from the CDC – they just assumed that the better the food tasted, the better it was for you. Oh to live in those times, eh?