Review: Job-Shadowing Daniel

By David Gill, reprinted from The 313.

Larry Peabody is an important contributor to the workplace discipleship/faith at work movement. His own long career includes working for state government agencies for eleven years, seventeen years running his own business, eight years as bi-vocational pastor of a church plant, and thirteen years as a full-time senior pastor. He has seen workplace discipleship from all sides and that shows in his several books, starting with Serving Christ in the Workplace (1974).

Job-Shadowing Daniel is a delightful, insightful book I would recommend without hesitation to any reader. Like my friend Al Erisman’s The Accidental Executive: Lessons on Business, Faith, and Calling from the Life of Joseph (reviewed in “the313” August 2020), Job-Shadowing Daniel draws its insights for faith at work by exploring the stories of a biblical character’s work life. Like Joseph in Egypt, Daniel in Babylon is not working as a religious leader but as an administrator in a pagan government. For seventy years Daniel worked as a follower of God in a challenging environment. How did he do it?

Peabody describes how Daniel, rudely carried away from his Jerusalem home to Babylonian captivity, didn’t pout around or whine about his victimization. He threw himself whole-heartedly into his work for the Babylonian government. To maintain a clear conscience about his religious food laws he persuaded the boss to give him a trial run with his kosher diet – rather than just making an abrupt refusal of standard Babylonian fare. Daniel and his three friends out-performed the other trainees. Peabody shows how Daniel saw the big picture and lived in hope. He was firm in his identity as a child of God and kept his heart focused on God. Peabody underscores Daniel’s practice of community with his three friends – he didn’t go it alone. He kept spiritually fit with his lifetime practice of daily prayers. He carried out work that mirrored and honored God – even being appointed as administrator over one-third of Babylon’s provinces at one point. It was not just about making money to donate to the church/temple. The work itself was valuable and godly.

Peabody deftly goes through the Book of Daniel and finds workplace discipleship lessons everywhere. Few faith at work authors have as broad and deep knowledge of the whole of Scripture as Peabody, who illuminates Daniel with citations from Genesis to Revelation. This book makes for a great group study for Christians from high school to retirement ages. The only thing I thought Peabody might have added is how one of Daniel’s major, recurring contributions to his bosses was helping them see the future. Obviously, Daniel did this most spectacularly through his interpretation of dreams. We will more than likely not do that kind of dream interpretation (!) – but still – we are called to be “the watchman on the wall” as Ezekiel states it, seeing coming events, threats, opportunities. Isn’t that something biblical wisdom and prophetic faithfulness should lead us to bring to work? We don’t just live and work for the moment, not for quarterly returns alone. We take a longer view of things, considering the possible/probable consequences and impacts of our work. We even look at the characteristics of the ultimate, coming Day of the Lord and try now to “live as in the Day” (Romans 13:1-14). Daniel brought that kind of wisdom and insight to work.

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