Marshmallow Test

Read: Daniel 1:1-21
Daniel was determined not to [eat] the food and wine given to [him] by the king (v.8).

You’re seated in a small room with a table in front of you. On the table is a tray of puffy white confections that most of us know and love— marshmallows. A man shows up and explains that he is going to leave the room for a few minutes. While he’s gone, you can ring a bell to summon him back and then eat a treat. Or you can wait until he returns and then receive two marshmallows. The test is supposed to measure a person’s ability to exchange short-term pleasure for a better long-term outcome.

Daniel decided to put off the pleasure of his “daily ration of food and wine” (v.5) from King Nebuchadnezzar’s kitchens in order to honor God. It’s likely that the king’s kitchens produced mountains of roast meat, loaves of warm bread, jugs of top-notch wine, and towers of cakes dripping with honey.

However, “Daniel was determined not to defile himself” by eating the king’s comfort food (v.8). Notice, Daniel was determined. As a captive in Babylonia, it must have been hard to say “please pass the spinach” when the king’s delicacies were being offered (v.12).

Some Bible commentaries present the idea that Daniel refused the food because it had been offered to idols, or that it was a way of staying separate from the Babylonian culture. Whatever the reason, Daniel’s self-restraint honored God. The Lord blessed the brave young man and his friends with aptitude in their Babylonian studies, and Daniel was able to interpret visions and dreams (v.17). What’s more, he and his fellow dieters looked healthier than the guys who feasted on the king’s food! (v.15).

The next time you face a test like Daniel, consider the long-term result of the immediate pleasure. Honoring God in this life is what matters most in the long run.

—Jennifer Shuldt

Taken from “Our Daily Journey”