Building projects

The tower of Babel is a familiar story. At least, it’s one that people have heard of and know something about. When we talk about Genesis 11, we have to talk about what God had against the building project. The Lord’s protest is a bit vague. Most people assume the people sinned and God punished them for it. But the text doesn’t mention sin.

So, we’re left to question together what made this such a big deal. You can put pieces together to decide. Just recognize that’s what you’re doing. Again, according to the text, God’s complaint is that nothing will be impossible for them now.

Is God afraid of them? Is God worried their tower will reach the heavens? Of course not. Their probably four-story tower might not even impress you. The Lord has to “come down” just to see it. There’s no fear coming from God.

So, what was the issue?

Was it their pride? They wanted to build something for themselves. And the tower was their way of making a name for themselves. That seems worth considering. Someone once said, “Pride is the carbon monoxide of sin.” It’s the silent killer. If we’re not careful, we don’t realize how prideful we have become until it’s too late.

But again, the text doesn’t specifically mention pride.

Take a moment to reflect on another idea. It wasn’t enough to mention making bricks to use to build. But the text goes a step further to include that “they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.” That is, they relied on what they developed. Their tools became important to them.

The greatest line of commentary I’ve read related to this idea says, “God is less accessible in a man-made world.” In other words, when we rely on ourselves, we don’t need God. And that is more of reality about ourselves than we would like to believe or admit.

Speaking of man-made things, in building the tower were the people copying other faith traditions? Were they looking to incorporate pagan faith practices?

These are all helpful observations to consider. They allow us to self-examine our walk with God and even our church’s ministry. Let’s not think it’s impossible for churches to build their own towers today.

A final consideration I want us to think about together has to do with what happened before the tower. The text says that the “whole earth” settled in one place. Remember that God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Did the people get too comfortable? Was their settling a form of disobedience?

In this season of Pentecost, these are helpful questions.

Our tendency is to conserve which can limit who we are and what we do–depending on what we’re conserving. God’s tendency is to expand. God calls us to reach out beyond ourselves, beyond our desires and beyond our comforts. When we go with our tendencies, we’re prone to build more for ourselves. When we go with God, what we do is for the Lord’s glory alone.

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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