The Tower of Babel
The difficulty of our desire for glory.
by Zack Howard
The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11.1-9) is a compelling story about mankind, and the drive for personal glory over the glory of God. The story is small, but it’s a theme that still rings true today. In our lives we pine for recognition with what we do. Whether that’s recognition as a kid for the toys that we build or games that we win, or as an adult for the jobs we have and the projects we complete, we want to be recognized for all that we do. The people at Babel wanted the same, striving for glory in a city above all else.
Yet God punished the people for their actions, stating that nothing would be impossible for them if they continued. So what exactly is the problem?
1. We forget God when we only look at our own glory.
We can see from the people of Babel the desire for glory. These people are looking to have a city that will make a name for themselves (v.4—“Let us make a name for ourselves…”), and keep them all together. We see the problem arise when God comes to the tower—if man kept working the way they were, they would be able to do whatever they pleased. Because of this, they would forget their need for God’s guidance. God punishes the people by changing the one language they had, into many languages. Because of this, the people disperse across the world. We can have the same problem that these people had—forgetting God and looking for our own personal glory. We do this when we focus on the reputation we have and how we can make it bigger than who we are. This isn’t to say our reputation is not important—rather, we cannot look for our glory to be bigger than the glory we give to God. When we glorify ourselves, we effectively tell God we don’t need him. We must realize that this situation is not God feeling threatened by mankind’s ability. Rather, it is a story that shows God’s care for his creation and wanting the best for us.
2. Our trust needs to be in God’s goodness.
Because God so willingly provides for our needs (Phil. 4.19), we should be putting our trust in him. This doesn’t mean quitting our jobs and expecting him to send us provisions in a special way. Rather, this means we are not driven by worldly gain or material wealth. It means we put our focus and our trust in God’s care, and his plan for us. It means that we trust in his word, and his plan for us, knowing that if we follow what he has asked then he will bless us. Instead of being like the people in this story, we must put our full trust in God’s plan, and know that he will provide for us in ways we can’t imagine or understand.
The tower of Babel shows us that when we strive for our own glory, we forget God’s care for us. When we forget God’s care for us, we forget all he has done for us. We must commit our trust in God, so that we do not become like these people of Babel.