Northwest Barrie United Church
One of my favourite Bible stories when I was a kid was the story of the Tower of Babel. If you want to find it, start reading from the very beginning and you’ll get to it before you finish your coffee. I think I really only liked it because I had a creative Sunday school teacher who brought in empty boxes so we could actually build a tower. Stories are always more effective with props. In the story, this ancient community of people in a town called Babel, start to build a tower. As the tower gets bigger, so do the aspirations of its builders. “Maybe we can make it even bigger than God”, they delightfully proclaim. God happened to overhear them, and decided to call their bluff. With a stroke of God’s mighty hand, God knocked down the tower, scattered the builders, and mixed up their languages so that they would never be able to communicate again, and thus never get together to create another tower to rival the power of the Almighty.
It’s quite a story. Having said that, I have to say that God never comes off looking good in these Old Testament stories. I mean who hasn’t engaged in a little trash talk while caught up in the heat of competition? Not to question God’s judgement, but perhaps a stern warning or a “strike one” would have been just as effective in getting things under control.
Regardless, the story offers a nice and tidy way to account for the different cultures and languages of the world. I’m pretty sure there was more to it than that, but like any story, it offers a creative way to plug in our own story. It also offers us a lesson without getting all preachy about it. In this case, it’s a story about the pitfalls of pride. Human pride has always been a barrier to progress in the world. Whether building towers, or building relationships, when we lose sight of our purpose and replace it with a desire for personal gain or glory, something usually comes tumbling down.
There is nothing wrong with wanting the best of whatever we aspire to build. Ambition has always fueled human endeavour. But when it comes at the expense of broken trust, or when it clouds our vision or our judgement, or when it results in the tumbling down of common interests, then perhaps we need to stop building before we reach that point. Skyscrapers are overrated anyway. I’d rather share an average view with friends, then a spectacular view alone.
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