Well, I hope that title draws you in as you may ask, “What on earth are you talking about?” Allow me to explain. And before I explain, I ask that you open your heart to God and ask Him if any of this applies to you and what it is that He would have you do about it.
The story of the tower of Babel is found in Genesis 11. Most Christians are familiar with this story, but the brief recap found in chapter 11 is that the earth all spoke one language, the people were migrating, they came to the land of Shinar, settled there, and decided to build a city for themselves and a tower that would reach up to heaven. Their motive for doing so is found in verse 4, “…lest we be dispersed over the face of the earth.” Well, we know how the story plays out: God sees what they are doing, so He stops them in their tracks by confusing their languages so that they could not effectively communicate with one another, thereby frustrating them, and causing them to disperse over the face of the earth. Problem solved. And the Bible moves on from there to another story.
But to understand the full implications of what these people were doing, and how it was such an affront to God, we have to understand some basic biblical theology. Don’t get scared by such a word. It simply means the study of God in the Bible. As Christians, we should all be theologians, that is, we should all be ones who study God.
So, what does biblical theology have to do with this crazy story of the tower of Babel? And how does that story relate to the church today? Let’s see…
God created man for what purpose? For His glory. God gave man the stamp of His image. And God gave man the mandate of being His representatives over all the earth. In other words, just as God was reigning over the Heavens and the Earth, man was to reign over the earth as God’s vice-regents – rulers under God who represented God and His rule. He was given the clear role and commandment to “be fruitful and multiply…to fill the earth and subdue it.” This was not a command for mere population sake, but rather a command to make the message of God, the truth of who He is, His rule and His reign, known throughout the ends of the earth. God’s ultimate purpose is that His glory is made known to every living being on the face of the earth. He could have accomplished this in a number of ways, but in His infinite wisdom, He decided the best way to do this is to have man, who is made in His image, carry (take with them, bring along, proclaim afar) His glory to all known places. The more people know of God and worship Him, the more glory He receives from all living beings.
Therefore, the command that God gave to the first man and woman is very important. How will people know of His goodness, love, and truth if man disobeys that command and decides not to carry His glory to the ends of the earth? God’s glory is at stake if man decides to disobey this command.
So, jumping back to the story of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11, there is a very important phrase that is repeated a couple of times: “dispersed over the face of the earth”. Remember, God’s command, so that His glory can reach all people, is that Adam’s descendants do disperse themselves over the face of the earth. Yet, in a place in Scripture where we see the wickedness of man abound, what is the reason why the people decided to settle in the land of Shinar? There are 2 reasons that are given that show how clearly rebellious and wicked they were acting in deciding to build a city and a tower.
In speaking of the people’s motives, verse 4 says, “…let us make a name for ourselves…” Right there, there is a huge problem. Remember our lesson in Biblical theology. What was man created for? To make the name of God known to all people, not to make their name known. They were to represent God’s agenda, not their own. They were to proclaim His glory, not their own glory. At the end of the day, their role and purpose in all they did was to cause the people around them to say, “How awesome is the Lord!”, not “How awesome are you!” So, in wanting to make a name for themselves at Shinar, they were directly saying to God, “We want life to be about us, not you. We want people to look at our lives and marvel at our success and glory in us for what we have accomplished.” This was a direct affront to God and His glory being made known among people. Is. 42:8 says, “I am the Lord. I will not share my glory with another.” They were trying to be robbers of God’s glory. Very dangerous.
The other motive that the people at Shinar had for building a city and a tower is also found in verse 4, “…lest we be dispersed over the whole earth.” Again, a direct rebellion against the original plan of God. What was God’s original design and purpose of man? To be the image bearer of God, to be His representative on the earth. What was God’s mandate given to man so that man’s purpose would be fulfilled? Disperse over the earth. Fill it. Populate it in all places. Carry the glory of God to all places far and near. So, God’s design and command is for man to disperse over all the earth, yet man comes to Shinar and says, “Let’s build for ourselves a great name and a great city with a huge tower that reaches up to heaven, so that we will not be dispersed over all the earth! What a direct rebellion against the living God.
Essentially, man wanted to make life about himself instead of God. He wanted to stay comfortable in his own place with his own special way of worshiping God (building a tower that reaches up to God). He wanted to just be content and do his own thing. But all of this was in direct rebellion against His maker and creator who told him that His primary purpose was to carry the glory of God to all places and to all people.
So, how does the church in the United States fit into this? Well, sadly many of the ideas and methods of the church focus more on man, man’s glory, and man’s contentment in life more so than being focused on carrying the glory of God to all places far and wide. I am not saying all of the church is like this, or that all Christians in the U.S. think and live like this, so please don’t blast me with hateful comments and all that. But I am saying that some of the church and some Christians are doing the same thing that the people in Shinar sought to do. They are more focused on making their own name great and successful, whether it be the Christian man who focuses way more on the success of his job than he does on living for and proclaiming Christ, or whether it be the church that spends all of its efforts to brand itself in such a way that many come and marvel at how awesome the church is, with all of its bells and whistles, but in all of that, don’t seem to marvel much at God because God’s glory has not been the central focus of the church. The seeking of, living for, and proclaiming of God’s glory has been lost by many. And it has often been replaced by the “me-ism” mentality. What’s in it for me? How can I make myself successful? I just want to leave my mark on the world. I just want to be comfortable and happy, etc.
Yes, I am a missionary, and therefore am sharing this message from the perspective of world missions. But let’s get something straight. If you think about it, God created man, in a sense, to be a missionary, to be one who is sent to every place far and wide and carry the message of God and His glory to all peoples everywhere. So, this message does not apply just to the “sold out” special ones who are specifically “called”, and not to the “regular joes” who have yet had such an awakening. That’s nonsense, really. We in the church have even mystified “the call” far too much and this has justified many from feeling like they don’t really have to be the ones to do those things because they have not heard that “divine call”. I won’t go off on that tangent on this post, maybe another time. But suffice it to say, if you are a Bible believing Christian, you indeed are called by God to be His vice regent, His ambassador on this earth. That means that your life is to be all about carrying and proclaiming His glory wherever you go, whether that is at the corporate office, the auto body shop that you own, the Starbucks where you work, the home that you construct, the home that you maintain for your family, or the country and people group that you work among. It is all for the same purpose: Proclaim the goodness and glory of God. Live for Him. Tell His story. Spend your life in His service. Occupy your mind, thoughts, and bank accounts on how you can be used to bring the glory of God to places all over the place. That is how God made us to live…to know Him and to make Him known.
Do you own a pet? Or two? I love animals. The first thing we want to do when we return to Ecuador is get a dog. They are awesome! But do you love your pet too much? Do you love your pet more than the lost people of the world who are sinking into a Christ-less eternity because the Gospel has not reached them? You can easily respond, “No way!”, but statistics tell a different reply for many. What if I told you that the average Bible believing Christian spends more money on their pets each month than they do on giving money to the cause of missions? What if I told you that many Christian believers spent more money last year on their pet’s Halloween costume than they did on giving money to missions that specifically target unreached people groups? Jesus said in Mat. 6:21 “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Our treasures are easily defined…those things into which we invest the most time, money, and effort. That is what we treasure most.
Again, I love pets and believe that God gives us all animals to enjoy and love, so this is not a dig against having pets. Don’t send PETA after me, please. This has nothing to do with pets, really. I can insert any other thing in place of pets. Do you love your morning Starbucks double mocha latte chill every morning? Can it be that many American Christians spend more on their coffee than they do on giving towards the cause of the Gospel? But its also not merely about coffee or other purchases. It can also be about time invested. Do you spend more time planning your weekend trips to the lake than you do seeking opportunities to tell another about the glory of God? But, this is not even about things, places, or recreational interests.
One can still have and do those things and live for and proclaim the glory of God. Tell me: “Yes, I have 3 little dogs who I love so much. They are my babies. I love to care for them and spoil them from time to time. But I also support 3 missionaries monthly. They too are my babies and I try to spoil them from time to time.” Tell me, “We always had a dream of having a lake house. We prayed about it and believed that God wanted us to have it. When we bought the house, we consecrated it to God. We asked that He would use the house for His purposes. Since then, we have had countless couples come and enjoy it with us where we have had so many opportunities to share the Gospel with people and proclaim the glory of God. We have also allowed missionaries on furlough to use our place whenever needed. They have told us what a blessing it was for them.”
So, you see, this really isn’t about things or interests, but rather this is a call for us to examine our lives and see where our priorities lie. Are we actively living out the original mandate given by God to all of His people? Are we being intentional with our time, efforts, and money on seeing the glory of God reach all people everywhere? Or have we gotten too comfortable and started thinking that life in Shinar would be great; that we could be recognized by our successes, that we could have our special relationship with God, and that we could be content right where we are, enjoy the good life, and not think about going anywhere. “Where your treasure is, there also your heart will be.” The people of Shinar invested a lot of time, effort, and resources into making bricks to build that city and tower. Their treasure was defined by what they spent their time, money, and effort on.
Christian, let me ask you…Where is your treasure? The real answer of that is not found in your immediate response, for we all want to think the best of ourselves and say, “I treasure Jesus Christ.” But the answer will be found as you look at three things: First, examine your motives for what you do. Whose glory are you seeking to represent? Is it your name and your mark that you are wanting to leave on the world? Or is your consuming desire that Christ will be made much of through all you do? That people will see your life and want to honor and glorify God as a result? Second, examine your schedule and see what fills it up. Is it filled with activities and appointments that don’t really have eternal value? Or can you see in your schedule over the last few weeks where you have given time over to being intentional about the cause of God’s glory being made known both far and wide? Have you gotten together with another Christian brother or sister and prayed for one another and sought to encourage one another to keep Christ at the center? Have you spent any time praying specifically that the message of the Gospel would reach places far and wide? Have you written an email to a missionary letting them know that they are being prayed for? Have you spent time reading any Christian books that help keep you focused on the main thing? Lastly, look at your checkbook or on-line banking records. What are you spending your money on? Do you give towards any mission or missionary? Do you seek to give God whatever you can so that the message of the glory of God can reach many more places? Do you give the minimal leftovers of your paycheck or do you intentionally look for ways where you can give towards the cause of the message of the Gospel? These things tell us the true story of what we treasure most.
One thing I am sure of, we all have room to grow in these areas. May God grip our hearts in such a way that His glory becomes our driving focus in how we spend our time, money, and resources. For this is the purpose for which He made us…to know Him, to treasure Him above all, and to make His name known throughout the ends of the earth. Let’s live for this greatest purpose!