1At one time the whole world spoke a single language and used the same words. 2As the people migrated eastward, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there. 3They began to talk about construction projects. “Come,” they said, “let’s make great piles of burnt brick and collect natural asphalt to use as mortar. 4Let’s build a great city with a tower that reaches to the skies—a monument to our greatness! This will bring us together and keep us from scattering all over the world.”
5But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6“Look!” he said. “If they can accomplish this when they have just begun to take advantage of their common language and political unity, just think of what they will do later. Nothing will be impossible for them! 7Come, let’s go down and give them different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.”
8In that way, the LORD scattered them all over the earth; and that ended the building of the city. 9That is why the city was called Babel, because it was there that the LORD confused the people by giving them many languages, thus scattering them across the earth. (Genesis 11:1-9, NLT)
Genesis 11 documents a pivotal scene in the advancement of the human race.
The text says that the people gathered together and began to talk about construction projects. The Lord responds by scattering the people, making them unable to accomplish their objective.
Is God against construction projects?
The first problem here is not that people are building things but that God’s stated command that people “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” wasn’t being fulfilled.
Instead, the people are congregating together.
It’s clear that some were aware of God’s mandate to fill the earth because it is stated that the reason they want to congregate together and build this tower is to “keep us from scattering all over the world.”
The second problem is that they were building “a monument to our greatness.”
There is no doubt that when people work together and put their minds to something, the possibilities of what can be accomplished are limitless. There is no end to the number of examples of human cooperation and ingenuity, including space exploration and sending astronauts to the moon, the development of vaccines and medication to combat disease, industrial and other technological inventions…the list goes on and on.
But one of the potential downsides of human ingenuity is the propensity of humankind to take credit for their achievements and forget the role God has played in our lives and in the universe. It’s as if the more we advance, the more enamored we become with ourselves. We become the center of our own universe as we begin to worship our achievements and magnify our greatness. In short, we become gods unto ourselves!
This is the ultimate form of idolatry and it’s rampant in our culture. Philosophically, secular humanism is the idea that puts man at the center of a society that excludes God. In a world without God, man becomes the ultimate authority on what is good and bad, what is right and wrong, and what is moral and immoral.
With people in control instead of God, what could go wrong?
God is not against construction projects and He’s not against people working together to advance human objectives, particularly those that benefit the common good. However, He IS against man making Himself god and putting himself at the center of the universe, a position that is exclusively reserved for God Himself.
What are some examples of humanistic philosophy have you seen in our culture today?
In what ways are you tempted to neglect God and “make a name for yourself?”
What steps or practices can you implement to ensure that God is at the center instead of you?