Many of us are familiar with the account of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9:
“Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.’ And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, ‘Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.’
“The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. The Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.’
“So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth, and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the earth.”
When I was in Sunday school classes as a child, the lesson my Bible teachers always taught me when they told me about the tower of Babel was that this is why there are so many different languages in the world today. Perhaps you were taught the same, and it is true. However, are there any other lessons we can learn from Genesis 11:1-9? Although the people we read about here built this tower for selfish purposes, there are still some valuable lessons we can learn from these ambitious people.
Keep in mind that there were several factors that contributed to the building of this tower besides selfishness. If we, the body of Christ, can adapt some of these characteristics which they had, imagine the things the church could accomplish!
For example, notice that Gen. 11:1 says, “Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words.” Imagine existing in a world where everyone spoke the same language and the same words. Imagine being part of a church where everyone “spoke the same language.” Is it possible for Christians to speak the same language? I would say it MUST be possible, because Paul commanded the Corinthians with the following words: “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10).
Friends, when it comes to matters of doctrine and matters of the faith, we must all speak the same thing. Why is this important?
Imagine two Christians were studying with a non-Christian. One Christian taught baptism for the forgiveness of sins…and the other taught it was not necessary to be baptized for salvation. Now imagine you’re the non-believer. What would you think? God proved that they could not build a tower when they could not speak the same thing. How can we build a church if we do not speak the same thing?
Notice the attitude of the people in Genesis 11:1-9. Although they were building the tower to make a name for themselves, notice that they were still WORKING TOGETHER. The short phrase “let us” is used three times in reference to the people. Also notice that the pronouns “we,” “they,” and “one another” are used. This tells us that there was not an individual who thought he was more dominant than the others. There was a sense of teamwork from these people.
In like manner, the church should function as a team. When everyone fulfills their role in the body of Christ, it can run like a well-oiled machine. As Paul said, “For the body is not one member, but many” (1 Cor. 12:14). Those people would not have been able to build that tower if they had not been working together. In the same way, we will not be able to build the church if we do not work together.
Do not forget that it took intervention from God himself to stop the building of that tower. God recognized the power of the people’s unity. He said, “Behold, they are ONE PEOPLE, and they all have THE SAME LANGUAGE. And this is what they began to do, and NOW NOTHING WHICH THEY PROPOSE TO DO WILL BE IMPOSSIBLE FOR THEM” (Gen. 11:6, emphasis added). There is an important lesson we can learn from this. When a group of people speak the same language and work as one in unity, they can accomplish anything.
With this in mind, Jesus told us, “…Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). When we work together as one in unity, all of us speaking the same things, we can go into all the world and preach the gospel. No wonder Jesus prayed that his followers have unity (John 17:20-23)!
My fellow Christians, what is our attitude when it comes to carrying out the work of the Lord? Do we speak the same thing? Do we work together? When we do these things, we can make great strides in the kingdom of the Lord. However, we must remember that everyone had to do their part for that tower to be built…and everyone has to do their part in order for the body of believers to grow. Remember that, unlike the people building that tower, we are not working in God’s kingdom to bring glory to ourselves. I encourage each of you to “let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Work to build up the body of Christ, not for your glory…but for the glory of God!
If those people long ago could build a tower for the wrong reasons and succeed until it took an act of God to stop them, what can we accomplish as children of God working for the right reasons? Let’s work together so the work of the Lord can go forward!