They were increasing in numbers and space was in short supply. So they ventured away from where they were and came to the plains of Shinar. There, they decided to build a city with a tower “with its top in the heavens”. It would be so iconic that their reputation would be known throughout the world. It would trump the city Cain built and called Enoch.
“Let us make a name for ourselves” was the ambition of a few, but “lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth” was a much a better sound bit, a more acceptable justification for the monumental building project to the masses. Having themselves sojourned for a period of time, and being familiar with the challenges of survival, choosing safety in numbers seemed most sensible, especially to the weak and timid. These were destined to the working middle class that will shoulder the construction of the city. Despotism for the few, or the one, implies slavery and all its unnumbered ills for the many.
The story of the Tower of Babel might be fondly remembered because it was here where nations and languages were created. But let us not miss the point. This is also where Mankind’s urge for self-glorification became evident.God was furthest from their minds. At least, Eve, because she wanted to be like God knowing good and evil, ate from the Forbidden Tree. Eve taught us to improve ourselves through acquiring knowledge. Cain and the people at Babel taught us to build things: statues, empires, companies, and…churches, to promote ourselves.
In his article, Platform: why a culture of self-promotion threatens to throttle the church, he says that “Christianity is, it turns out, a magnificent cover story for selfish ambition.” Many pastors seem to have taken a page (or a few) out of Michael Hyatt’s best-selling book Platform in which he gives tips on how to raise your own profile, make your content more sought-after, and ultimately see your bank balance adjust accordingly.
Leaders, (pastors included) will have to take up platforms and be noticed by many – even millions, thanks to the Internet and social media. “Being notice,” Eugene Peterson warns, “easily develops into wanting to be noticed.”
We need leaders who genuinely prefer one another; who seek to build each other up rather than jostle for position, who replace self-promotion with submission (to God, of course).