And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11:1-4)
I’m sure many of you recognise these verses as the beginning of the account of the Tower of Babel. God had commanded the people to spread out across the whole earth, but they had settled in one place and started to build a great tower. God saw this and made them speak different languages so that they could no longer understand one another and were forced to move apart and settle in different parts of the earth.
Recently, I was struck by a phrase in these verses which I had never noticed before, which gives us an insight into what was motivating the people in building this tower, and why God was displeased with what He saw. The people said, “let us make us a name”. There was nothing wrong with building the tower itself. But in building this great tower, their desire was that they should make a name for themselves, that they would be known, renowned, famous for their own achievements. God knew that this was what was in their hearts as they were building. Their desire was to do their own thing and get themselves glory, rather than following God’s command and giving Him the glory for the gifts He had given them. This attitude of rebellion and the desire for glory in their hearts was the reason for God’s anger and why He scattered the people by confusing their language.
There is a lesson for us here. How often is your motivation to make a name for yourself? You want people to think well of you in one way or another. Perhaps it’s at school, in exams or at work and you put in a lot of effort to do well and be noticed. Perhaps you’re helping other people, but your real motivation is not love for them, but your desire to be seen as a helpful person. Perhaps you volunteer for charity, or help an ederly neighbour – these are good things to do, but deep down you’re doing it because it will make others think well of you.
“Let us make us a name”. In reading and noticing this phrase for the first time, it brought a deeper meaning to the account of the Tower of Babel and a challenge to me as I looked into my heart at my motives. God sees our hearts, He knows our thoughts and what motivates us. I am not suggesting that we should not work hard or do good things, but we do need to watch what our motives are and pray that God will keep us from doing things out of a desire for our own glory. Rather, where God has given us gifts, abilities and the opportunities to use them, we should seek to do so to the best of our ability for His glory, giving thanks to Him for them.[A00140 – 14/09/2020]