Read Genesis 11:1-9
In our lives we are all faced with decisions about who we are, what we do, and what we want to leave behind. Whenever we are confronted with the thought that one day we may be gone, or changed, or old, or ineffective, we wonder, “How will people remember us?” “What will we have accomplished in life?”
This is why the story of the Tower of Babel is appropriate both for Pentecost and for Graduate Sunday. The passage calls us to examine our reason for doing what we do. It exposes the underlying cause for building monuments (to ourselves or to others). But even more importantly, the passage reveals to us how to face the future with peace in our heart, living God’s plan for us.
God’s decision for humanity was that they should spread abroad throughout the earth. But humanity stayed together for their safety and protection and self-preservation. They felt that venturing forth across the earth was dangerous.
So they did what they wanted, which was not what God wanted. This made them feel secure. They lived together and built a monument as a testimony to the power of living together. Is that a bad thing??
It wasn’t that building the tower was wrong. It was their disobedience to God’s sending forth to spread out across the land. And as they grew comfortable together, not venturing out, they grew arrogant, rebellious, and prideful. As my 12th grade history teacher, Mrs. Kellett used to say, “the civilization grew fat and happy.” And so in their moment of yawning and wondering about life, they built a tower. The problem was disobedience. God sent them abroad to impact the world, but they stayed in one place and just tried to build something big…rather than be something big.
These people could not conceive of blessing and security coming as a result of being sent out into the world, even though God commanded it. They felt most secure when they were living close together. They saw the future as brighter when they could leave a monument to their success.
But God said, no…I want you to venture out…take risks…populate the earth…depend on me…not on your own strength.
Mark Twain once said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
We are called to trust in God. To listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. To not become complacent, fat and happy, but to heed God’s call to spread out across the world to impact the world for God. We do this not for ourselves and our own lasting memories…but to be a part of God’s plan of salvation and grace to a world in need.
We are not being called to be everyone else. We are called to be ourselves. The selves God created us to be.
“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” ~e.e. cummings, 1955