Summary: God is a God who comes down to us... to move us out.
Title: What Happens When the “Self” Meets God? (The self-reliant, the self-important, and the self-centered)
Text: Genesis 11:1-9
Thesis: God is a God who comes down to us… to move us out!
Last weekend Bonnie and I were in Charlotte, North Carolina visiting Bonnie’s parents.
Here in metro Denver, when we decide to go into the city we say we are going downtown. But in Charlotte, when you go into the city you say you are going uptown. My father-in-law told me a bit of history, which I later confirmed on Wikipedia. The city of Charlotte was built on a long rise between the intersection of two Native American trading routes, theYadkin and Catawba Rivers… so, in that Charlotte was not built “down by the river,” one does not go down to Charlotte, one goes up to Charlotte.
While driving through uptown, Dad Payne pointed out the tallest building in the city, which is the 60 story Bank of America Corporate Center. In an aside he added, “It won’t be the tallest building for long. Donald Trump is planning to build a new 60 – plus story Trump Tower on the southern edge of downtown (uptown).”
I did some looking online and found that the tower is actually going to be a complex of luxury condos, a five-star hotel, and an office tower which will include ground floor retail shops and restaurants. (WSOCTV.com, May 18,2007)
However, the proposed Trump Tower of Uptown Charlotte is a low-rise when compared to the Dubai Marina Murjan Tower being built in the United Arab Emirate, which when completed will be 200 stories tall.
The need to be the biggest and best or to build the tallest is not a new phenomenon. People have always had large egos and many have an exaggerated sense of self and importance.
That’s why people buy big SUVs and fast cars. That’s why Sylvester Stallone needs growth hormones when he’s sixty years old. That’s why the Rocky Mountain News headline on May 11, 2007 read, Carmelo Moves into a New Crib… Carmelo’s new crib is a 25,000 square foot, Tuscan style mansion that cost nearly twelve million dollars. Realtors point out that it was a bargain because if it were in Cherry Hills, it would have sold for thirty million dollars.
Our bible story today is set in what we now know as southern Iraq. It was Babylonia than and the city was likely Babylon. It was a primeval time… the story rises from the earliest accounts of human history. So, the urge to live large is not a new phenomenon.
People have always had an exaggerated sense of self-reliance and power.
I. The people of Babel were self-reliant.
“Come,” they said, “let us make great piles of burnt brick and mortar. Let us build a great city with a tower that reaches to the skies…” Genesis 11:3-4
Those are the words of the first urban developers and economic planners. Those words set the stage for the first urban sprawl and the first complex of luxury condominiums, a five-star hotel, and a ground-floor retail and restaurant center beneath the first office tower.
Given the fact that we know how this story ends, we can gather from the tone that the words “let us make” and “let us build” were not particularly pleasing to God whose desire for them was that they, “multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” Genesis 1:28
It is apparent that they were moving ahead with their own plans without giving a thought to what God might want them to do. While none of us is likely to ever set out to build a tower that will reach to the heavens… we would be wise to consider the counsel of Scripture.
Let me share with you some wisdom from James 4:13-15. Look here, you people who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and we will stay there for a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what will happen tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog… here a little while and then it’s gone. You ought to say, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Other-wise you will be boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.
In my reading this week I came across a statement that rings true even today. “Jesus’ message fell on the deaf ears of the rich, the powerful, and the complacent. It didn’t take long for people to discover that the good news was only good if you were the last, the least, or the lowest.” (Gipprich and Wicks, Handbook of Spirituality for Ministers, P. 109)
When we have great health, the opportunity and means to do what we want, money in the bank or room on our credit card, and a great big pile of bricks and mortar… who needs God’s guidance? Who needs to trust God? But when life unravels… who does not need God?