In our text the people decided to build a city and a tower, but that wasn’t the problem. There’s nothing wrong with building, per se . . . the problems come from the reasons we build.
The end of chapter 10 tells us that the “nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood,” but then immediately we’re told that the people decided to settle down in one place. It seems they wanted to maintain linguistic, cultural, and ethnic homogeneity in opposition to the mandate God had given them. And they wanted the city and tower to represent their scientific and intellectual accomplishments.
“Look at what we’ve built.”
“Look at our intelligence.”
“Look at our accomplishments.”
They wanted to “make a name” for themselves, as the text points out.
Doesn’t it sound remarkably similar to the world we live in? The ziggurat we build might be a skyscraper downtown that celebrates the wealth we’ve accumulated. It might be the corner office we design or the car we drive or the house we live in that tells the world how important we are. It could be a diploma on the wall that we display as a not-so-subtle nod toward our intellectual achievement.
The problem isn’t the ziggurat or the city, though . . . God can be honored in what we build.
The problem is when we build to direct the attention toward ourselves, as if we’ve accomplished big things through our own ingenuity and intelligence.