tower to the gods

The Perils of Pride and Self-Sufficiency

Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth. — Genesis 11:4

Louis Sullivan, the inventor of the modern skyscraper, said, “The tall building … should be a proud and soaring thing that makes a powerful appeal to the architectural imagination.” Today, many people embody the same spirit of pride and self-sufficiency that is represented in the lofty towers that make up our cities. We focus on personal perfection. Many seek the pinnacle of age-defying beauty through creams, procedures or surgeries. Some become obsessed with fashion or feel that they must conform to some media-driven image. Over time, it becomes easier and easier to build monuments to ourselves. After all, as the famous ad says, “I’m worth it.”

The builders of the tower of Babel shared a key aspect of Sullivan’s vision of the tall building: pride. And they had one purpose: to build a name for themselves. They wanted to claim glory that rightly belonged to God—after all, they were worth it.

The longing to climb higher than God didn’t begin in Babel. Before time began, Lucifer said, “I will raise my throne above the stars of God” (Isaiah 14:13). It didn’t end with Babel, either. The pyramids of Egypt proclaim the power of the rulers buried beneath them. Many lives were lost in the building of the pyramids, “collateral damage” to the princes who built them. Often Egyptian slaves were killed when their masters died and were buried alongside them. But just as the Egyptian kings sacrificed everything to their own legacy, many today often sacrifice the good of those around them for fleeting recognition, not to mention the humble spirit God desires. The rulers of ancient Egypt were not all-powerful—they died the deaths of mere men. Don’t be deceived; your soul will not be saved by flawless skin or the perfect career any more than the towering mountains of stone raised over the mummies of kings saved them.

What do you take pride in? What keeps you from glorifying God? Has your focus become self-absorbed? Have you become self-glorifying? The solution is simple: Whatever is keeping you from God, give it to him for his glory. Let your relationship with Jesus be the source of your significance. When you humble yourself before God, you’ll be lifted up.

Article drawn from a devotional in the NIV Women’s Devotional Bible.

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