The people of the earth were all one, there were no linguistic barriers which could separate them. And they all worked together so that they could build this tower which could reach the heavens. But, because they were all one people, they mistakenly believed that they were able to build this tower, to reach the heavens, in absentia of God. They were so certain that they would be able to ascend to heaven on their own that they never sought the presence of the Lord, the creator of all. Think about all that that one statement implies. They believed that in their own power that they could ascend to, to achieve, this paradise on their own; thus they never decided to seek after the Lord. They believed that they could find peace, love, happiness, joy, security; all outside of the grace of God. It sounds disturbingly like our culture. The world teaches us continually that we don’t need God to be happy, to be “good.” And so it teaches us, with all of it’s demonic philosophies, that rather than seeking for paradise outside of ourselves, that happiness lies within us; that we need to look inside of ourselves to find happiness, to seek what we desire, rather than what the Lord desires for each of us. They even wrap it in religious garb, stating that we need to search for the us that we were created to be and then seek to achieve these standards, which they have influenced, within ourselves, turning away from the teachings of Christ and the Church.
And, how does the Lord respond to those who are building this tower? He comes down and confuses the languages, separating the nations. In so doing, He completely dissolves this false sense of unity that they have created amongst themselves. St Peter tells us that the Church itself is a “holy nation,” and a “royal priesthood.” (1 Peter 2:9). St Paul tells us that we “glorify God with one mouth” (Romans 15:6). In the Church prayers, we pray for the “union of all men,” but it is a union rooted in Christ, not in our ability as a people to be united on our own, in our own power. It is only through the grace of the Holy Trinity that we can truly become this “holy nation” glorifying God with “one mouth,” not through the will of men.
See, the people of Babylon sought to “build for ourselves a city and a tower, whose top will reach the Heaven, and let us make a name for ourselves.” Does this sound familiar at all? Rather than seeking the glory of the Lord, they sought to do all of these great accomplishments without Him, and therefore make a great name for themselves. Their rule, their decisions, their own power. All to suit their own pride. It’s this mindset of “I can be great and I refuse to share this glory with anyone, I want what I want and when I want it and no one can tell me otherwise.” And anyone with children will understand that this mindset can be ineffective at best, and extremely hazardous at worst.
And, honestly, this is the sense that we see permeate our culture so frequently. Even those things which could be considered “good.” We see these amazing philanthropic deeds done, but so done for the glory of those doing them. We see political leaders coming up with plans to achieve unity, but always for their own glory. We see presidents fighting for the unborn sacrificed on the altar of convenience, but always with the slant of painting themselves to be these noble warriors. And yet, these plans so often falter, and not because of their surface cause, but rather because of the source of the deeds. When a celebrity gives to a charitable cause, it is a great thing, but the moment it becomes a P.R. bid, it is tempered with the opinion of the public, because the act itself is tempered with vainglory. My brother took an ethics class where the teacher taught that “there is no such thing as a selfless deed,” and in absentia of the love of Christ I would definitely agree with this statement. An atheistic society will never care for the welfare of those in need unless it derives something from it, usually in the form of the glory that comes from the image of caring for those in need. It is only when the help is given from a true love of neighbor and God that the deed can become truly selfless; when there are no photos posted of pouring a bowl of soup to feed the hungry. Reading of Holy Scripture itself becomes tainted when it is posted on social media for the purpose of showing to everyone how pious one truly is. Packing backpacks for those in need becomes an outward display of compassion for the sake of vainglory when photos are posted showing the time and effort the family has put into so doing. Jesus teaches us that when you give, “never allow your right hand to know what your left is doing.” I saw a quote recently that I loved, it said, “feeding the poor is great, but the first time you display photos of it, it is no longer the poor you are feeding, but your own ego.”
See, all too often we do something which is, in itself good, but we do it for the wrong reasons. We rely on ourselves for far too many things, because our own personal agenda will never allow us to relinquish control. The Lord divided this false unity in Babel, not because their goal was to reach Heaven, but because their goal was to reach Heaven without Him. He divided this false unity so that man would seek and find Him, rather than relying on their own goals and plans. And so often in our own lives, He does the same with each of us. We claim to believe in Him, to trust in Him, but when it’s all on the line, do we trust Him? Do we cast our anxieties, our worries and fears, our stress, on Him? Or, do we allow the doubt of our unbelief to have dominion over our lives? Do we allow despondency to overcome us when the cards are stacked against us? Do we give quarter to the sins of self-reliance, autonomy and pride? Or do we cast our cares upon Him, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that He will provide what is needed in our lives, nothing more and nothing less.
Christ is in our midst.