What Are We Building?

They said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered across the face of the whole earth.”  (Genesis 11:4)

The Tower of Babel story from the Book of Genesis always reminds me of my attempts as a child to build the highest skyscraper I could, using Lego building bricks. No matter how high the tower, inevitably, it would come crashing down. Fortunately, I never believed that my value and purpose in the eyes of God depended on how high a tower I could build.

When some people talk about Christian discipleship, however, it is that same tower that comes to mind. By many, the life of discipleship is understood to be a matter of adding spiritual disciplines, one upon another, in an attempt to build our own towers of faith – and thereby, “making a name for ourselves” in the eyes of God and our neighbors.

But in the Scriptures, Jesus breaks this “builder” paradigm and brings us back down to earth. Discipleship, in a biblical sense, is not about working our way up to God, but recognizing that God, in Christ, has come down to us. The direction is not up, but down.

In Lego terms, real discipleship is when the Father comes to sit down on the floor filled with blocks, to build for his children. He invites us to participate in his project, rather than simply to play on our own. His work is collaborative, with each member of the body being added to his creation as a new brick. As Scripture says, “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).

Instead of towers, God builds us into vehicles – things that move – because his goal is to get us moving by faith!  We are a “holy priesthood” as Scripture says.  We become the cars and planes and boats that carry the promise of Christ and his forgiveness to suffering and hurting people, the very “vehicles” through which God acts in the lives of others.

Ironically, God often does his best work in the “scattering” rather than the “building.” He leads us out into the world in service to our neighbor – not to make a name for ourselves, but to give glory to His name. Through our acts of faith and service, we build no towers.  But we do get to take part in delivering His promise to a world in need of the Gospel.

– Rev. Steven E. King