They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “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 11:3-4
In our post-modern world, mankind has taken many a great technological leap. We can see vast distances across the universe and deep into the recesses of the earth. We have harnessed the power within the atom. We can even alter the human genome, the biological code that encapsulates our humanity.
Whether those are leaps forward or backward is a different issue. Sometimes we eagerly anticipate the advent of a new technology, looking forward to the new opportunities it will bring to our lives. Sometimes we are fearful of the impact those technologies may have – particularly in the hands of those we do not trust.
Importantly, this is not an issue unique to our time. In our text for today we see a scene from the earliest period of recorded history of human beings celebrating the invention of the brick. Those ancient people could have used those bricks to build homes, shops, or shelters for their animals. Instead, they decided to build a monument to their own arrogance, a tower to the heavens.
Any time there is a new technological advance, we, collectively, have to decide how we will use it. Our powers can be used to produce human flourishing, ease suffering, and wisely shepherd God’s creation. They can also be used to kill, maim, and destroy.
That question will forever be with us. Every time we gain new powers we must decide whether to devote those to Him or to ourselves. The encouraging thing about this text is, even in man’s misuse of His gifts, God does not leave us to our own devices. He reaches down to mercifully save us from our own folly. As the world changes faster and faster with each technological breakthrough, we can remain calm in the midst of the changes. Not because we think we will use that technology well or wisely, but because we can trust in the Lord to safeguard us from ourselves.