When we went over this upcoming series with some of the youth leaders, I could almost hear the look on their faces, “Babel? Seriously?” And if I were them, I would’ve thought the same thing.
But… yes, seriously.
Look around you, right now. What are you staring at? If you’re being honest, you’re looking at a 2-Dimensional screen. “Anne, are you saying that technology is a useful tool? That even though the youth leaders judge me for texting so much, I can do good things with technology? That… even though I may get arthritis in my hands, the arthritis is done for the good Lord Himself?” Why yes, yes I am.
Back in the day–and really… back in the day, the Israelites had this grand plan to use bricks for something not-so-useful. Check it all out in Genesis 11:1-9.. It goes like this.
At one time all the people in the world spoke the same language and used the same words. As the people migrated to the east, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there. They began saying to each other, “Let’s make bricks and harden them with fire.” (In this region, people used bricks instead of stone, and tar for mortar.) Then they said, “Come let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.”
But the LORD came down to look at the city and the tower that the people were building. “Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.”
In that way, the LORD scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city. That is why the city was called Babel, because that is where the LORD confused the people with different languages. In this way he scattered them all over the world.
The thing is, although the tower of Babel, bricks, and cell phones don’t seemingly have anything in common–the intent of the people is certainly similar with our intents today. Yes, the tools are different. Yes, the “same language” thing was different. But, humans haven’t really changed all that much.
And some of you are thinking (or maybe not, but let’s just pretend like you are), “The Bible doesn’t say anything about technology. If you are about to twist something and make it about technology, I’m out of here.” And… you’re right. The Bible does not say, “Thou shall not text,” or “take up your technology and follow me.” Nope. Sure doesn’t.
If we were talking about technology from the 1980s (most of you weren’t even born then… weird), we’d be referring to car-mounted mobile phones or cable TV or boom boxes with CD and cassette players. Fax machines may have even been a “big” subject. If we were talking about technology from the 1990s, we would have conversations about internet, cell phones and email. If we just looked at technology from the 2000s, it’s smart phones, Wii, and Facebook. Even today as I mention those, it seems like technology is becoming obsolete, making room for what’s next.
The point is, God provided Israel with materials: bricks. Then He gave people the knowledge to know how to make them. And the people used these bricks to do lots of good things–build houses, buildings, and things that were useful and helpful. But–in the story, they also used bricks to do something God was not on board with. They used them to build a tower–to show their strength and their power–to try to show up God. So were these bricks bad? No. Were these eeeevil bricks? No. So what about these bricks caused God to create confusion among the–uh–Babel-ers?
What does a brick have in common with your cell phone?
A lot more than you might think.
Think through all the things you can do with your cell phone. Let’s even say that you have one of those retro-Nokia phones that only makes calls (can you imagine?). Think about the power you hold in your hands just by having that. With your Nokia phone, you have the power to break up, hurt, destroy, encourage, supply, demand, and retaliate. You can call anyone in the country (or world if you pay 15.99 extra). You can text someone (maybe). There’s a lot you can do with your phone.
And although you probably won’t build a tower with it, you can do a lot of things. Did God make this phone? No, but God gave us the materials to make it and even the components of man-made materials. God didn’t make the bricks in Babel, either, but like He did then, and like He does now, He gives men and women the ability to create, and He gives them intelligence and creativity to design this phone or that brick and make it work.
And here is how we are just like the people of Babel. We have a choice. We can use our tools for something useful, or we can use them for something meaningless. We can let technology motivate, or God motivate. No matter what relationship we have with technology, all of us have to ask ourselves that question. What will we do with what we’ve been given? Use it for great good? Or use it to destroy?
Over the next few weeks, hopefully, we will purposefully use it for GOOD. What do you think? What are some ways you can use technology for good?