“And they said, 'Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves...'” Genesis 11:4
These past few weeks I have been devoting some of my time to studying the history of our educational system and how it has been transformed by the ideals, theories, and quests of man. What I had originally thought was going to be a wonderful and relaxing experience that would prepare me for my upcoming run for my local school board has become, over these past few weeks, anything but. The more and more I learn and try to come to grips with the ways humans have taken the simple act of teaching a child the basic skills needed for pursuing a lifelong interest in learning and growing in knowledge, the more frustrated I become. The reality I am discovering is that over a very short period of time our country and those who have been given power over our educational system have taken this simple and noteworthy task of teaching a child simple basic skills and turned it into a struggle for power and notoriety in which the child himself (as well at times the teachers and administrators too) has become just a pawn in their rise to the top.
I guess what I am learning should not surprise me. From the beginning of time humans have always found themselves in conflicts over positions of power and notoriety. Take for instance the tower of Babel which is referenced in the verse above from the book of Genesis. The pride of these individuals drove them to create something they saw as awesome in their own eyes. But, their main problem was they didn't take into account the consequences of their actions or the long-term ramifications of what they were about to do. These early people were so focused on creating something great, they became lost in the concept and their own skewed perception of what was right. In essence, they forgot the most basic truth – the truth that God alone chose who was in heaven and they could not work their way in or ever become greater than Him.
Maybe all of the pursuits of man for greatness really do boil down to that one simple truth – We desire heaven without having to go through God. Our prideful nature seeks to find purpose without Him and therefore those who follow that road of self directed greatness (no matter now humble they make it look) have turned their activities in building blocks in their own towers of Babel. These individuals may have a passion to clean up our planet, feed the poor, rescue an endangered species, or plant gardens in the city, but what is the source of that passion? Is it self-directed or God-directed? Don't get me wrong, these pursuits I just listed and many more in themselves are wonderful acts of mercy and kindness toward our fellow man and there is nothing wrong in doing any or all of them. But when activities of any sort are done with the underlying purpose of self, then they are done out of pride and they are sinful before the Lord.
How then can we keep our focus on what is right and what will bring us to the point where God can take us and use us for wonderful works of mercy, not to build our own kingdoms but rather to build up His kingdom and proclaim Him as Lord. Colossians gives us an insight on what we are to do in this area.
“...seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth...Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth...which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:1,2,5
Seeking God first, setting our mind on God's ways and His truth, and then letting our sinful desires for greatness apart from God be put to death until all we hope for us glory for Him and to be useful for His purposes. To live in this manner takes much concentration and much determination in fighting against the pride that lies inside the human heart and which wants to always turn around situations to give itself glory. The wonderful truth thought is that with the help of the Holy Spirit and the guiding truth of God's word, the Christian has the ability to rise above human pride and do things that do not create another meaningless, vain, and futile tower of Babel.
I still have a lot of reading to get in this month, and I know the history I have yet to cover will not encourage me any more about the decisions men and women have taken upon themselves in order to make their own form of human greatness. But in reading history, of any sort, I believe there is a silver lining to the many clouds we encounter if we look at the task with the willingness to learn and from God's perspective. If it has been a long time since you have studied any history, I would urge you to read something historical that is of interest to you. Also, historical novels are a great way to get excited about history if you feel that reading history in a non-fictional context would be too dry for you. The underlying premise of studying history for the Christian is that she must not forget where man has been, in biblical history and beyond, if she is to be wise in discerning where God is taking mankind in the future.
So, I read on with hope that there is a way for God to work, for Him to bring about healing to a place that is under so much man-made stresses, and for me to give Him glory without my need to bring glory to myself. I have made a choice to hope in the Lord, for His hope does not disappoint (Romans 5:5) like the plans of man do. I pray you too will chose to hope in God and His ways.