I used to be primarily a computer programmer. A friend of mine who knew that was into hacking satellite TV. This was when the satellite TV companies were getting smarter about beating those who were hacking the signals and getting free service. He wasn’t a programmer and was having to rely on what he found on-line in various forums to stay ahead of the companies. He asked if I would help him, since at the root of it was programming. He was very disappointed in me when I said, “No, I won’t do it.” Note I said won’t, not can’t. He caught that, too, and that was why he was disappointed. In his mind, what he was doing was okay. They were beaming the signal into his yard and he was just taking advantage of it. In my mind, it was stealing. Therefore, I couldn’t agree to what he was asking me to do.
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then 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 dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth. – Genesis 11:1-9, ESV
People had figured out masonry. As a result, they were able to create buildings far above simple huts. We know they were working on a ziggurat here, one far larger than ever before. In other words, they were building a monument to their knowledge, one that was supposed to challenge God. It was the same sin as we found in the Garden, man wanting to be like God. So they used their knowledge and they started building this massive structure. That’s when God decided He had seen enough.
We’re told God scattered people and caused the many languages to start to form. In other words, God was taking a divide and conquer strategy. Could God have dealt with everyone all at once? Sure, he could have. After all, He destroyed the earth with water in the Great Flood, right? We can see when we delve into eschatology that God can do the same thing with “fire.” But God didn’t take that approach. He didn’t smite all evil doers mightily. Rather, he dispersed them, to make it harder for people to get together to plan more sin, or at least sin that would pull in the multitudes. He put barriers in place to make it harder to get the sort of coordination and cooperation as what was seen at Babel. Like I said, He could have just wiped us off the map. He chose not to, for His redemptive plan was already in action.
The key takeaway here is that we all have gifts and we have a responsibility to use them wisely. We are to use them for God’s glory, not for evil. We are to use them to honor God, not ourselves. Sometimes, especially in ministry or service, that’s a fine line that cannot be determined by outward actions. Rather, it’s distinguished by the heart doing the actions. Yes, I might be good at engineering creative water management solutions (I’m not personally, but know folks who are, so this is hypothetical). I have the experience to get the job done and the desire to see the projects complete. God has gifted me in all of this. But when I sit down and figure out a way to get a remote village much needed water with a permanent solution, why am I doing it? Am I doing it so I can be patted on the back or am I doing it out of compassion and mercy for those who are in need? That’s what determines whether a gift is being used for His glory or for personal gain. So even when we feel we’re doing the right thing, we must examine our motives.
Have you considered how you are using your gifts? Are they being used to glorify God or are they being used for your own purposes? It’s easy to do the latter when we intended to do the former. As a musician, I can attest to being caught in that trap. If that’s the case, it’s something we need to confess and do something about. I know a gifted singer who took time off from being in the choir because he was facing this sort of battle in his life. People who heard him sing in the congregation couldn’t understand why he wasn’t using his gift in the choir. But few were willing to ask him about it. They assumed he was being selfish with his time. Quite the opposite! He did want to sing. But he knew that if he did sing, he would get caught in that cycle of singing for the praise he received, not to truly give praise to God. So he took time away. He worked with God on it. For four years he struggled before he felt it was okay for him to sing again. We need to be similarly minded. If our gifts will lead to sin, we need to take them before God and ask for His wisdom. Maybe we just need a different perspective. Maybe we need someone to hold us accountable. Or maybe we need time away where we work on maturing in our faith and our love with God. Whatever it takes, don’t let your gifts be used for sin.