There is something deep within the heart of man driving us together. We need to belong. Like a bullet that doesn't care what it hits, our hearts seek belonging almost without restriction. We gather together in large crowds when we seek to be inspired, educated, entertained, politicized, instructed, buried, or married. Whether our motives are nefarious or generous we seek to be together in our efforts.
In Genesis 11 we are told that the whole earth was unified by a common language and in that unity humanity began to build a massive city. This drive deep within the human spirit to join together is capable of producing greatness…for good or evil. God took note of humanity’s accomplishment in Genesis 11, and apparently He did not think this great accomplishment was a good thing.
If we read this section of scripture as a stand alone narrative it can be a little confusing. There is nothing in the narrative to indicate anything terribly untoward, other than the profession of the men to build this city for themselves. Even this is qualified by connecting their efforts to a desire to stay together rather than be scattered throughout the earth.
However, if we read this account as connected to the larger narrative of scripture leading up to the building of the Tower of Babel we see that something is conspicuously missing from the desire of the children of men—God. The last time a world created by humanity came to fruition it was a world of violence, hatred, murder, depravity, and extreme wickedness. It was a world without God, and it was this world that prompted a do over from God in the form of a flood.
Unity is a powerful thing. We were made to be together. We were made to be with one another. We were made for community, for intimacy, for relationship, and together we can achieve greatness, but in order for that greatness to be life producing, it must be inspired by the only source for life. True greatness comes not when we build upon our unity, but rather when we are unified around our Builder.
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