The Tower of Babel, Part 3: Ambition and Complacency

By Jacob Toman

This is the third and final piece in Gospel & Gaming’s series on the Tower of Babel: Genesis 11:1-9. Click here to check out the series intro, and here to read the second part of the series.

There is an advertising campaign for a satellite television network provider currently running that surrounds the family known as “The Settlers”. They are famous for “Settling” in many aspects of life as the family is over a hundred years behind the current times in their fashion, food, and choice in television provider.

The settlers have decided that it’s best to stick to the old way of doing things, not to be too risky or too adventurous, but rather to stay put where they are and settle. While this is a clever way of communicating “don’t settle for less” when it comes to a television network provider, imagine if the whole of humanity simply sat down and decided not to explore, expand, or experience creation.


Babel offers a challenge and a stern reminder that humanity isn’t to become complacent in creation, but rather remain curious and ambitious. We are to explore, expand, and use our curiosity to further experience creation:

27 So God created man in his own image,
   in the image of God he created him;
   male and female he created them.
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

The challenge of Babel is one that comes up every election cycle in the United States, but even more frequently (and perhaps poignantly) in your own life. The pit of over aggression and the pit of complacency border the path of pursuing God’s command of dominion for humanity, requiring us to seek balance between these two pitfalls.


Too ambitious

The people were ambitious for their own glory and purposes rather than for God’s. One of the tragedies of Babel is that there isn’t an individual King, dictator, or “bad guy”; the people of the plains of Shinar embraced a cultural narrative that proliferated their own priorities, and neglected the grand mission God has endowed.

In a way, the incident at Babel is a colossal failure of worship. The worship that was originally in place for humanity wasn't a particular ceremony or service, but rather life experienced in relationship with God and fulfilling the purpose he had given them. The people of the plains of Shinar lost sight of their purpose, and Babel serves as a harrowing tale to stay true to God's creational mandate. The life purpose of the people of Shinar wasn't to build for themselves a luxurious place to settle, but rather to have dominion over creation.

So on the one hand the people of the plains of Shinar were too ambitious for their own glory. On the other hand, though, they were far too complacent with the capabilities of humanity.


Too complacent

God’s original command for humanity is one of expansion and exploration. The people of the plains of Shinar did just the opposite: they gathered themselves into one spot, and would rather not risk life outside of the comfort of the culture, the climate, and the community they had created. They were doing more than abusing rest or recreation; they were passionately ignoring God's creative mandate. As a consequence God continued with his original intention to see humanity, his image bearers, spread out over the expanse of creation.

The people of the the plains of Shinar fell into a temptation that presents itself daily in my own life, and I'm willing to wager in your life as well. The temptation to get on with a project tomorrow, the seductive whisper to "play it safe", or the lackadaisical wiles of slothfulness. The people of Shinar weren't uninvolved, or even lazy. They pursued their ambitions with passion, and put plans into action to accomplish their goals. The complacency of the people of Shinar wasn't wasn't a general apathy for life. Their disregard was pointed, and they acted out of a singularly focus directive: ignore God's plan, and empower their own plan. Their complacency wasn't haphazard, it was poignant.

God has made us, humanity, in his image, both with ambitions and a need to rest. Our God-given ambitions are to be filled with passionate pursuits worthy of his creational mandate.

Christians ought to lead the way in pushing the boundaries of human knowledge, discovering new facets of God’s creation, publishing findings for the benefit of all. When it comes to exploration, expansion, and the curiosity of the universe, no group of people should outshine Christians. The study of the laws of the universe give us a better understanding of who the creator God is that made our existence. The exploration of cultures, arts, and peoples is a way of learning more about what it means to exist as image bearers of God.

We live in a world that exists after the divinely caused confusion of Babel. Post-Babel languages rise and fall as people groups come and go. Babel offers a challenge to Christians to explore the curious reality of cultures other than one's own.

As many believers around the globe celebrate Easter, we look forward to the day when the confusion of Babel will result in the harmony of humanity praising the risen, enthroned Lord of creation.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.

Revelation 7:9

The confusion of Babel is not eternal, nor is it something to run from; rather, it's an ongoing part of God's work to see his creation filled with his image bearers. In a time when racism, prejudice, and ethnographic criminality dominates, the opportunity for cross cultural missions is at an all time high.

Gamers speak a language that is unique, distinct, and takes time to learn. In cross cultural interactions there is often confusion, and misunderstanding. The reality of post-Babel confusion keeps humanity curious, on our toes, and in need of relationships built intentionally between cultures.

I look forward to the day spoken of in Revelation 7:9, when gamers, in their own language, raise praise to the enthroned risen Lord. Until then, I am committed , and so is Gospel & Gaming, to exploring and experiencing the reality of God's image bearers in a confusing, post-Babel world.