Working Your Way up to Heaven

Ben Van Arragon

Read: Genesis 11:1-9

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.” (v. 4)

The film Chariots of Fire tells the story of two Olympians. In one scene, sprinter Harold Abrahams says, “I . . . look down that corridor; four feet wide, with 10 lonely seconds to justify my whole existence.” God created human beings to share his work and bear his glory. In the beginning we were made just “a little lower than the heavenly beings” (Ps. 8:5). We miss the godlike glory we used to have. And ever since our fall into sin, we have used work to try and get it back.

The confounding story of the Tower of Babel is really about humanity’s desire to regain what we lost in the fall. The community at Babel believes they can work their way back to heaven. So much of our work is driven by the need to justify our existence—to prove our worth to each other and God. We still believe, deep down, that if we are good enough students, partners, parents, or professionals, we will be good enough to get God’s attention. The people of Babel could never work their way to heaven; we can’t work our way into God’s good graces either.

The good news is, we don’t have to. In the person of Jesus Christ, God brings heaven to earth, and gives freely what we cannot earn for ourselves: his eternal affection and approval. —Ben Van Arragon

Prayer: Jesus, thank you for saving me through your great work at the cross.