“And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them” (Genesis 11:4,6).
“ . . . let us build ourselves a city . . . that reaches into heaven.”
“ . . . let us make a name for ourselves.”
These two, “let us build” and “let us make” are interrelated, interconnected, and nourish one another with a poison that kills the soul as surely as does the fruit of the Hemlock that stilled the heart of Socrates.
The Flesh, the Greek’s sarkikos, the carnal, animal nature of man – the ego, self-seeking, self-serving pride, arrogance, the craving for self-importance, the need for adulation and the praise of men reveals itself in the voracious need to ‘build.’
It is the unredeemed, unsanctified ‘self’ that demands recognition; that presses itself into the bright light of public notice.
Mark those who clamor for attention; who need to be heard, noticed, seen, to be ‘first.’
John the Beloved forever marked Diotrephes, “who loves to have the preeminence.” His malicious words “prated against” authentic followers of Christ. “Who loves to have the preeminence.” The Message informs us “who loves being in charge.” Mark those among us who are always clamoring for attention, who manifest an inordinate need to make noise, to be heard, to be seen, to be “first.”
Jesus both counseled and modeled the truth that “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”
Diotrephes is the prototype of those among us who are ambitious, proud, disrespectful of apostolic integrity, rebellious and inhospitable – they love to have the preeminence, to dominate, to be seen as superior, to “have the rule” among us, to build something, anything that reflects their self-generated and self-assumed importance.
This craving to build is an accurate reflection of a deficiency of the soul and of a barrenness of the heart. Indeed, a heart made happy, one that is satisfied by the simple presence of the indwelling Christ is one that needs to build nothing at all, to advance nothing, to achieve nothing, finding itself satisfied that the Savior has achieved for us every needful thing.
John’s direction regarding the kind of self-promotion and egotism represented by Diotrephes is pointed: “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good.”
Observe the correlation between religious arrogance and religious efforts that focus on and center on building.
Whether it is to build a bigger, more splendid edifice “for worship” or to build a larger donor base or to build the largest Facebook following, the blatant and insatiable need to build (or to broadcast or to publish or to become the most prominent name on the Conference Circuit) reveals an inner absence of godly satisfaction, godly character, emptiness of soul, and of stark, spiritual poverty.
The drive to build is in utter contrast to the extent that we are led by the Spirit.
When we are led by the Spirit, we will no longer be driven to fulfill the lusts of the flesh to create something significant, to build, to construct something, anything that would make ourselves known, to become famous, to be identified.
Our identity and our identification must issue from a single Source: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Italics for emphasis, mine).
It is “Christ in me, the hope of glory” and not “me in Christ, the hope of any glory.” It is “Christ in me,” overwhelming the “me” portion of me, the “I” part of me, it is “Christ” Who deserves attention, notice, adoration.
Even Jesus, the eternal Logos, the very Son of God “made Himself of no reputation” and took the form and spirit of servitude when He appeared among us.
Paul’s greatest desire was not for fame or for a memorial by which to be remembered, but it was “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”
It was he who wrote, “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
To the degree that we lack His identity, we are plagued by the incessant demand to build.
To the degree that we lack His identity, to the degree that we have not become “lost” in Him, we will be plagued by the demanding devil that suggests, that harangues, that requires that we “build.”
And so, the stimulus behind “let us build” is often, “let us make a name for ourselves.”
When Nimrod’s builders declared their intention to “make a name for ourselves” it was far more than a simple desire for a recognizable identification.
The issue of “names” is of serious note. “The Name,” the Hebrew “Ha-Shem” is esteemed to be holy, so revered, that faithful Jews have been prohibited against uttering it in public discourse. History has long since buried the correct pronunciation of “Ha-Shem” and some merely use, YHWH.
In the Jewish mind, a name is more than arbitrary designation, random combinations of vowel and consonant.
The Western mind determines a child’s name to honor a grandparent or because expectant parents like the sound of a certain name. It is not so in Jewish thought.
To the Jew, the name conveys the nature and essence of the thing named. It represents the history and reputation of the person named.
When Moses inquires of God in Exodus 3, he asked, “when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?”
Moses does not asking “what will You be called,” but “Who are You; what are You, and what have You done?”
The yearning to make a name, to exalt one’s reputation has a blasphemous root. It bears all the foul odor of the rebellion of Lucifer, who Isaiah identifies as the one who “said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’
“Let us build.” “Let us make a name for ourselves.” These must bow in the presence of the One who alone will ‘build’ and Whose Name alone is worthy to be known.
Of this we can be assured, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
If there is any building among us, let it be the building of the Lord. If there is any exalted Name, let it be Christ Jesus, the Lord, “to the glory of God the Father” because “God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.”
Not every building is the result of sin. Not every construction program is commenced in corruption. Jesus promised that He would build His church. He counseled that the wise man will “build his house on the rock.” (Observe that in both these instances, when Jesus uses “build,” He also speaks of a rock).
There is a building that is godly, worthwhile and eternal, but “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build.”
There is a name that is worthy and eternal, and that Name is Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God.