In the world we live in today, fame is no longer confined to places like Hollywood; the flicker of fame resides in the heart of everyone with a social media account of some description.
In a moment of almost prophetic genius, Andy Warhol said in 1968, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." How right he was. In an era of viral videos and Instagram accounts, just about everyone in the world has the chance of their moment of fame. And many pursue it with everything they have. Self-promotion is no longer considered gauche or tasteless, but a necessary right of passage to attain the acclaim people desire. We’re building towers constructed with our own image of greatness.
There is a story in the Bible of a nation that built a tower to show how advanced and mighty they were. They were building a tower to heaven, but not to reach God and worship Him, no, instead, to gain renown and admiration. They wanted to show the world how great they were and to show God He was not so high above them that their greatness could not reach Him.
I am speaking, of course, of the Tower of Babel, which is described in Genesis chapter 11. In verse four of chapter 11, the people say, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves...” The desire to make a name for ourselves has been a part of human nature from the beginning. This desire, however, no matter how successful, rarely ever brings contentment. This is why we see so many unhappy famous people.
The fact is, we were not created to make our own names great but to proclaim the greatness of the name of God.
The name of Jesus. To lay our lives down for Him, so that He can be glorified. Interestingly, we see a beautiful picture of this in the very next chapter of Genesis. In stark contrast to building the Tower of BabeI, chapter 11, we see Abraham in chapter 12 coming to a new place, and building an altar to God.
God had promised Abraham the land of Canaan, and so when He came there, He built an altar to the Lord, “Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time, the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, 'To your offspring, I will give this land.' So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.”
An altar, unlike a tower, is a place of sacrifice. A place where Abraham could make a sacrifice to God, in gratitude for all he had given Him. An altar says, "You are great, Lord. You have brought me this far. My life is yours. A tower says, "Look at me; look at me. I am great. I have done great things. Adore me. Worship me."
In a world where the norm is building towers to ourselves, I would challenge us to be more interested in lifting high the name of Jesus. One really practical way that we can check ourselves in this area is to ask ourselves if we are building altars to God or towers to ourselves.
Abraham had come to a new place when he built his altar. Are you entering a new place in your life? A new career, home, a new baby, an engagement or marriage?
I would encourage you to build a metaphorical altar to God in this new place. An altar says, "God, You brought me here. I couldn't have achieved any of this on my own. You have led me. You have provided for me. I can take no credit but only raise a sacrifice of praise to You for all You have done for me." An altar says, "God has brought me this far. He will bring me all the way." An altar says, "God is faithful. I can lay my life before Him for He is good."
A tower says, "To me be the glory." An altar says, "To God be the glory."
In 2019, I want to build an altar to God in my heart and lay this year before Him.
I want to say, "God, You have brought me here. Now, use me this year to spread Your fame, Your love, Your life-changing power to all those I encounter."
If you are focused on what towers of self you will build this year, I would encourage you to re-evaluate your thinking, and instead, look to see how you can offer your life once again to the God who offered His whole life on the altar for you. He was led like a lamb to be slaughtered, the ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate altar, once for all. So how can we build towers to ourselves when He gave it all for us?
Let this year be the year that we lift high the name of Jesus in our lives, and when it comes to altars or towers, let's make it an altar every time.