When Things Are Not As They Appear

As long as I have been driving, I have never much liked using my side view mirror. Generally, I tend to rely on the rear view mirror and a simple turn of my head when I need to check the sides. Everything seems strange in the side mirror. That is why it is no surprise to me that the side mirror comes with its own warning message. Every car I have ever owned has included a short sentence printed on the bottom of that mirror. It reads, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” I have always viewed that as my mirror telling me that it is here to help, but cannot be trusted. That mirror may show me the car approaching on my right, but not give me a good idea of distance. This caution is exactly what it seems. It is a warning that things are not always what they seem. Most of us would do well if such a message was printed on the bottom of our own eye balls. Imagine if every morning the first thing you saw when you woke up was, “Caution, things are not always as they seem.” We might view the world around us in a new light, at least until we became too familiar with this warning to notice it anymore…..like the one on my car.

Our spiritual life is often like a side view mirror. We ignore the Word of God and choose rather to listen to our emotions. We convince ourselves that things are ok because our overall motives are pure. There is an interesting example of this in Scripture. In the beginning of Genesis 11 we have the story of the Tower of Babel. Although it is nothing more than a short blip in the Canon of Scripture, there is much to consider here. Recently I have been blessed to have the opportunity to listen to great teaching about this as part of my church’s adult Sunday School class. Most people are familiar with the story. The population that had grown up after the flood all spoke one language. They also stayed all in the same place and decided to build themselves a great city. Along with the city they also began building a large tower. Genesis 11: 4 says, “And they said, Go  to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” At first glance there doesn’t really seem anything wrong with this verse, but just like my side view mirror, things are not always as they seem. This verse seems to convey many of the desires that we ourselves often have. We like having a home and a place of security. We like to be close to those we love, and we like the familiar. What about making a name for ourselves? How many of us have desired to do something worthwhile with our lives, and how many of our hearts have been warmed to think of our childhood hometown? Finally, what about the tower? What was its purpose? Well, the Bible is not specifically clear on this, but some ideas are that it would have been a place to worship God or simply a beacon of this great city they were building. I tend to believe it was intended to be a place of worship. It is possible that the phrase, “whose top may reach unto heaven” conveys this. The story goes on in chapter eleven to talk about how God is displeased with this. His answer is to change the languages of the people, thereby creating confusion and spreading them over the face of the earth. I do not believe it is a coincidence that the use of tower type worship structures exist in the form of ziggurats in the middle east all the way to the pyramids of the ancient Aztecs and seemingly everywhere in between.

What was so wrong with building a city and building a tower, especially if its purpose was to worship God? If we didn’t know the whole story or anything else from Scripture it would sound like a pretty good idea. The problem is that the actions of the people in Genesis 11 was a direct violation of God’s command to them. The key to this is found in Genesis 9:1. It read, “And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” They were certainly multiplying, but they were ignoring God’s last command to “replenish the earth” or literally to fill it. So, even though their actions appear good on the surface, they are in direct violation of God’s command to them. The tower of Babel is a lesson to us that good intentions are not enough. In fact a very famous quote says, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Often people argue (intentionally or unintentionally) that disobeying God isn’t so bad as long as they have good intentions in their heart. In such cases good intentions are a mere mask for willful disobedience. So often we tell ourselves that we know what we are doing is wrong, but our intentions or overall plan is the right thing to do. As a child I remember hearing “The end does not justify the means.” How we get there and what we do along the way matters. Even more importantly, what Scripture says matters more than our own emotions. How about a practical application? 2 Corinthians 6:14 tells believers that they are not to be “unequally yoked” with non-believers. That means that as Christians we are not to willfully enter into a partnership with those who reject the name of Christ. Have you ever heard this one? “I know he or she is not a believer (or not a believer yet), but I love them, so I know it will be ok.” How about this one?  “I know what the Bible says about entering into a partnership with an unsaved person, but I have a great opportunity to better my family by joining in this business venture. Surely, God wants me to better my family.” What God wants is for you to do what he says is right and stay away from the things he clearly says are wrong. Such reasoning is faulty beyond measure, but we use it because it will get us where we want and what we want. It is like saying, I will steal money from my friends, invest the money, and when I make a profit I will give them more than I stole. Most people would never consider such an action as right or ethical, but we practice this logic when we defy God’s command in hopes of a good overall outcome.

Thankfully, God leaves no room for our faulty reasoning. Isaiah 5:20 offers a clear direct warning. “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Such a warning leaves little room for us to weasel our way in with selfish justifications. Romans 12:9 offers us a simple yet doable solution. “Let love be without dissimulation (hypocrisy). Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” Cling to the things that are right and don’t even play around with the things that God calls evil. Sometimes that will mean not getting what want, not getting it when we want it, or having to do things the hard way. However, we can have the peace and assurance that we are doing it God’s way. Faulty un-biblical reasoning may soothe your conscience, but it is still faulty and it is not what it appears.

 

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