PART I: The Tower of Babel and the Mobile Phone

Pieter Bruegel the Elder Dutch painter, mid 1500s

The cause for the Tower of Babel and the cause for the explosion of the mobile phone, though at least 4000 years apart have a lot in common. 

Genesis 11:1-5,8

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 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, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. …And the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.”

Why was God against building the Tower of Babel? The two reasons are hinted at in verse 4,

  1. to make a name for themselves (a love of praise) and
  2. so they are not spread out over the whole earth, (a love of security).

The scriptures clearly declare that our calling in life is to make much of God, not ourselves (cf. Westminster Confession: what is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever). Second, when God created man he blessed him and said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…”   We were called to spread out over all the earth and subdue it, not confine ourselves in one city.

So what does this have to do with the mobile 

phone? According to the latest statistics today there are more mobile phones on planet earth (7.6 billion) than there are human beings (7.3 billion). Why is it that even in the poorest places on earth, in homes lacking electricity or indoor plumbing, everyone seems to want and have a mobile phone?

The use of the mobile phone answers man’s basic longing for significance and security.

Why is it that it matters how many likes we receive on anything we post to social media? Why do we crave virtual attention? According to psychologists we can blame it on the dopamine. “It’s a reward cycle, you get a squirt of dopamine every time you get a like or a positive response on social media,” explains psychologist Emma Kenny. “the social media like triggers that reward cycle and the more you get it, the more you want it!” She further argues that this points to a basic narcissism in all of us. We all have an inherent belief that we’re more important than anyone else. It’s human nature.

So here we have it… like the driving need to build a tower to make a name for themselves so our addiction to mobile phones appeals to our self-centeredness. 4000 years later man is still dealing with the same issue of significance.

But what do the Scriptures say?

Matthew 16:24

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

The amazing paradox of the Christian life is that in denying our craving for attention and instead losing ourselves in loving and following Christ, we find ourselves!

With the Psalmist we say:

Psalm 37:4

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 16:11

In your presence is fullness of joy. At your right hand are pleasures forever more.

In Part II of this blog series “The Tower of Babel and the Mobile Phone,” I’ll deal with the issue of how the mobile phone can give us a false sense of security. In Part III, I’ll talk about what’s so good about the mobile phone!