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.”
— Genesis 11:4

If we look at Babel as the prototype for the pursuit of fame and power, we see a few interesting things by way of diagnosis. First, the pursuit of renown is really a pursuit of significance. Why do I want you to notice me, to tell me how great I am? Not because I fundamentally trust or value your opinion, but because I fundamentally distrust any notion that I’m anything in anywise special. The proof in that is that one ounce of praise from a few isn’t enough; I want more from many. Secondly, the pursuit of renown is the result of fear. “Let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” We seek security in attention.

Like the Babelists, we build our towers, not knowing the great dangerous irony — that the stronger we get, the more vulnerable we become. The fall is prefaced by pride. The split second before the great collapse is the proudest we’ve ever been.

The lesson appears plain: if you really want to fall, get big.

Mary sings, “he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts” (Luke 1:51). By building our towers, making our name for ourselves, we are stone by stone actually contributing to the very thing we are trying to avoid: getting “scattered,” being “dispersed.”

King Uzziah is a cautionary tale. He was “marvelously helped, til he was strong” (2 Chronicles 26:15). When he was strong, he got proud (v.26). He got big. We think bigness is the way. We think bigness solves lots of problems. We think bigness is safety. We think we can get too big to fail. But it’s the other way around. We see over and over — outside of ourselves, of course — that it’s possible to get too big not to fail.

Which is why the greatest man ever to live (Matthew 11:11), aside from Jesus himself, knew the real secret to success, the real work of significance, the real strength of safety:

He must increase, but I must decrease.
— John 3:30

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6 thoughts on “Too Big Not To Fail”

  1. David Axberg says:

    Thank you Amen and amen still praying for you and the church there in VT. God Bless Now!

  2. Dprice says:

    Jared,

    Good and thought provoking article. I agree that we are a fallen people, prone to pride, and that pride comes before a fall. These are heavy issues the church has wrestled with for many ages, and I don’t pretend to have them all figured out. However, I think we have to be careful telling people that any desire to build and make money is inherently sinful. Borrowing from Wayne Grudem in his excellent book, Business for the Glory of God, people are free to build and make money, but will face many opportunities for sin and failure along the way. So the question to me is, how do we as Christians view the desire to build?

    How should we counsel a Christian businessman in the church who is faithful to the Lord, if he sees an opportunity to grow the business to “tall heights”, not for his own fame and power but because it appears that the Lord has ordained the opportunity for the glory of God and the growth of the kingdom?

    Do we counsel him not to grow regardless of the situation because the chances for his ultimate sin and failure will be too strong? Or are there levels to growth propriety, where wanting to grow a little bit is ok but wanting to grow a lot is not? If he has prayed about it and senses the Lord’s leading, I think we tell him to go for it but warn him of the dangerous side paths that he could be tempted to take.

    Lastly, how should you unpack John 3:30 to a businessperson? Are they to sell the business if it grows, so as to avoid a fall? As a businessman, these are questions I wrestle with often. Would love to hear your thoughts.

    Appreciate you brother.
    Dustin

    1. Curt Day says:

      Dustin,
      I would like to put in some points my one friend, a business owner, and I have talked about as well as put in some points I learned from the economist, Manfred Max-Neef. A point from the latter person is commercial growth does not imply human development. One could measure their business by gross & net profit or by wealth, which is the temptation for any business owner, but perhaps more measures are needed to judge the success of a business. Certainly a business must make a profit but for it to be successful, we have to look at how the business contributes to the lives of people. Here, we need to look at how a business contributes to the lives of the employees. How well are they paid? What benefits do they get? How involved is each employee in decision making?

      The above questions are some of the question my business owning friend and I talk about when we get together. Sometimes my friend has to give his employees a break when they need help or fail at something. All of the above is part of a successful business.

      Yea, businesses have to make profits. But making personal contributions to people, to all stakeholders, is what I think a Christian business should care about. Caring for others more than caring for the bottom line can help us manage our pride.

  3. Justin says:

    Jared,
    I read a few months ago a letter you posted and told you used to sort of filter out non-active members in a loving way. I thought your letter was well written and on point. I’m not able to find it and my church is about to do that very thing. Any way you could forward that to me?
    Thanks

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Jared C. Wilson


Jared C. Wilson is the pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont. You can follow him on Twitter.

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