The Tower of Babel story begins with unity (same language, same words) and ends with disunity (confusion of speech, scattering all over the earth). The people built “a city and tower with its top in the sky,” a figurative way to describe human folly, wanting to be more than what humans can really do. This action results in confusion of language and dispersion of people.
The story of Pentecost in Acts 2:1 – 11 reverses what the people in the Babel story had done, it begins with people coming from every nation under heaven and speaking different languages. It ends with people filled with the Spirit still speaking in different tongues, yet united and able to hear different languages yet unmistakably understand the mighty acts of God.
What brings disunity in Babel, human folly and pride, is undone by human frailty and humility. Jesus’ acceptance of human weakness and humility at the cross bears fruit in the believers’ unity at Pentecost. As one commentator loves to say, “The way to the top is really to go to the bottom.”
What could these stories teach us as a nation? What could they teach us as individuals? Are we ready to go to the bottom as our habitual way of life? And hopefully to end up at the top?