Sunday, August 5, 2007

God doesn't like bricks, so don't be a brick

So, I’m listening to a sermon recently that focused in on the story of the tower of Babel found in Genesis 11 – the point of the sermon was dealing with man’s use of technology. You see, for that time and that people, the brick was high technology. Because you could make all these bricks the same size and shape, building something – say, for instance, a tower – becomes a lot easier than using rocks or stones.

This got me to thinking – I don’t think there’s too many references to bricks in the bible.

So I looked it up.

Guess how many times the word “brick” is used in the bible – eleven – now that’s not to say that there’s eleven times where the bible talks about bricks, that’s eleven times that the word is even used. The vast majority of those eleven times are contained in two episodes – first, the aforementioned Tower of Babel, second, the bricks the Israelite slaves make in Egypt. Neither case is very positive.

So, what seems to be the building material of choice in the bible?

Well, a quick check shows more than 130 uses of the word “rock” or “rocks” and more than 340 uses of the word “stone” or “stones.” Now, obviously all of those uses aren’t in reference to building something – you have the stone that Jacob used as a pillow, the stone Jacob then moved from the mouth of a well so his future wife’s sheep could drink. Then there’s the stones used as memorials to remind people of things God did for them in certain places and there’s the stone a young shepherd used to take down a giant. Apparently stones can be used for a lot of things.

Immediately I started thinking, but of course, God doesn’t want to use manufactured, uniform bricks – every one looking the same, feeling the same, weighing the same, made the same. God likes using stones and rocks – every one with a different size, shape, weight, and texture.

As I looked a little further into this, I found out some other interesting things.

According to the midrashic commentary on the Torah concerning the construction of the Tower of Babel:

A rabbinic legend relates that people paid no mind if a worker on the tower fell to his death. If a brick fell, however, they lamented the delay in their building project.

Then, according to the p’shat commentary on the Torah concerning the making of bricks in Exodus 5:

Chopped straw or stubble was a crucial ingredient in the manufacture of bricks.
It was added to mud from the Nile, then shaped in a mold and left to dry in the sun. The straw acted as a binder, and the acid released by the decay of the vegetable matter greatly enhanced the plastic and cohesive properties of the brick, thus preventing shrinking, cracking, and loss of shape.

In other words, bricks thrive off of the decay of once living things.

So, it would seem that we have a God who would much rather put in the effort to pick the right rocks and stones to build something worthwhile as opposed to taking the easy, convenient way of using identically manufactured bricks that gain strength from the decomposition of once living things.

Now, here’s the tough part – are we willing to treat people as the precious stones that they are, looking for the areas where they will fit best in the building of our community – or do we want to treat everyone like a brick, forcing them into a uniform mold and killing any living thing inside of them?

The stone that the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone

Psalm 118:22

1 comment:

Denise Saxon said...

Absolutely fabulous article Ken!!!! I forwarded this to several...I'm working on an HR problem at work, and this actually applies.