32. Which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold….the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift?

Matthew 23:17, 19 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold? Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift?

Read: Matthew 23:16-22

similarities to Lk 11:37-54 occurring earlier in Jesus’ ministry; one “harmony” looks for way to have Matthew’s account be out of place, better suited to small dinner setting; the rest take chronological placement as indicating 2 separate occasions when Jesus denounced religious leaders blindness and hypocrisy


in the Temple area; probably Tuesday of Passion Week; scribes, Pharisees, crowds and the Twelve present

Person(s) being questioned:

Matt. 23:1Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples”

“woe to you, scribes and Pharisees” – v.13, 14, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29; “woe to you, blind guides” – v.16

highlighting erroneous teaching of religious leaders, questioning them directly, encouraging all w/i earshot to think critically

Question behind the question:

What is the purpose of the temple?

What / who should be the focus of activities at the temple?

How does this teaching promote truth and justice?

Expected response:

should have responded – temple and altar – both have use and significance regardless of gold or specific gift

their teaching about oaths and vows implied just the opposite – apparently they couldn’t “see” the contradiction

description of Matt. 22:46 carried on even in face of Jesus calling down curses on them – “no one was able to answer Him a word”

Jesus’ point:

truth / integrity

what’s the use of an oath or vow if you can get out of it on a technicality?

how does it advance the truth if you say one thing and mean another?

how can you claim to lead others to the truth when your “rules” encourage deception?


think about why you go to church – to worship the things you bring… or the one who makes the church holy?

if the gold and the gift rank higher than anything else in their surroundings, what is the real focus of worship?

bottom line

nothing you are swearing by can hold you accountable and you know that… only God can – and where is he in the picture?

Modern Application:

effect of lack of trust on culture

society / community disintegrates, becomes radical individualism if there is no interpersonal trust – destroys relationships, paralyzes commerce, worship becomes self-focused

must be those known for commitment to truth and integrity – people of our word and the Word, upholding the truth: John 14:6; 1 Tim. 3:15

keeping right focus / emphasis in worship

what we call worship

shouldn’t call something worship that isn’t just because it happens at church, with Christians

how we do worship

each element of a worship service should intentionally draw attention to the proper object of worship, God

anything that encourages undue attention elsewhere should be avoided or eliminated

where we go to worship

whatever there is about the worship space that draws attention away from the proper object should be altered or removed

in all things, whatever does attract the attention of worshipers should focus it on a true representation of God


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