The Pharisees stood on the street corners praying eloquent prayers – loud and long. They recited the scriptures flawlessly and gave alms to the poor so that everyone could note how much they had given. And, they dutifully brought their sacrifices to the temple to be placed on the altar. Their prayers, their giving, their sacrifices were their “gifts” to God – gifts given to prove to others they were indeed pious, righteous, holy men of God. And no one dared dispute their claim. No one until they encountered Jesus.
As he observed their hypocrisy, he rebuked the Pharisees with a truth they knew by heart but had not changed their hearts.
“. . . which is more important the gift or the altar that makes the gift holy?” (Matt. 23:19 ISV)
The focus of the Pharisees was on what they were giving to God instead of on the One to whom their gifts were to be given. Their focus was on their hollow “holiness” instead of the One who is truly holy. For the Pharisees sought the praise of men rather than praise from God.
And it is wisdom for us to learn from the folly of the Pharisees. The admonition of Jesus is still relevant for us today.
Whatever gifts we have, great or small,
the gifts of teaching or writing,
the gifts of administration or leadership,
the gifts of care or serving,
the gifts of counsel or compassion,
the gifts of music or creativity,
the gifts of prayer and intercession,
whatever gift or gifts the Lord has placed into our lives, it isn’t the gift in and of itself that is holy or worthy of praise. It is when we offer what we have on the altar of His Sovereignty, on the altar of His Will that makes our gifts anointed and holy. Instead of seeking the praise of others for the things we do or accomplish, let our gifts bring glory and praise to the One who is holy!