With amazement we can look at the gifted people around us. There are individuals who are gifted with technology, music, sports, communication, creative work, the arts or good looks. In envy we way wish that we too could have our life “all together” like they do. Or we may look upon the money, possessions and honor that an individual possess and are amazed and desirous of what they have. We think of how we would love to have those same gifts, abilities and resources, how much better our life would be.
In Matthew 23:16-19 Jesus reprimands the cultural perspective of the day because, they were focusing upon the wrong thing. “You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?” (NIV)
The Jews were focusing upon gifts which people brought before the Lord, thinking that in some way the enormity or beauty of the gift that a person offered to God would validate a promise or commitment that was made to God. It was like a guarantee similar to saying “if I don’t fulfill my promise I’ll do …”. The more one offers the more likely they were to fulfill their commitment. What does Jesus mean when He says “Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?”
Perhaps we need to reassess what we focus upon. Jesus was stating that it was the temple or the altar that made the gift special. In the same way it is God the creator and provider of every good gift (James 1:17) who is important. The gifts and abilities that people have are nothing compared to the great God who gave them to the individual. When we see what people have or what they can do, we need to see beyond the gift and see the greatness of God who empowered that individual to function as they do. We may not appreciate how everyone uses the gifts that God has given them, but we do need to appreciate the giver of all gifts.
Lord help me not to envy others, but rather to appreciate how You have worked in them, help me to see and enjoy You as the great gifted one.