Matthew 23:17
Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?
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23:13-33 The scribes and Pharisees were enemies to the gospel of Christ, and therefore to the salvation of the souls of men. It is bad to keep away from Christ ourselves, but worse also to keep others from him. Yet it is no new thing for the show and form of godliness to be made a cloak to the greatest enormities. But dissembled piety will be reckoned double iniquity. They were very busy to turn souls to be of their party. Not for the glory of God and the good of souls, but that they might have the credit and advantage of making converts. Gain being their godliness, by a thousand devices they made religion give way to their worldly interests. They were very strict and precise in smaller matters of the law, but careless and loose in weightier matters. It is not the scrupling a little sin that Christ here reproves; if it be a sin, though but a gnat, it must be strained out; but the doing that, and then swallowing a camel, or, committing a greater sin. While they would seem to be godly, they were neither sober nor righteous. We are really, what we are inwardly. Outward motives may keep the outside clean, while the inside is filthy; but if the heart and spirit be made new, there will be newness of life; here we must begin with ourselves. The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was like the ornaments of a grave, or dressing up a dead body, only for show. The deceitfulness of sinners' hearts appears in that they go down the streams of the sins of their own day, while they fancy that they should have opposed the sins of former days. We sometimes think, if we had lived when Christ was upon earth, that we should not have despised and rejected him, as men then did; yet Christ in his Spirit, in his word, in his ministers, is still no better treated. And it is just with God to give those up to their hearts' lusts, who obstinately persist in gratifying them. Christ gives men their true characters.The temple that sanctifieth the gold - To sanctify is to make holy. The gold had no holiness but what it derived from the temple. If in any other place, it would be no more holy than any other gold. It was foolish, then, to suppose that that was more holy than the temple, from which it received all the sanctity which it possessed. 16. Woe unto you, ye blind guides—Striking expression this of the ruinous effects of erroneous teaching. Our Lord, here and in some following verses, condemns the subtle distinctions they made as to the sanctity of oaths—distinctions invented only to promote their own avaricious purposes.

which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing—He has incurred no debt.

but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple—meaning not the gold that adorned the temple itself, but the Corban, set apart for sacred uses (see on [1348]Mt 15:5).

he is a debtor!—that is, it is no longer his own, even though the necessities of the parent might require it. We know who the successors of these men are.

but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty—It should have been rendered, "he is a debtor," as in Mt 23:16.

See Poole on "Matthew 23:22".

Ye fools, and blind,.... That argue after so ridiculous a manner, that make use of such thin sophistry, that everybody may see through it; who must be stupid and sottish to the last degree, and their minds foolishly blinded with avarice; as to please and satisfy themselves: with so poor a distinction; that would by no means serve them, but make against them:

for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? The temple, to be sure: for that was the seat of the divine majesty; built for him to dwell in, and in which he took up his residence; and was dedicated to his service, and in it was divine worship performed unto him. The temple was sanctified by the presence of God in it; and the gold sanctified by the temple, being devoted to the service of it: whatever holiness it had, it had it from the temple, and therefore the temple must be greater than that; and consequently it must be most extravagantly ridiculous and foolish in them, to make oaths by the gold of the temple, and gifts dedicated to its service, and on that score sanctified by it, more binding and sacred than such as were by the temple itself.

Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that {r} sanctifieth the gold?

(r) Causes the gold which is dedicated to a holy use to be considered holy.

Matthew 23:17 ff. Γάρ] Justifies the preceding epithets.

μείζων] of greater consequence, and consequently more binding, as being a more sacred object by which to swear. The reason of the μείζων lies in ὁ ἁγιάσας τὸν χρυσόν, according to which the consecrated relation is conceived of as one between the temple and the gold, that has been brought about (otherwise if ἁγιάζων be read) by the connecting of the latter with the former.

τὸ δῶρον] the offering (Matthew 5:23), as laid upon the altar, it belongs to God.

Matthew 23:17. τίς γὰρ μείζων: Jesus answers this question by asserting the opposite principle to that laid down by the Rabbis: the general includes and is more important than the particular, which He applies to all the three cases (Matthew 23:17; Matthew 23:19; Matthew 23:22). This is the more logical position, but the main point of difference is moral. The tendency of the Rabbis was to enlarge the sphere of insincere, idle, meaningless speech. Christ’s aim was to inculcate absolute sincerity = always mean what you say; let none of your utterances be merely conventional generalities. Be as much in earnest when you say “by the temple” as when you say “by the gold of the temple”; rather be so truthful that you shall not need to say either.

Matthew 23:17. Μωροὶ καὶ τυφλοὶ, fools and blind) They sinned even against common sense; according to the judgment of which that thing, on account of which another thing is of a certain character, must be much more so, than that which merely derives its character inferentially therefrom.

Verse 17. - Ye fools. Jesus adds to "blind" the epithet "fools," which implies not only the irrationality and absurdity of their practice, but also its moral delinquency, the fool in sapiential language being the sinner. The temple that sanctifieth the gold. Our Lord shows the absurdity of this sophistical distinction. It was because the temple was the place of God's presence that what was therein was consecrated. The gold was nothing without the temple; the temple, the originally holy, is superior to the gold, the derivatively holy, and an oath that calls the temple to witness is surely obligatory. Matthew 23:17
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