Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold?
Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees because they thought that the gold which made up the temple was more important than the temple itself. His point was that the temple sanctifies the gold, not the other way around. In the same way, He said it is not the offering on the altar that sanctifies the altar, but the other way around. The holy altar is what makes man's offering holy and the holy temple is what makes the gold of the temple holy. Yet both the temple and the altar are only holy because they have been touched, anointed, or inhabited by God. Paul said that we are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in us. His presence within sanctifies us, and our work!
What this tells us is that who we are, and what we build, apart from the Lord, is never good and holy enough for Him. The work that we do and what we offer to Him, are not worthy to be presented to Him. (Just ask Cain!) The thing that makes our lives and our efforts holy are the anointing of the Lord--His presence inside, the cleansing from the blood of Jesus and the anointing of His Holy Spirit. This is what sanctifies us and makes not only us, but all that we do, holy and acceptable to Him.
Just as when the people who built the tower of Babel decided they would build something that would reach the heavens, what we try and build apart from His sanctioning will be nothing more than an idol. The Lord had not chosen that place to put His Name, that was not the place He wanted His temple built. Our desire should be for our work to be gold, silver or precious stone that becomes purified by fire, instead of wood, hay and straw, which burns up in the fire. The difference is, are we building something for ourselves as the tower of Babel, or are we seeking to become a dwelling place for the Lord, building His kingdom?
Our work is meant to be an offering to the Lord, so our work only becomes holy when it is anointed by Him and offered to Him as an act of worship. Our worship of the Lord is only valuable because its directed to the Most High, the Excellent One. His majesty, His glory--He Himself--makes our worship something holy and excellent, which it could never be if directed to something other than Him.
We can find encouragement in Isaiah 66:1-2:
Thus says the Lord,
"Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool.
Where then is a house you could build for Me?
And where is a place that I may rest?
For My hand made all these things,
Thus all these things came into being," declares the Lord.
"But to this one I will look,
To him who is humble and contrite of spirit,
and who trembles at My word."
The Lord is looking for a temple, a place to rest, to dwell. Of all the places He could choose, He is looking for a humble heart, submissive to Him and His commands. Will you be His temple?
Matthew 23:15-22; Exodus 29 & 30; Genesis 4:3-5; Genesis 9, Deuteronomy 12:5-6; 1 Corinthians 3:10-17; Isaiah 66:1-3