I’m going to take this verse out of context to make a point. Hear me out:
“Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?” (Matthew 23:19)
Maybe that’s one of the reasons that idolatry is so ridiculous. It’s almost like Jesus is essentially saying that any object that you would seek to present to God is not worth anything unless it has died first, burned to a crisp on the altar. And with reference to idolatry, it would seem that all that the idol-worshipper is working with is a (dead) object, in place of the true God.
“For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)
Because of sin, things have to pass through a death-cycle (for lack of a better term) in order to be made holy before God. It’s (now) the natural order of things. “Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:” (1 Corinthians 15:36), says Paul. Jesus said the same: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” (John 12:24)
When Jesus compared the gift to the altar, what I think He was saying was that without the right heart intent—without the willingness to give up that gift to God by immolating it on the altar—whatever it is you wish to present to God won’t be received like it could, or should. But how does this apply to idolatry?
The following piecemeal passage from Isaiah delineates the process of idol-making and idol-worship (44:14-20):”He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak…for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto…he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god…a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?”
Firstly, he’s blind and he has no introspection nor circumspection to know it. Strike one. Secondly, everything he does with the object is self-serving. And please understand, I don’t mean to be drawing parallels between something that you give to God, and that which you keep for yourself to worship. Semantically, those two things are diametrically opposed. But a mere object can be one thing or another, it’s all a matter of heart-intent. While we don’t worship gods of stone or metal, any object that we put in place of God, unwilling to yield up to Him, becomes an idol. Guilty (me). But the corollary is not “God doesn’t want me to have anything”. Please understand, God is the ultimate giver of gifts, but any gift that He gives won’t turn our heart aside from Him.
“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.” (Psalm 14:1)
So it’s all a matter of what you do with the thing in question. All foolishness aside, if you give it to God and let it die, effectively showing Him that He’s the one you care about more, if it’s something that needs to be resurrected, He’ll imbue it with His life. He’ll bring it back to life. Then you yourself won’t have to worry about maintaining and sustaining it. And I’m speaking not just to physical objects, but also to plans and purposes and dreams and destiny. Trust God to resurrect that which you desire and watch Him do “exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” (Ephesians 3:20)