“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”
(Matthew 12:43-45 ESV)
Jesus continues addressing the scribes and Pharisees in today’s passage. These men were the leaders of Israel who outwardly appeared to be right with God but who were actually not. Today Jesus addresses the danger of maintaining an outward appearance of spirituality as these men did. He does this through a parable.
In this parable an unclean (i.e. evil) spirit departs from a person. It then goes about seeking rest but finds none. Interestingly we learn that demonic spirits, like a virus, need a host to live in and are uncomfortable without one. This explains why the demons Jesus previously cast out of two men requested to go into a herd of pigs [Matthew 8:31].
The demon in this parable decides to return to the house (the person) from which it came. Upon doing so it finds that the house is swept and put in order.
Apparently the person from whom this demon was exorcised had made some changes in their life. They now had an outward appearance of living rightly. They had removed sin from their lives, as the demonic spirit had observed.
But notice though that the house (the person) was also empty. The demonic spirit had departed and the person had subsequently cleaned up their life. But they had not replaced the demon spirit with a positive force. They were relying on their own abilities to live righteously. Such a situation is extremely dangerous as Jesus’ parable tells us. Such a person is susceptible to being filled with other spirits who are even more evil than the first. The person’s state then becomes worse than it was before.
The principle is clear. Just like nature, our souls abhor a vacuum. We are not made better when we “empty” ourselves as eastern religions such as Hinduism espouse. Jesus’ parable clearly teaches that doing so only opens the door for Satan to dwell (i.e. reside) in us. That which dwells in us controls us.
Human beings are made to be filled with God Himself, in the form of the Holy Spirit, who will guide us to truth [Ezekiel 36:27;John 16:13; Romans 8:11 et. al] . If we are not, then we are filled with Satan who destroys us. There are no other choices [1 John 3:10, 5:19].
We cannot improve our lives, or the world, simply through self-effort. While that may appear to work, it only creates more problems that will be manifested in the future. Certainly we see this in our world today. We enact laws and use social media to control behavior. At the same time we expel Jesus from our culture and define our own set of moral standards. Yet our problems continue to multiply at an alarming rate.
That is no coincidence. Outward reformation without inward transformation cannot work. It only leads to self-righteousness, arrogance, and conflict.
Morality apart from Jesus is a dangerous sham.
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