“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings 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.”
It’s always so interesting to me to read in Scripture about things that we think of as modern phenomena. For example, in this verse, Jesus talks about what we would call a “relapse,” centuries before that word would even be created. He describes a situation in which an unclean spirit has left a person, and finding no better place to go, decides to return. When the spirit returns, it finds the person all cleaned up organized and perfect to move back into.
The scenario Jesus is describing refers to those times when we finally clean up our act, we kick a bad habit, we confess a sin struggle and work to overcome it, we beat an addiction and get sober. But the problem is that when we do, and we get the house all cleaned up and put in order, it’s a perfect place for all of those bad habits and struggles and addictions to move right back into.
I think there are two things to learn from this parable. One is that we should never leave our house, that is ourselves, unguarded. There’s a reason Scripture says, “Guard your hearts.” We have to keep watch of what comes in and out. We must be aware not only of sin itself, but also those “grey area” things that start to invite sin in when we’re not looking.
Secondly, if we don’t want the old tenants to move back in, we need to replace them with a new tenant. By this I mean that if you kick all of these old habits and hangups and addictions out of your life, but don’t fill that vacancy with anything, you’re left with a vacuum. Something will fill it. And if we’re not intentional about what we fill it with, chances are that it will eventually be the same old things. When we rid our lives of sin, we must in turn fill those spaces up with Christ. Beating a bad habit doesn’t matter if Christ isn’t living in us. In the end, it’s all about who is occupying the house, not how clean the house is.
I pray that you would help us to “clean up our house” so to speak, but I pray that it wouldn’t end there. Move into our hearts and live in us so that when those unclean spirits come knocking, they find you instead of an empty space. Protect us from those spirits, and forgive us for ever letting them in.
In Jesus’ Name,