No one can break into a strong man’s house and take away his belongings unless he first ties up the strong man; then he can plunder his house.
[Jesus continues to lecture the Pharisees about the authority to drive out demons. See Day 116 for background.]
Advice about breaking and entering from Jesus? Of course not. The topic is deliverance from demons. It is the subject of an ongoing conversation with the Pharisees about the source of the power that drives out demons. Jesus says you have to neutralize the devil before you can chase out the demons. Here we have a good old “spiritual warfare” tactic.
Spiritual warfare is based on the idea that the forces of good and evil are always competing for dominion in the world, and that humans have the ability to fight against the power of evil through various practices like delivering demons, fasting, anointing with oil, blowing shofars, prayer walking, prayer marching, and waving praise flags. Of course the most important “weapons” in the spiritual warrior’s arsenal are prayer, worship, and scripture.
The main spiritual warfare scripture, besides this one, is in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians about the “full armor of God”:
Finally, build up your strength in union with the Lord and by means of his mighty power. Put on all the armor that God gives you, so that you will be able to stand up against the Devil’s evil tricks. For we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age. So put on God’s armor now! Then when the evil day comes, you will be able to resist the enemy’s attacks; and after fighting to the end, you will still hold your ground.
So stand ready, with truth as a belt tight around your waist, with righteousness as your breastplate, and as your shoes the readiness to announce the Good News of peace. At all times carry faith as a shield; for with it you will be able to put out all the burning arrows shot by the Evil One. And accept salvation as a helmet, and the word of God as the sword which the Spirit gives you. Do all this in prayer, asking for God’s help. Pray on every occasion, as the Spirit leads. For this reason keep alert and never give up; pray always for all God’s people (Ephesians 6:10-18).
Spiritual warriors generally enjoy going to battle. In order to fight against evil, the spiritual warrior first needs to figure out where it is lurking, so the process of discerning where to concentrate one’s efforts is called “spiritual mapping.” This involves the identification of places where demonic activity is probably taking place. It might be a “haunted house”, or a place where a violent act has taken place, or a place where people are engaged in immoral behaviors. This school of thought asserts that these kinds of places are where evil hides out and gains strength.
We used to do prayer walks in Chicago on Tuesday nights. We would just walk along and silently pray for love to flow into every home and for all the people to be blessed. It was a very good thing, and very spiritual. While we were doing this, street people would come over to us and ask for prayer even they had no idea what we were doing. We weren’t doing anything that would indicate we were praying, but they seemed to know. Quite a few people who showed up at our church would say, “I was sitting around Tuesday night and all of a sudden I started thinking about your little church so I decided to come check it out.” That happened many times. It was pretty amazing. When a fortune teller came into the neighborhood we targeted that building every week. Within a few months the building was purchased by the neighborhood association and the office where the fortune teller was became the office for Care For Real, a local charity. You may think this is all nonsense, but you’ll never convince me or anyone else who went on those prayer walks. It was mysterious and strange and wonderful.
Spiritual warfare can be a lot of fun. It can also get really flaky really fast. People who like spiritual warfare tend to go overboard. While I go along with them that one should avoid overtly occult things like Ouija boards, tarot cards, and séances, I disagree about a lot of other stuff the spiritual warfare specialists don’t like. One thing that really gets on my nerves is that a lot of spiritual warfare people are xenophobic. They assume that people from other areas of the world – especially Asia and Africa – are automatically tainted by evil. They also think that any statues or artifacts that come from these areas are probably demon possessed. (This excludes, however, anything sold in Walmart or made for American consumption. They seem to conveniently ignore that almost everything is made in Asia these days; I’ve never heard anyone worrying about whether their sweaters or appliances are possessed.)
Protestant spiritual warriors also hate Catholic things like crucifixes, icons, and anything having to do with the saints. These are always, in their opinion, demon possessed. I always find this interesting because nowhere in the Bible does it say that objects can be inhabited by evil spirits. The Bible always says that idols are false gods and that they have no power whatsoever – except for the power people attribute to them. In my opinion people are wasting their time when they start looking for a devil under every rock. It can get ridiculous.
Anyway, I remember one time when we had a seminar at our church and two couples were staying at our house. During the night one of the women got sick and fell in the bathroom. We heard the noise and came upstairs to find out what was going on. It was a mess. Instead of taking the woman to the emergency room, the two men were running around in their underwear collecting all of the statues and stuff in my house that they thought were causing the illness. It was nuts. We finally got them to calm down and talked them into taking the poor woman to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with pneumonia. I’m glad it wasn’t an acute emergency. They were more interested in lecturing us about all of our artwork than they were with taking care of the sick lady. I think she would have died if we hadn’t intervened. The sick lady’s husband was a pastor. He should have had more sense. (Shaking my head).
I believe in the ultimate authority of the power of good. Yes, tie up the strong man like Jesus says. Tie him up and render him powerless by giving your full attention to God. Render the devil powerless by ignoring him completely. Then the Holy Spirit can work through you to defeat whatever evil stuff is going on around you. Look for the good instead of the bad. Goodness and mercy will then follow you wherever you go and you will never be defeated by the power of evil. Like Jesus said, we are the light for the world (See Day 16).
So when things go wrong don’t blame the chachkis. When God is on our side we don’t need to be afraid of anything. Not even a Buddha statue. Or a beautiful icon. Or an African sculpture. Or a cruxifix. Or a Native American dream catcher. Or even a yoga class. Or narrow-minded superstitious people. Not even them.
What does this scripture say to you?