In Luke 11:24-26, the spirit leaves and later returns, finding the house looking good. It would seem like that would communicate that the spirit is no longer welcome. Instead he goes and gets friends and moves in. How does someone avoid this? Is this about casting out demons or repenting of sin? I have heard it taught that the house must be "filled up" with good deeds so that there is no room for the evil spirits. Any validity to that? -- Rich & Amanda Bartoli (Tampa)

It is tempting to assign whatever interpretation to the parable that seems convenient at the moment, but the exact meaning is never given. To start with, I would read all the pericopes before and after this one in the flow of chapter 11. For example, verse 23 speaks of our need to join Jesus in his mission. The story of the house swept clean begins in the next verse, and seems to explain what happens when we fail to join him in his mission.

I certainly do not think this is a passage about exorcism, or that when we as Christians are idle, demons come and take up residence! But as we all know from experience, "Idle hands are the devil's workshop." Spiritually speaking, we all need times of peace and quiet (Psalm 46:10), but we also need to be driven and focused on the work of the Lord.