Text: Mark 3:1-35
“And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” —Mark 3:25
“A house divided against itself”—I often see this engraved on license plates, especially here in the south, along with two rival college football teams’ logos on each side of the plate. It’s how many married couples like to brandish their loyalties and show off their opposing allegiances to sports teams.
This famed proverb “a house divided against itself cannot stand” has been used in political arenas as well. Abraham Lincoln used it as the basis of a speech he gave after he had accepted the Illinois Republican Party’s nomination as that state’s US senator in 1858. At the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin was quoted as saying: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
The “house divided” phrase originated with Jesus, as seen in each of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 12:22–32; Luke 11:14–23; Mark 3:22–29). All three instances of this statement were spoken in response to the Pharisee’s accusation that Jesus was casting out demons by the power of Satan—a blasphemy that Jesus said would not be forgiven them.
In the third chapter of Mark’s gospel, Jesus is having quite a battle with the powers that be. Things are getting a bit testy on the mission front. After Jesus healed a man of a withered hand on the Sabbath, the Pharisees held a “counsel” with the Herodians to discuss how they might destroy him. Jesus continued to heal many who had diseases and unclean spirits, as demons even cried outright: “You are the Son of God” (Mark 3:11). So the scribes accused Him of being possessed by Beelzebul, that is, Satan. They said, “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons” (Mark 3:22). To which Jesus replied:
“How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” (Mark 3:23–25)
Jesus’ response to the incendiary accusations of these prominent and power-obsessed figures was completely logical: Any “household” cankered by infighting will rip itself apart. Kingdoms infiltrated with such opposing cross-purposes will ultimately fall. It’s impossible for Jesus to be in a league with Satan while He is casting out Satan’s own minions. Their attack wasn’t rational. But when you are blanketed with hatred, you are blind to logic.
The principle Jesus is illustrating is the fact that sustainability relies on congruency. Disunity is a cancer to living cells. Division obstructs growth and progress. It’s something we see in every sphere of life and civilization. Whether it is a business, a sports team, a government, or a marriage, there must be harmony for success and survival. Without a unified soul, organizations and entities are weakened and vulnerable to attack. They inevitably collapse, wither, and die. It’s only a matter of time.The principle Jesus is illustrating is the fact that sustainability relies on congruency. Disunity is a cancer to living cells. Click To Tweet
The Word of God clearly warns about the instability of division—even in the hidden chambers of one’s own soul. “An inconsistent life, I say, is a sure token of a divided heart,” Charles Spurgeon noted. We see that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). Perhaps that’s why the psalmist prayed, “Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name” (Psalm 86:11).
Paul appealed to the churches that there be no divisions among them, and to avoid people who cause such disunions (1 Corinthians 1:10, Romans 16:17). The world may get accustomed to the hostility that comes from divisiveness—even feeding off of it—but God has a different mind for His family: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).
At the end of Mark chapter 3, Jesus redefined his “family” as those who “do the will of God.” It is good to be reminded that Jesus Christ is building His church and it will not be overcome (Matthew 16:18). His “house” will stand forever—“his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end” (Daniel 6:26). Being fully convinced of this, we should strive to live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16) and, as far as it depends on us, “make every effort to live in peace with everyone” (Hebrews 12:14).
Heavenly Father, we live in a divisive culture. And sometimes a divisive culture lives in us. Help us to learn how to be counter-cultural in the manner of your kingdom. We pray like the psalmist, dear Lord, unite our hearts to walk in your truth. Give us a sound mind to be stable in all of our ways. Help us foster unity and reconciliation where it is needed. And for the glory and fame of Jesus in our generation, help us to overcome this world’s toxic divisiveness and demonstrate a better hope. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Questions for Reflection and/or Family Discussion:
- How do you feel when good is attributed to evil, or righteousness gets demonized?
- In your experience, when has faithfulness to a cause or person led to conflict with others?
- The Bible says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). How do you think this verse applies to the times we are living in now? How should this be practically fleshed out?
- What can you do this week to restore a relationship that strains your unity with other believers, neighbors, or coworkers?
- What is something you can do to help strengthen the unity of the Church?
Subscribe to “Abiding In Him” and get the latest devotional in your Inbox once a week.