"When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house ..." (Luke 11:21-23)

"When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters." (Luke 11:21-23)

Who is Jesus saying this to and why?

Jesus continues his response to those who were criticizing Jesus for his casting a demon out of a man who had been mute (Luke 11:14-15), and "tested him" (Luke 11:16).

Jesus is commenting on their illusion of authority, and the consequences of their questioning Jesus' authority in public.

Those criticizing Jesus thought of themselves as having some spiritual knowledge, and they were sitting in judgment of Jesus. They thought they had some special authority to do so.

Jesus utilized a parable to describe how a person might think they are strong, but they really are not. We may be thinking of ourselves as being equipped to stand in judgment of others including Jesus. But we are not so equipped. Just as those Jesus was speaking to.

What does this parable of the strong man mean?

The strong man's possessions were only safe when the man was fully armed and did not have to face anyone who was stronger.

As such, the "strong man" symbolizes those who were standing in judgment of Jesus, thinking themselves strong enough to question Jesus' authority.

They were "fully armed" because they had perceived authority within the society at that time. The Jewish temples gave authority to those "teachers of the law" - allowing them to pass judgment upon others. And this is what they were doing to Jesus.

The "someone stronger" in Jesus' parable represents those elements of life that will ultimately remove their authority.

The elements that remove their authority include the wavering nature of society, the relative health or age of their body, and ultimately, death. These elements of nature and society are ultimately governed by the Supreme Being.

The big point Jesus is making is that the "strong man's" strength is temporary. Those testing Jesus might have the authority to stand in judgment of him. But their supposed authority - granted by the hierarchy of the current society - symbolized by "fully armed" - is only temporary. At some point that authority - their strength - will be taken away from them - they will be overpowered, and their armor is taken away.

Is this about having no refuge?

At that time, they will be left without not only authority but without refuge. Who or what will they be able to take refuge in when everything is taken from them? They have stood in judgment of God's representative. They have questioned Jesus' authority. So who is left that will protect them when their temporary authority is taken away from them?

Jesus indicates they will not be able to take refuge in him - nor the Supreme Being because Jesus is representing God. They will not be protected by God.

Jesus confirms this with:
"Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters."
What does this mean?

By them standing in judgment of Jesus and questioning Jesus' authority, they were not "with" Jesus.

One might argue that they were only questioning Jesus - they were not preventing him from his mission of passing on his teachings to others.

But Jesus clarifies that their position - of not being "with" Jesus - is the same as being "against" Jesus. Why?

He explains this in the next phrase:

The key word here is σκορπίζω (skorpizō) - translated to "scatters." According to the lexicon, σκορπίζω means "of those who, routed or terror-stricken or driven by some other impulses, fly in every direction."

If we consider what this means from a spiritual context - Jesus is describing a person who has no real refuge and is thus has no solid ground on which to stand. They "scatter" because they do not have the guidance and strength that can only be bestowed by the Supreme Being.

Each of us must consider our position in relation to Jesus' statement. We might think that we are on solid ground and we are in an okay place right now - our body might be healthy, and we think we are pretty smart and we have enough money to pay the rent or mortgage because we have a good job or savings or a pension.

But this is all temporary. All of this will be taken from us at some point. If it isn't taken during our lifetime it will be taken at the time of death.

Is this world a place of learning?

The physical world is designed as a temporary place of learning. It is not a refuge. It might tease us into thinking that we will be happy and that we are protected here, but these are illusions. It is like watching television. It might seem real but the props, set and characters are a facade. The movie set might look like a real place but it is only a prop. And the actors are all playing a part - each pretending to be someone they are not.

In the same way, we might think that we are safe and protected in the physical world, and our current state of physical and financial health will continue forever. But it won't. At some point, our physical bodies will weaken. Our brainpower will diminish. Finally, our bodies will stop working and die.

Then we will lose all our money, and every other possession we now think we own, including our family, pets, and reputation.

In other words, all of these things are temporary. We cannot take refuge in them for long. At some point "someone stronger" will take all of this away from us - including:

What is "the armor in which the man trusted."?

This symbolizes the physical body. In the analogy, the "someone stronger" not only overpowers the man but takes the very armor which covers the soul.

This is describing the physical body: Our temporary armor that gives us the illusion we are strong. In other words, we are taking refuge in our body and its identity.

But this "armor" will be snatched away at the time of death, leaving us without any refuge.

Why? The physical body is our source of misidentification. When we are occupying the physical body we misidentify ourselves with this physical body. We think that we are this physical body.

But we are not this physical body. We are the spirit-person within. And at the time of death, we - the spirit-person within - leaves this physical body.

This has been proven among hundreds of thousands of clinical death cases, where a person revived after their body clinically died accurately remembers rising up over the body and watching their dead body and all the events taking place around it. How could they have seen all the events taking place around their body if their body lay dead on the bed or operating table with eyes closed? This has been proven over and over in these cases.

But those who wish to doubt this - those who doubt the existence of the Supreme Being and doubt in the teachings of Jesus - those who doubt that Jesus is God's representative and love for God is our ultimate accomplishment - have no refuge when their body and everything their body was associated with including their name and reputation - is taken away from them.

They will be "scattered" because they did not take refuge in the Supreme Being. Instead of taking refuge, they decided to stand in judgment of those who are doing their best to try to pass on the teachings of Jesus. Instead of taking refuge in the Supreme Being they decided that their tiny brains had enough power to be able to speculate upon whether the Supreme Being exists or not. They decided that their tiny brains - which have only picked up a small portion of the physical world - are more powerful than Jesus' teachings.

These are left with no refuge after the "someone stronger" - death - takes everything they now rely upon away from them. So they will scatter in fear.

What does "whoever does not gather with me" mean?

Jesus is using the word "gather" metaphorically. Jesus is speaking of gathering people. Jesus is trying to bring people back to the Supreme Being. He is trying to encourage those around him and those who hear his teachings later to decide to re-establish their loving relationship with the Supreme Being - and return to Him.

Jesus confirmed this when he said:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free" (Luke 4:18)
“My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work." (John 4:34)
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life." (John 5:24)
“My teaching is not my own. It comes from the One who sent me." (John 7:16)
“Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but He who sent me is true. You do not know Him (John 7:28)
“I have much to say in judgment of you. But He who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from Him I tell the world.” (John 8:26)
"For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken." (John 12:49)
Jesus also confirmed that being "with me" wasn't just being with Jesus - it was being with God:
“Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the One who sent me." (John 12:44)
The bottom line is that Jesus' mission relates to his relationship with the Supreme Being. He is working on God's behalf, and he is working to bring us back to God:
"whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life"
This is clear from Jesus' teachings. As such, when we apply this to the situation of those scribes questioning Jesus' authority and "testing him" - we find that even if they personally did not arrest him or otherwise prevent him from speaking, they were not "with" him in the sense that they were being of service to his mission. They did not "gather with" Jesus - that is, assist him in his mission of serving the Supreme Being and passing on those teachings meant to bring us home to the spiritual realm.

In other words, Jesus was giving others the means to take permanent refuge - the refuge in the Supreme Being.

A person who takes refuge in God has nothing and no one to fear because God is the strongest of all, and He protects those who are dedicated to Him. They have nothing to be taken from them because they do not feel they own anything - because everything belongs to the Supreme Being.

Jesus clarified our means for taking refuge in the Supreme Being:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind" (Luke 10:27)