Can physical objects be possessed by demons?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

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Question: I'm wondering about the  “objects” in a home. I’ve read that objects can't be inhabited by demons. However, the bible talks about not bringing unclean things & idols into the home... I have also read testimonies where people have bought certain objects and found out later that the objects were used in witchcraft and have affected the owners. Do you think this is possible? I don't want to be paranoid but I also want to honor the Lord... so I threw out many objects I used in the New Age movement — including my Willow Tree statues. Thanks in advance. (From a female new Christian in Oceania).

Answer: A warm greetings to you, my sister! This is a great question… and very practical, too. It will be my pleasure to respond. But before I do, let me praise you for your attitude and for your diligence. You want to honor the Lord… and you “cleaned house” to prove it! But this is not paranoia; this is wisdom for a new Christian.

Let me also commend you on your methodology. First, you found some information in the Bible. Second, you’ve investigated the topic online. Third, you’ve investigated personal reports. Fourth, you’re seeking the correct path. Fifth, while doing so, you’ve “erred” on the side of caution. This is marvelous! But to understand this issue better, we need to separate the actions of people as they interface with these “possessed” objects from the nature of the objects themselves… and Paul addresses the overarching issue in 1 Corinthians: an idol is nothing. So act accordingly.

So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” (1 Corinthians 8:4, NIV)

That being said, the Bible does not address whether or not demons can inhabit inanimate objects… but it sure shows them possessing a lot of people! In fact, Jesus cast out many demons as part of his earthly ministry. In one account (Matthew 8:28), the demons begged Jesus not to disembody them totally — and requested that they be allowed to inhabit some pigs (which immediately drowned themselves). Now, we shouldn’t make too much of this. But note that the pigs were living creatures and not inanimate objects. So why the warnings as in Deuteronomy?

Do not bring a detestable thing into your house or you, like it, will be set apart for destruction. Regard it as vile and utterly detest it, for it is set apart for destruction. (Deuteronomy 7:26, NIV)

During the period of the Law, bringing an object that was associated with false gods or demons into your house was tantamount to worshipping that non-God entity. But this is not because of the object itself; this was because the person assigned reverential value to an object… but one which had none categorically. By worshipping the creature rather than the Creator they dishonored God in the process.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles … They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator … (Romans 1:21–25, NIV)

Under the Law, when you brought an unclean object into the house, that was the trespass: you performed the wrong action on the wrong object in the wrong place — and that’s how the Law worked… “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!?” (Colossians 2:21). But, this methodology ran the risk of teaching a surface-lesson at the expense of the real lesson. When we consider Deuteronomy 7:26 in the light of Romans 1:18-25, the objects and the actions fade from view. Instead, we see that the real sin is to give God’s glory to a non-God entity — and bringing an unclean object into a house was the result of sin more so than it was the actual sin… although both were sins back then (— disobedience and worshipping false Gods).

But Jesus came to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17) … which means (among other things) that we had something else to learn about it from him. Jesus taught how the Law was indeed our schoolmaster (as Paul later described in Galatians 3:24) — and that means that the Law was “training” for life, not life itself… and life was different back in school. Under the Law, life was trespass-based — which is object and action-based. But Jesus turned the tide: life would now be heart-based — which is intention and motivation based.

During the period of the Law, one had to perform the sin — not just think it — and the “vehicles” of sin (idols, talisman, etc.) played a critical role in defining the trespass as sin. But Jesus changed the focus: he moved it from the accouterments of sin, and he placed it squarely upon the heart (Matthew 5:28). But the fault had always been there. Jesus just pointed it out.

Now, the Law has always been about revealing sin (Romans 7:7) … but people could easily stay on the surface of their trespasses instead of learning the deeper lesson (Matthew 23:23) — and Jesus changed all that. He signaled a shift from the physical (do this with this like this) to the metaphysical (love this with this like this) — bringing us back to the overarching lesson: these idols are nothing… but which still doesn’t answer your question about whether it’s possible for them to be possessed.

The Bible doesn’t say… and no doctrine counterindicates it. Therefore, I must state that it would be “possible” for objects to be possessed by demons… but that’s a mere logical concession; it’s not a statement of probability. In fact, I’m spending a lot of pixels to say that that’s not how it usually works… but I feel the need to do that because many people give personal accounts of objects that “are possessed” — and we should address the ubiquity of those reports. But to better understand what is I feel happening here, let’s return to my teaching thus far.

Just as the “sin” is in assigning glory to a lifeless object (and not what you do with the object itself), so it goes with “power.” People assign power to these objects. So, although the objects have no actual power, people act like they do… which does give them a power of sorts. When people apply special meaning to incidental events (like assuming that a person will come to harm when his picture falls off the wall… which is a normal [not a paranormal] phenomenon in a world affected by gravity and the second law of thermodynamics), this affects their view of how the world works — and affecting how people think is indeed a “power” … if only a subjective one.

Now, don’t get me wrong: a spiritual world does indeed exist. The Bible tells of an active realm that transcends the physical one (Ephesians 6:12) — and that its beings can affect our realm (Hebrews 1:14)… but they are not seen breaking through to the physical realm routinely. They do show up specially, though, on rare and necessary occasions — like to announce the birth of Christ (Luke 2:9).

Therefore, since the Bible doesn’t teach about this specifically since a spiritual entity does not “dwell” in the physical realm — and since they only show up “to be seen” on very few high-profile occasions — I doubt that they would indwell your Willow Tree statues. But given your previous involvement with New Age philosophy, I applaud your caution and your pursuit of purity.

(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20170417 Can physical objects be possessed?).

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