The Widow and the Unjust Judge
Lesson and Read: Luke 18.1-8
And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?
Luke 18.7-8 (NRSV)
The parable we know as “The Widow and the Unjust Judge” is found only in Luke’s gospel but Jesus told a similar parable, “The Visit of the Midnight Friend,” in Luke 11.5-9. Both stories have a character who is moved to action by the importunity, the persistence, of another character. Both parables are about prayer, however, despite what we think, the point of these teachings is God’s grace, not human persistence.
Jesus’ parable on prayer has two characters: a judge and a widow who live in the same city. Though appointed to render justice, this judge had no motivation to do so. He did not fear divine retribution and did not care what people said or did. The widow was not unlike any widow of that day. She had no family to support her and was at the mercy of an adversary who was taking advantage of her weakness. Her persistent plea to the judge was for justice (Luke 18.3). The prophets preached against harming a widow. Defend the orphan, plead for the widow (Isaiah 1.17); Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow (Jeremiah 22.3). By refusing to hear her case, it was the judge who was oppressing the widow, instead of defending her as his oath and the prophets required. Eventually, and only because the widow was “wearing him out” (the Greek word hupopaizo means “pummeling him like a boxer”), the judge gave her justice.
This parable is not teaching that God will answer prayer if we pester, annoy or pummel. God is not an unjust judge. God will grant justice quickly. God hears and answers prayer. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance (Second Peter 3.9). God is faithful, but how faithful are we? When the Lord fulfills His word, will God find us still praying, loving, forgiving, serving, and caring? Or will we have lost faith? If we are persistent, it is not to bend God to our will. It is rather that we consistently practice our faith to show the world that we believe in Him.
Reverend Steven B. Lawrence