Here's our next parable from Luke 18:1-8:
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
Let's set the scene. We have a less than sterling judge and a widow who is in desperate need of a judgment against an "adversary." The two people are neighbors and probably so is the adversary--so it's a case of "You can run but you cannot hide." How often does the widow see the judge walking to his office? How often does the widow catch a glimpse of her foe, ducking into a store or staring at her from over the bread counter at the supermarket? These people interact everyday at some level, and because of this, the widow feels desperation...her foe is a constant reminder of the injustice she has suffered. Do we know what the injustice actually is? Does it matter? She wants justice, plain and simple.
The judge is probably the only judge in this small town. Jesus gives him a quick personality sketch--he doesn't care about what God or others think. Uh-oh. In a small town, with religion permeating every nook and cranny of the people's existence, this judge would stand out. He obviously has said words to that effect or has behaved in such a way that people know what he is like. He may the guy that everyone loves to hate--but what are the people going to do? He's the only one in town who can dispense justice.
The widow knows about his reputation but also knows she stuck with him. Her personality is one of persistence: she keeps coming to him and requesting that he hear her plea. She won't give up and is so persistent that the judge fears that if he doesn't act soon, she will attack him! He could care less about God and man, yet this widow's tenacity keeps him awake at night! Why is that? Could it be that deep down inside, he knows he needs to do the right thing and hear her case and make a ruling? He probably knows her adversary as well, and as long as the judge delays, this adversary is walking the streets, sneering at a system that doesn't stop him. So, these three characters are in a desperate dance, which could be quelled in a New York minute with a pronouncement from the judge.
The judge must act, if not to uphold the law but to protect himself from this widow! The widow must act and pursue the judge so she can be protected by the law! The adversary lurks in the town, awaiting judgement, glad of his freedom but having to always look over his shoulder!
Jesus then points to the words of the judge. If someone that unjust, that worried about personal safety and that insensitive about the suffering of others, recognizes the need to act, how much more will our pleas be heard by our loving Heavenly Judge? Was Jesus in essence saying that perhaps (although they would never admit this) the disciples saw God as that judge in the story? Were they entertaining the belief that God really didn't care, that He is insensitive to our suffering and is way too concerned about how we behave towards Him, without any thought as to how He acts towards us? Uh-oh. In other words, are we the widow and God is the judge? Of course, we know who the "adversary" is, and how relentless he is in condemning us.
So, Jesus launches this parable under the theme of keep praying and never give up. Is it our prayers that need fixing? We pray for those who hurt, who are desperate, who are suffering, who are causing misery in others' lives...is that what Jesus is evaluating? I think not. I think He is asking us to reevaluate who we think God is. He compares God's personality to that of the judge's...
1. God hears our cries. He doesn't ignore us or avoid us. He is actively engaged in our lives, not shirking His responsibility to His own.
2. God will not delay justice. He knows what we need and what the cries of our heart are. He is not delaying justice--He is working to bring it about. His timing is not our own. We need to trust His timing.
3. God wants justice in the world. Sin was not His design, and the consequences of sin have rendered His creation chock full of chaos, pain and evil. He is all too aware of this, and He is in the process of remedying it. How? Who is telling the parable? It's Jesus: The very One that the Almighty Judge has sent down, to pay the penalty Himself, on a cross that waits for Him up the road a ways. Justice will be handed down, upon the shoulders of the One who now stands before the disciples. The Judge, will in essence, offer Himself to render justice and set us free. His stripes will heal us and render the adversary living on borrowed time.
4. God wants us to be persistent and walking in faith each day. The time is coming when the judgement will be handed down. Will we have already left the courtroom in despair, or will we be knocking on Heaven's door, confident in the knowledge that He is good and kind and just? When the Son returns, will we still be at our Father's business, or will our hearts have grown cold?
God want us to be persistent, which is defined as "continuing firmly or obstinately in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition." The days will be filled with trial, to be sure, but will we meet the days with despair or determination?
For more posts in my parable series, click here.