Luke 18:1-8

This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on October 16th, 2016.


widow3As a modern day reader, and considering our familiarity with the Bible and the general structure of parables, our first inclination might be to think that the author is describing how the judge and the Lord in this parable are similar.  In fact, this parable sets up a contrast between how the Lord administers justice to those in need and the judge who administers justice after being inconvenienced by constant pleas from the widow.  While the judge gives justice because of badgering, the Lord gives justice to someone who “always prays and [does] not lose heart.”

This parable is focused on prayer and plays on the contrast in status between a judge and a widow.  In those times, the role of a judge was to maintain peaceful community and resolve disputes among the Israelites.  Women, on the other hand, relied on the support given by their husband.  When their husband was not in the picture anymore, they did not inherit property from their husband; instead, it was passed on to either the husband’s male offspring or his brothers.  In some cases, these widows were taken in by the other family members of her late-husband or left to fend for themselves.  Since there was no jury to hear the case of the widow, the judge carried the sole responsibility of dealing with her complaint in a fair and impartial manner – as according to the law set out in Deuteronomy.  Additionally, they were required to show the same amount of respect to the small cases as the large.

The judge is also set up as a character that has no connection to God and the law along with no obligation to deal respectfully with any person that comes to him with a request.  Given the duties of a judge outlined in Deuteronomy, these characteristics of this particular judge seem to make him unfit to hold this position.  Compassion for other humans, reverence of God and fear of punishment for violating his duties do not seem to be qualities which this judge possesses.  What this widow is doing through her appeal to the judge is asking him to live into the office in which he finds himself.  She is beckoning him to act with compassion for people in need and in faith to God, which are both major themes in Luke.

With the focus being on prayer and persistence of prayer, we see that the widow’s constant appeal to the judge was granted not because of the goodness of the judge but rather him being annoyed by her.  What we learn in verse 6-7 is that this is not the case with how the Lord intercedes on behalf of those who appeal to Him in the same manner.  Even though the judge grants the widow what she is seeking, the Lord still declares the judge as “unjust.”  Jesus tells this story to enforce the idea that what God is interested in is a person who will consistently turn to Him in their search for vindication.  What we learned in Luke 6 (the story of the man with the withered hand) applies to this passage as well – that human need supersedes strict adherence to the law and that the law was created to satisfy human need and not that humans were created to satisfy the law.  If a judge like this will act on behalf of someone as persistent as this widow, how much more and quickly will God act on behalf of someone persistent in prayer?  A pastor may focus on the character of the judge or the widow in this story and find plenty of material to offer a thoughtful reflection on this passage.

Since this passage is about prayer, what do we learn about prayer through this parable?  While we may think of our appeals to God has badgering and annoying, Jesus is not similar to the judge.  A righteous judge would be someone who would kneel down and show compassion to this woman and do everything in the power given to him to ensure that this woman was cared for.  How often do we find ourselves acting like the judge when we encounter a person who seems to not accept their defeat and limp away respectfully when things do not go their way?  Let’s say that we have had a person come into our office once a week for the past six months dealing with the same issues looking for some sort of guidance and compassion.  How often do we sigh and do our best to give that person what they are looking for in hopes that they would just go away and quit bothering us?  Should we not be celebrating the fact that they are genuinely trying to have faith – the size of a mustard seed – and consistently turning to the Lord?  This parable should serve as a message of hope to all people because we have been promised a savior who is quick to show compassion to those who seek it.  We have not been given a Savior that gives justice and mercy out of obligation or inconvenience, but a Savior who delights in people who cry out to Him.  When we face trials and tribulation, are we the type of people who will walk away defeated or will we consistently act in faith that God has heard our prayers?



resized_screenshot_20161005-154814Daniel Venzin
Minister to Students and Recreation
First Baptist Church, Lufkin, TX




Tags: prayer, widow, persistence, justice, judge, mercy

One comment

  1. Donald N. Truitt

    Amen . Your point is well made and well taken . Our faith will be tested daily as we walk in the light of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ . Satan doesn’t like it very much and will do all he can to destroy our faith and disrupt our relationship with the Lord . However if we will stay the course and don the armor of God each and every day we will be victorious for God is with us and will see us through !

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