“Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.” (Luke 18:1)
Unlike a lot of Jesus’ parables that are purposefully open-ended; Luke tells us the meaning of the story Jesus tells as an introduction to what follows. The story introduces a widow – a person who would have little standing in her society (if she was even seen or regarded s a person at all) and a judge who would have been a man of power and authority in the community. She bests him not by trickery or clever arguments but by her persistence to gain the justice she desires. As hearers/readers of this re left. to speculate. what that injustice may have been, but in the end it is her. resolve and inner strength alongside his impatience and weakness that wins the day.
While the parable is about both prayer and persistence it seems a mistake to equate the judge character in the story with God; as if we just prayed long and hard enough we would eventually get God to give in to our demands (even the well meaning ones). We should also not infer that if and when we don’t get the things we want – including justice – it must mean that we have not prayed hard enough, sincere enough or persistent enough. Believing these fallacies about prayer and faithfulness is the road to despair.
By Jesus’ own words this judge has no fear of God or respect of anyone (Luke 18:4). He is representative of those who are drunk on their own power, influence and arrogance. It is better to associate him with the systems and institutions that oppress and dehumanize others than with the justice the widow craves. In his own way the judge may be the very opponent this widow overcomes. The promise comes that even if we fail God will make all things right in the end.
The key to meeting challenges is prayer and persistence. There is much about the world we live in that is morally bankrupt and oppressively unfair. There are things that remain out of our control that affect us personally along with those we care about the most. This parable seems to ask us – so how will you respond when things are not right? Will it be to curl-up, lash-out or fall-apart? Will we fall-in, comply and accept things are the way they are and we have little to say or do about them? (I suspect we often have done all of these.)
-Will we be bold and courageous?
-Will we fight the good fight – not with our fists and strength but on our knees and the resolve that finds us there?
-Will we build-up others rather than pull them down only to show how weak the powers of this world are by our persistence?
Keep praying and keep at it. God is with you. Follow the widow’s lead.