The Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge
18 Then Jesus[a] told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ 4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’”[b]6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
The story of the persistent widow reminds us of the importance to always pray and to not lose heart. Actually, the word for prayer in this text can also be translated as “plead”. It’s also important to remember that our prayers, as incomplete as they often are, as imperfect and filled will all sorts of different wants and needs…are still purposeful and are heard.
I can remember a time when I was a summer missionary during college in Rehoboth Beach, DE. It was a tough assignment, I got to spend 2 months on the beach, in a resort area.
And, the organization that I was working with was great, but they didn’t have much of a plan or structure. So, that left me with a lot of time…which was good and bad. It led me to a deep time of questioning. One night, I remember being on part of the boardwalk there, there was not anyone else around and I remember pleading to God to make sense of life and if God was really there, and if God was, did God care…then, I remembered this verse from Hebrews that says that, in Christ, we have a sympathetic priest who has experienced with us all things. God was with me in my prayers, my pleadings that night.
The context for this story is within a series of stories on faith and prayer. Jesus is addressing his disciples who may have been feeling a bit disheartened. Wondering if things were going to change, when would this movement of theirs take off? When would life with Jesus begin to make sense again? Sound familiar? Many of us may wonder similar things….when will my life change, when will our church be something more, and what is that more, when will we experience growth and change?
Jesus encourages them and goes into this story about a marginalized widow. As we’ve talked about before, widows were vulnerable in the first century, they were alone usually, and they didn’t have many advocates. This widow took it upon herself to go to a judge for justice. Even today, widows all over the world, are subject to all sorts of injustice. In India a couple of years ago, I was struck by how many folks were marginalized in a wealthy country where the income disparity was so obvious and how affected those without advocates like this picture of an Indian woman. But, not only in India and other parts of the world, but even here in the states as I’ve experienced with folks preying on my mom’s loss of my dad over a year ago.
In our Gospel lesson, something had happened to this widow and she wanted to plead her case. She didn’t have someone there for her, her husband had died and there is no mention of children. But, she had some moxie to demand justice. The judge in this story is said to not have a fear of God or love for community. He was comfortable, privileged, isolated. However, in his favor, he was impartial! He didn’t have any ties to folks.
So, this woman comes before him, he refuses to hear her case or grant her justice. Yet, she persists, she doesn’t give up and continues to plead for justice. Eventually, he gets tired of her bothering her, even makes a remark about her persistence being a strength, she might even beat him up! Somehow it seems that this woman may have even won a bit of respect from the judge.
He eventually gives in and grants her justice.
Jesus goes on to say that if this unjust judge who doesn’t love community or fear God gives justice to the widow, how much more will God do the same, a God who lives in community with Godself and with us?
This story is about faith. Faith is persistence born out of commitment. It doesn’t make sense all of the time, but faith molds us and faith leads us to growth….and faith will give us the desires of our heart. Those desires are always deeper than what we may actually pray for…and they always lead to a deeper growth.
Now, this passage also affirms that we do have injustices in our lives and in our world. If we look around, we see a world filled with division, war, injustices all around. How can we not see the affects of gun violence, of racism, of corruption, of war?
In our own lives, when we are able to look deeply at ourselves….when we see things in our lives that need remedying or have deep desires, how do we respond? Do we lose heart, or do we persist, plead to God, and grow in faith?
As we approach this fall, we see things die, become dormant. Oftentimes, we may feel that way about our church…but, there is still beauty in the fall and in the winter…and, we have a promise that there is a spring, that new life will rise up out of the
I could say it’s similar in my story of coming to Fleming Road UCC. I knew that I’d end up at Fleming Road UCC deep down after meeting with folks here and hearing about your church’s profile. God’s faithfulness and persistence gave, and gives, me a deep sense of trust and belief…that builds up a good sense of agency within me to go where God leads.
Friends, I know that many of you have demonstrated amazing faith. I see it in this church. You refuse to give up on it…often you want to I’d imagine. You maybe even lose heart or go back and forth in some wavering faith.
I can tell you that in your life, and in your church, persistence and pleading to God will pay off. Keep on pleading before God the deeper desires of your heart for your relationships, your life, and your church.
I can tell you that this church will grow, I know it will. I don’t exactly know what that will look like, but I know that I am pleading for this church to be all that God intends for it to be, and I know many of you are as well!
When God looks at us, may we ask the question that Jesus asks at the end of this passage, will God find faith? I believe that God will! Find time to get on your knees or in a quiet place, maybe with others, and plead to God for your own spiritual growth and for this church!