The Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge
Jesus told his disciples a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.”’ And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. 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?’
Today’s reading is most commonly referred to as The Parable of the Unjust Judge, but the story really revolves around someone who existed on the very edge of 1st century Jewish society – a widow.
We know two things about widows in the time of Jesus: firstly, widowhood presented sometimes insurmountable challenges, both economically and socially, and, secondly, God’s people had been told time and time again to care for the widow and the orphan. The widow in today’s parable stands out because she does not wait to be ‘cared for’, but stands up for herself in the face of an uncaring society.
The judge in Jesus’ parable wanted to ignore or refuse, but the widow, in her turn, refused to take ‘No’ for an answer. She was determined, like so many others down the ages, to be resolute as she journeyed the path of prayer, action and faith.
So many times I have heard preachers focus on the unjust judge or the persistent ‘nagging’ of the widow. They have twisted Jesus’ parable so far out of shape that its real meaning has been lost. This parable is not about militant protest or any other human-centric reaction to injustice, it is about prayer.
As we pray we plead to God for those we love, for those who are sick, for a world that is hurting because of violence, injustice, exploitation, oppression and untimely death. And, when God does not seem to be listening, when we feel that our cause is being ignored by the world and by the Church, our prayers become more persistent. We should emulate the widow and not be cowed by the indifference of the world. We should remember Jesus’ words at the end of today’s reading: And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night?
In those moments when we feel abandoned, lonely and lost we need to cling on to the reassurance Jesus offers. We will be heard by God. The persistence of our faith through prayerful devotion will align our voices with that of God, the one who is Lord of all, including those who are excluded from society through no fault of their own.
Let us pray that we might not forget that Jesus is present in every moment and that he makes himself known to us through prayer. Let us pray that we might commit ourselves afresh to seeking him in all things. Let us pray that we might listen for his call in our lives and that we might follow that call for the rest of our days.