A scripture passage I read frequently is the Parable of the Persistent Widow, found in Luke 18:1-8. It’s the only place in the Gospels where this parable of Jesus is found, and it serves to illustrate just how important persistent prayer is. This is a topic that has been at the forefront of my life in recent years, even as I have wrestled with an ongoing injustice waged against me by others. While I don’t care to write about the specifics of that now, I do wish to share what I’ve learned about injustice versus God’s justice through this experience, and the examination of this scripture.
The beginning word of Verse 1 is often translated as either “Then” or “Now”. This shows a connection to Jesus’ previous discourse in Chapter 17 to His disciples concerning His second coming. Jesus appears to be linking His thoughts on His eventual return to Earth with the matter of prayer–ongoing, persistent, prayer. The verse tells us Jesus is instructing His disciples “that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.” This is presented as His purpose for telling this parable. Jesus recognized trying times were coming for His followers, and He wanted to prepare them to handle them. His story is of a city judge who had no regard for either God or people. He saw himself as one who had unquestionable authority and cared little, if any, what anyone thought of him. He reminds me of a lot of today’s politicians and judges who have been corrupted by power.
Jesus proceeds with the story by bringing in a widow, a very stubborn, persistent widow, who had little, if anything, left to lose. He describes her as one who appeals to the judge day after day for “legal protection from my opponent,” as Jesus presents this. The judge, as Jesus explains, at first ignores her. But because she persists in coming after him, calling out for him to grant her justice, he finally caves in. Widows in Jesus’ day would have had no social standing or power, but her sheer persistence brings the judge to the point of exasperation in which he declares that while he couldn’t care less about justice, he would grant this widow’s request to get her off his back. The judge says that “by continually coming she will wear me out.” The Greek here can literally be translated “punch me in the eye.” The implication here is that the widow made herself such a pest to the judge that he feared he would end up suffering public disgrace over her.
Jesus now moves the parable to pointing out the thrust of what the unrighteous judge said. He’s comparing the judge with His father to whom His faithful followers appeal “day and night”. Jesus raises the rhetorical question “will not God bring about justice for His elect, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. What Jesus is telling His disciples and us is that unlike a corrupt, unjust judge who doesn’t care, God cares intensely about all of us and is interested in hearing our petitions for His help. In the context here, Jesus is also saying that as the world approaches the end of time with evil intensifying along with the persecution of His church, that God’s justice will prevail over the earth at the end.
Jesus interestingly closes the parable with another rhetorical question: “However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” This question is meant to focus our attention on the reality that as injustice and persecution increases against the true followers of Christ in the end times, those followers will need to hold onto their faith no matter how difficult their situation becomes. They must not give in to the pressure the culture around them exerts on them to conform to that which violates God’s Word. This is the kind of faith that only stands up through persistent prayer.
That brings me to apply what this parable really has to say to us today. In the last several years, we’ve watched ISIS behead, drown, and crucify Christian believers in the Middle East. We have witnessed Christians brutally attacked in other nations in Asia and Africa. Recent reports from China show it is ramping up efforts to silence biblical Christianity again by burning churches, arresting and imprisoning pastors, and trying to stop the teaching of the faith to children. Here in the U.S., the political Far Left is showing its determination to criminalize the biblical Christian faith for its teachings against certain practices it wants to promote.
As for me personally, I find myself confronted continually with a false and slanderous accusation against my moral character, marriage, and Christian testimony, that day and night I have to give over to our Almighty Judge for His final verdict and my vindication. I have already determined that if it costs me my life standing for this, so be it. I’d much rather be killed for standing for God’s truth than give in to what the culture wants me to be and be lost eternally because of it. That’s the kind of faith Jesus wants to find in us when He returns. That’s a faith that stands up to any injustice, because while oppressors may kill Christ’s faithful followers for not renouncing their faith, that can’t kill their souls. Knowing that is what keeps me standing up for Christ and His truth, no matter what gets thrown at me.
(Scripture quotations from The New American Standard Bible, 1995 updated edition, Anaheim, California, Foundation Publications.)