The Unjust Judge and Persistent Widow, by Katie Snipes Lancaster
Jesus was telling them a parable about their need to pray continuously and not to be discouraged. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him, asking, ‘Give me justice in this case against my adversary.’ For a while he refused but finally said to himself, I don’t fear God or respect people, but I will give this widow justice because she keeps bothering me. Otherwise, there will be no end to her coming here and embarrassing me.” The Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. Won’t God provide justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he be slow to help them? I tell you, he will give them justice quickly. But when the Human One comes, will he find faithfulness on earth?” Luke 18:1–8
Reflection:I am particularly interested in prayer, and I am intrigued that this parable begins with Jesus’ instruction about praying continually. Steady, uninterrupted prayer takes a kind of meditative concentration that few of us attain regularly if ever. The practice of prayer is like any other practice—sport, hobby, profession—it takes work. I think one of the reasons we abandon persistent prayer is because we fall into the trap of thinking prayer doesn’t “work.” If prayer doesn’t “work” then we’d better spend our time doing something more productive, more effective. But what I hear Jesus saying here is that the persistent widow found a route toward justice through the unjust judge despite it all, the judge took a deep breath and said “yes” to the path of justice, despite being described as someone who “neither feared God nor respected people.” If a widow, one of the ancient near east’s most vulnerable people, can persuade this goon, then we should be encouraged. God is no goon. God longs for justice. God hears our cry. In other words, praying continually is worth the effort.
Hear our cry, O God,
make way for justice.