Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.'” Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. (Luke 18:1-7)
We just heard about a widow who was persistent in demanding justice. . . very persistent.
What a curious story this is! This feisty widow. The story would have been even more puzzling to Luke’s readers. In Jesus’ time the roles of women were very closely defined. Women had to know their place. Yet again, Jesus makes this rebel woman the hero of the story. This would have been a challenging story to society.
The widow, as a woman alone in the first century, was vulnerable to being taken advantage of in any number of ways. She was easy prey to those who would take advantage of her financial straits and her physical vulnerability. She is probably up against a wealthy opponent and his bribes. We don’t know what the opponent she wants justice from has done to her, but whatever it is, she is not going to stand for it. Despite her weak position, she wins by persistence.
The Parable of the Unjust Judge in Luke 18:1-8 teaches us not so much to badger God until he gives in, but that
- God is just,
God will bring justice,
and we are to go to God in pleading for justice even now as we wait.
Like the widow, one of the hardest things we face is injustice. This is especially true when that injustice is directed toward us. Yet tens of thousands of people face injustice, hardship, brutality, and persecution each year. Even some of us are victims, and it is sometimes hard to believe that we will ever receive justice. It is especially disturbing when those in power are corrupt and are the ones treating others unfairly. But, Jesus reminds us that the issue isn’t injustice against us, but faithfulness. God will settle accounts and bring about justice.
The real question is whether or not we’ll stick in there and not give up under fire.
- Hang in there!
Pray for God to hear you!
Don’t give up, for God will not only bring justice, but he will also bring salvation and victory.
We probably think of faith as an unconditional acceptance of God, the willingness to accept things that don’t make any sense to us. We often speak of faith when there appears to be no hope at all.
But the widow was not without hope. She had tried everything else to get justice; she had no other option. All she had was her sense of outrage and her determination to come back, day after day, demanding justice. She knew the judge could help her, and she wasn’t going to be quiet or leave him alone until he did. She knew there was justice, knew the difference between right and wrong, and she fought for it. She had faith that she knew was rightfully hers would be restored.
The lady is loaded with chutzpah—a Yiddish word that means being headstrong persistence, unyielding, having determination, nerve and even gall. In this parable, Jesus portrayed faith as chutzpah: as a friend banging on a sleeping neighbor’s door at midnight, waking up a whole village, in order to shame him into providing the food he needed for his guest; or a widow badgering a corrupt judge for justice he doesn’t want to give her, until he relents, throws up his hands, and growls,
“This woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!” (Luke 18:5)
Both were pains in the neck!
Chutzpah makes things possible. Chutzpah is another word for faith. It was in reference to the pain-in-the-neck widow who drove the corrupt judge crazy.
Jesus’ point is that if an evil and unrighteous judge will eventually give in to get a complaining and persistent, but powerless woman off his back, then we can surely count on God — who loves us dearly — to hear us and respond in ways that are for our best good. So we need to
- .. keep praying
… never give up
… for God will hear and respond.
We need to have faith!
We don’t usually discover our faith when things go well for us. We usually find it when things fall apart, because that’s when we realize we need it. True faith does not come until we have faced trials and tribulations. . . we have to be down-and-out to really understand that we are not alone, and that God will hear and respond to our faith through prayers. And sometimes, we need to rely on the faith of others, of those who come to In The Garden, to strengthen our own faith. We are a reminder to each other that there is justice and love in the world if we just believe and continue to be ‘pains in the neck’ when there is injustice.
Just as the widow was a troublemaker, so we are called to be troublemakers. We are called to identify injustice and scream loud and long about it. We are called to pray for a change of heart or actions against those who suffer injustice. We are called to not stand idly by, ignoring hurts and harms to our fellow community. We are called to have enough faith to do things that we would not normally do or are beyond our comfort level.
And we are called to pray – not only for ourselves and our community but for all victims and victimizers that they will see their injustice and change. And we are called to give thanks to God for even the tiniest change that may happen.
The widow eventually received justice and so will we – maybe not on our timetable, but according to God’ will.
- Speak out against injustice!
And have faith in God!
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 20 October 2013