Luke 18:1-8 (NRSV)
Chapter 18Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. Verse 2He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. Verse 3In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, 'Grant me justice against my opponent.' Verse 4For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, 'Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, Verse 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'" Verse 6And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. Verse 7And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? Verse 8I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"
Jesus’ parable about a reluctant judge and a pestering widow is tricky to understand, not least because of the usual practice of calling him an “unjust judge,” (v. 6, the traditional translation is wrong and misleading) Rather he is actually described as a “judge over matters of unrighteousness,” i.e. a secular world. In fact, we are told that he is eminently “fair and just,” not showing favoritism to anyone, not even God, and of course will not act out of pity just because this woman is a widow.
The point is clear from the beginning: it is about the need for persistence in prayer. And the issue is one of comparison. If a secular judge not disposed to show favors responds in justice for this persistent widow, can we expect any less from a God who from the get-go is disposed to act in mercy and compassion toward God’s chosen ones—even before we ask!
God of mercy and justice, help us not to lose heart when we look at the cries for justice in our world, our own and those of others. Lead us to continue to trust that you will hear and act when we cry to you. In the name of Jesus, Amen.