Scripture: Luke 18:1-8
Key verse: (8) “And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Reflection: This parable of the Unjust Judge haunts me. A cursory reading could leave you believing that the only way God will listen to our prayers is if we keep pestering God like the widow pesters the Unjust Judge. It’s very hard for me to imagine God functioning this way, yet that’s what the parable appears to say on the surface.
Of course, parables are not to be understood on the surface. There is usually something about them that leaves the reader wondering. In engaging the wondering, parables have a way of opening up new meaning and understanding. So it is with the parable of the Unjust Judge.
In the first place, Jesus would never tell a parable that implies God as unjust. That is simply not who God is. In the second place, Luke’s gospel has a recurring theme of reversal, as illustrated by the refrain, “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.” Finally, Luke’s gospel shows a preference for the least, the last, and the lost — for people like widows. And he doesn’t have many kind things to say about people in power—like vineyard owners, or in this case, unjust judges.
A key to understanding this parable just may be found in the final verse. “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Some scholars suggest that perhaps it is the Widow who is the character representing Jesus/God. The question is how do we respond to the persistent widows who knock on our doors calling for justice? Who might those widows be in our world? In Matthew’s gospel, chapter 25, Jesus says, “Whatever you do to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you do to me.” He identifies himself with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned. Surely the widow is among this list.
How do we respond to the widows in our midst? Will the Son of Man find faith when he knocks on our door?
Prayer: Open our eyes to see your presence in our midst, O God. Open our hearts to welcome you in. Open our lives to seek justice for your chosen ones who cry to you day and night with the spirit of the persistent widow, in whose name we pray. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].