Jesus's Words

The Parable of the Persistent Widow/Unjust Judge

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Luke 18:1-8

Synopsis of Parable:

There was a judge who did not deliver justice to a widow. The widow begged him to. He refused, but then avenged her when she kept pestering him.

Parable Given in Response to:

This parable is seemingly unconnected with the others in this sequence. It starts out with a verse saying, And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint. Luke 18:1 However, this does not give much context. Jesus gave this parable after he spoke about the coming of the kingdom to the Pharisees(Luke 17:20.) and directly before he spoke about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.(Luke 18:9.) So we should consider that the audience also included Pharisees.

Symbolism Chart

Symbol Meaning Verse Found
↓Judge God Luke 18:2
↓Widow A Person Luke 18:3
↓Widow's Constant Petition Constant Prayer Luke 18:5

The Parable of the Persistent Widow/Unjust Judge

As presented in the King James Version of Luke 18:1-8

Luke 18:1And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
2Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:
3 And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.
4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;
5 Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
6And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.
7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

Explanation of the Interpretation of Symbols

The Judge is God Back to Top ↑

On first glance, this may seem to be an unlikely interpretation. How can a symbol that does not fear God, be God? However, if you turn it around, it makes sense. God does not fear himself. Furthermore, the parable needed to remove religion for the point to hit home for Jesus's Jewish audience. It does not matter what God is doing or thinking, if you pray enough he will listen to your request!

Another way of thinking about this is this: If even a selfish, corrupt judge could be persuaded to do her good, how much more could God, who loves us, be persuaded to do us good?

The Widow is a Person Back to Top ↑

Here we find that the widow is a person who was wronged and praying for things to be put right.(Luke 18:3.) This is a righteous prayer and is symbolic of a beatitude.(Matthew 5:6.) However, the judge ignores her request until she wears him out.

This person does not have to be within the kingdom of God. In fact, in this parable there is no mention of the kingdom. And in day-to-day life, we see many people constantly praying to God for a variety of things and getting their prayers answered, even if they seem like people who would not be chosen for the kingdom. However, just like the widow, these people pestered God, and God relented.

Of course, the prayer itself should be decently good. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.Psalms 66:18

The idea that the widow need not to be in God's favor, a Christian, or a believer is not common. However, as explained in the Parable of the Net of Fish, bad people can be in the kingdom of God. As such, it should not be surprising to see their prayers fulfilled.

This concept can also be explored morally. These people will likely only live once, this life on earth. A mere 80 years or so. Those that are chosen will live a second life, for eternity, with Jesus. Should God not allow these short-lived humans all the joy they think they want they have the chance? Likewise, should we also not do the same? This is perhaps why Jesus instructs us to resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Matthew 5:39-42 See also Matthew 5:44 When we consider this perspective, these verses make perfect sense morally, if only we believe that we will be chosen to be with Jesus for eternity.

Jesus ends this parable by saying Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? Luke 18:8 Perhaps there will only be faithless people who do not listen to Jesus, praying to God when Jesus returns.

The Constant Petition is Constant Prayer Back to Top ↑

This may not seem to be the interpretation, but we have to remember why Jesus gave this parable. It was to teach people to be praying always.(Luke 18:1.)

There are no other interpretations. Every major denomination holds that the widow's constant petition represents constant prayer.

It is interesting to note that the petition to the judge is very short, only a sentence. It's not the length or the persuasiveness of the petition that made the Judge listen to her. No, it was her persistence. This is just as Jesus says, But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.Matthew 6:7 Her request was not repeated many times at once, but was spread out throughout time.

In Conclusion Back to Top ↑

This parable starts out with the point of it. As per Luke, And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.Luke 18:1 The goal for Jesus is to teach people to pray constantly.

This idea is repeated when Jesus says Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Matthew 7:7 Note: Most English translations make it seem like you only have to ask once. The Greek behind this verse makes it clear that you cannot ask just once. "Keep asking" and "keep seeking" and "keep knocking" are all more accurate translations of this verse.

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