Luke 18:1-8 (NKJV) “Then He (Jesus) spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart. Saying: ‘There was 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 (Judge) 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. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes will He really find faith on the earth?”
1. The Setting
In Luke 18:1-30 we find the last events in the public ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, as recorded by Luke prior to the final journey to Jerusalem – Luke 18:31 “Then He took unto Him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished.” In Luke 18, there are two Parables on Prayer (Luke 18:1-8; Luke 18:9-14):
- Perseverance in Prayer (Luke 18:1-8)
- Right Attitude in Prayer (Luke 18:9-14)
2. The Moral of the Parable
The Moral of the Parable is found in Luke 18:7-8 “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. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes will He really find faith on the earth?”
- This Parable teaches that God will avenge His people in answer to their prayer, though He is longsuffering in dealing with mankind.
- Our prayer should be consistent and persistent (1Thessalonians 3:10) and that we should not lose-heart (faint-hearted – Luke 18;1) because sometimes God does not immediately answer our prayers – Luke 18:1(NKJV) “Then He (Jesus) spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart (faint).” The word “faint” describes a person who loses heart and gets so discouraged that the person wants to quit
3. The Background
This Parable is set in its Eastern-Setting – the “Courtroom” is not in a permanent building but a tent that is moved from place to place as the Judge covers his circuit. The Judge not the Law sets the agenda; he represents the Authority; he is surrounded by his Assistants. Anybody could watch the court-proceeding from the outside, but only those who are accepted and approved could have their cases tried. This usually mean bribing one of the Judge’s Assistants so that the case could be called to the Judge’s attention.
4. The Widow’s Dilemma
The widow has three obstacles to overcome: First, woman in the Eastern-Setting at the time of Christ has little standing in society and also before the Court and the Law and thus a woman does not go to Court. Second, the woman is a widow, and thus, she has no husband to represent her or stand with her in Court. Widows are a traditionally vulnerable group in Palestine society. Girls are regularly married at the age of thirteen or fourteen, and so a widow could be quite young. For a wife to lose her husband is to lose her position and status in society, and her natural protector. Finally, she is a poor widow, and she could not pay a bribe, even when she wants to, and as such she does not get the protection of the Court and the Law.
5. The Widow’s Petition
Widows are often easy game for the ruthless Exploiter – “devouring widows’ houses” (Mark 12:40b). The widow shouts out her petition, outside the tent (Court), seeking the unjust Judge to avenge her of her adversary – Luke 18:3 (NKJV) “Now there was a widow in that city: and she came to him, saying. ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’”
- Legal Transaction – Prayer is more than meeting physical needs; it is “a legal transaction,” recognized in the Court of Heaven, as the word “adversary” (Gk: “antidikos”) means “an opponent in a lawsuit.” The widow is seeking vindication – it is a legal case needing justice, vindication and avenging of her adversary, her enemy. Prayer initiates legal action in Heaven’s Court which affects the outcome of matters in the earthly realm. In essence, prayer has a legal perspective. Prayer is not just a religious act; it is a binding legal transaction.
- Divine Decree – Prayer is also “seeking vindication” – the term “vindication” (Gk: “ekdikeson”) is not a request for punishment of her adversary, but for a decree that would provide protection from his (adversary) injustices. Thus, prayer is about the manifestation of God’s decree in the lives of His children, setting something in order, or making something right.
- Persistent – Luke 18:5 (NKJV) “Yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.” The word “came” (Luke 18:3 – Gk: “ercheto”) is in the imperfect tense, which implies that she keeps coming – the widow walks around outside the tent (Court) and shout out her petition. The widow persistently and consistently keeps coming to the unjust judge appealing for justice, for him to take up her cause.
The widow is imploring for justice, to set things right on her behalf, which is one of the important purposes of prayer; prayer has a binding legal transaction, asking God to reconcile every situation and circumstance in the earthly realm with His will and purpose – Matthew 6:10 “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!”
6. The Unjust Judge
Luke 18:2 (NKJV) “There was a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.” The unjust Judge’s three characteristics: First, he (unjust Judge) is unjust –unjust in all his dealings. Second, he (unjust Judge) does not fear God, that is, he does not uphold the first four Commandments of the Decalogue. Finally, he (unjust Judge) does not have regard or respect for man – that is, he is contemptuous to the people and thus does not uphold the last six Commandments of the Decalogue.
- Worn-Down – “And he (unjust Judge) would not” (Luke 18:4a) – The verb expresses his (unjust Judge) state of mind rather than a single act. The unjust Judge is worn-down by the widow’s persistent, consistent and insistence petition – Luke 18:4-5 (NKJV) “And he (Judge) 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.’” Even though the unjust Judge would not pay-attention to her for a while, he is finally worn-down with her persistency, consistency, and insistence.
- Ruined Reputation – The word “weary” (Gk: “hypopiaze”) literally means “give me a black eye” or “damage reputation.”
The Parable does not teach that God must be “argued” or “bribed” into answering our prayer. Jesus uses a form of logic that reasons from the lesser (unjust Judge) to the greater (God, the Righteous Judge) – Luke 18:6-8 (NKJV) 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. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes will He really find faith on the earth?” If the unjust Judge eventually responded to the widow’s persistent appeals, how much more will God, the Righteous Judge respond to His people. The parable of the persistent widow teaches us two things:
- Pray or Faint – Luke 18:1 (NKJV) “Then He (Jesus) spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” If a person does not pray, he will faint (lose-heart); there is no middle-ground. The word “faint” means “to lose-heart and gets discouraged.” Jesus teaches us that we should not give up but be persistent in prayer.
- Faith on Earth? – Luke 18:8b (Amp Bible) “However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find persistence in the faith on the earth?” The implication, at the End-of-the-Age, unbelief will abound in the earth; whereas, the Son of Man (Jesus) will find faith in His people, as demonstrated in the widow woman – her persistency not only in her fortitude but also persistent in faith that she would be heard by the unjust Judge; so should the Individual Believer has this persistency of faith before the Righteous Judge, expecting answers to our prayers.
Judges in the Nation of Israel are to be righteous and impartial in their judgements, underpinned justice with mercy (Exodus 18:13-22; Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 16:18; 1Kings 3:9; Psalm 9:8; Genesis 18:19; Psalm 89:14). Widows in Israel are to be care for, protected (Exodus 22:22-24; Deuteronomy 10:18; 24:17; Psalm 68:5; Isaiah 1:23; James 1:27; Malachi 3:5); with Divine judgement on those who opposed the widows and the fatherless.