You’ll love this part: it’s one of many texts of Scripture that empower women. The woman in this text, contrary to their cultural biases, is the one who twists the world around her pinky.
The text is really about just what it says in v. 1: “that they should pray and not give up.” Here’s where my thoughts go right away: Jesus would never have said this if prayers were normally and readily answered. He is teaching us that prayer is a frustrating practice, and that perseverance motivated by frustration is more the norm than joy from answers. God doesn’t hand out answers to prayer like candy at a Halloween party. Perseverance is called for, because there will be many that go unanswered, and answers may not come for a long time.
Some say this isn’t about casual prayer in general, but about prayers requesting justice and the vengeance of God. Some say it’s about the end times, when situations for Christians will be desperate and prayers will go unanswered (Rev. 6). Blaiklock says it’s about that God won’t let himself be bullied into answering prayer, and so we shouldn’t let a lack of answer discourage us.
Anyway, you probably know the story, or can read it. There’s a lousy judge who doesn’t give a rip about God or people, telling us he has missed both of the two greatest commandments: love God, and love people. He’s full of himself and his power. With an attitude like this, he’s not fit to be a judge. The scoundrel should be tossed out on his ear before the story begins, but alas, welcome to real life.
In contrast was have a woman. She’s alone, a victim of unfairness, disregarded, and certainly qualifies as the least, the lost, and the dead. She has nothing. We don’t even know what her issues are, but already we can see a stark contrast to the judge, who doesn’t care about God or people, and therefore doesn’t care about justice. She only wants what justice, and how unreasonable could that be? Her pursuit is righteous, and his character is that of unrighteousness. The stage is set for an epic battle of right vs. wrong, but the roles are reversed. As is characteristic of Luke, the poor represent the righteous and godly in the world, and the rich and powerful symbolize what is ungodly.
V. 4: “For some time he refused.” True to character, he proves he doesn’t care about God or people. If nothing else, a judge is supposed to be there to help the helpless, and there is no one more helpless in their culture than a widow. If he can’t find it within himself to help a widow, he is truly the most cold, hard-hearted non-judge in the world. This is the picture Christ is trying to paint.
She pesters and persists until he gets exasperated and decides to help her because he’s so tired hearing her whining. OK, well, that’s at least a good thing, but his motive is awful. Jesus paints this judge in the worst possible light, portraying him as, metaphorically, the Judge From Hell. At least he gave in, but everything we are told about this man is negative.
V. 6: So “listen to what the unjust judge says.” Presumably Jesus’ point about perseverance in prayer is couched in what this judge says and what he gives for a reason, revealing his attitudes and perspective. His self-centered orientation yielded to her persistent pressure, even though neither his character nor his attitude had changed, and he will grant her request, even if for terrible reasons.
V. 7: But God, in contrast, is just. The point seems to be if the self-centered judge who really isn’t a judge, but a jerk, can somehow, through his depraved character, bad attitude, and incorrect motives, find his way clear to grant the request for justice, how easy, by comparison, it is for God, who is not self-centered or depraved, and does not have a bad attitude or poor motives.
“Will he keep putting them off?” This is obviously a rhetorical question, expecting a “no” answer. We dare not forget, however, that the point of the parable is persistence, so we are not to assume that because God is good, righteous, and listening, that prayer will somehow be easy or easily answered. Jesus would never have said all this if prayers were normally and readily answered. As I said at the beginning, I still think He is teaching us that prayer is a frustrating practice, and that perseverance motivated by frustration is more the norm than joy from answers. God doesn’t hand out answers to prayer like candy at a Halloween party. Perseverance is called for, because there will be many that go unanswered, and answers may not come for a long time.
Then v. 8 brings us to the crux: holding on to faith is the most important value. What God does or doesn’t do with prayer should never be the deciding factor. What if God delays? What if he answers right away? What if he does something that we maybe disagree with? It’s not our business to keep score. Here’s the point: you don’t think like God thinks, and your ways aren’t his ways, so just hang in there and be faithful. You may not always agree with your boss. Yeah, so what? Do your job. Of course you can talk to him or her about it, but when it comes right down to it, they are the boss, and you are there to do your job. Sometimes they’ll give you an answer, and sometimes not. The most important value: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”