Persist and Pray

 “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart,”

Luke 18:1

   Jesus presents his disciples with a parable about a widow who brings her cause before a judge who does not fear God or respect man. In this parable Jesus intentionally makes no mention of what the widow could have been in need of. We might assume she might have lost her land to debt collectors. Perhaps soldiers had tormented her beyond that which was regular from domineering nations like that of the Roman Empire to its subjects. We may even accept that perhaps she was owed justice for the murder of a family member that went unsolved. Perhaps the perpetrator of the crime walked down her street every day, unbothered.

   There is mention of a judge as well. This judge, according to Jesus, is a legal ruler who determines who wins local disputes in court. We see that Jesus reinforces the character flaws of this judge, who does not fear God. He alludes to this because a man who does not fear God has no worry of temporal consequences or their eternal effects. A judge who has no moral compass, especially one who has no desire to honor God as Creator will use this mindset in all aspects of his life. What’s the point of caring about how you behave if there is no eternal consequence? This kind of thinking is dangerous.

   Jesus then mentions that because this judge does not fear God, the next logical step is for him to lose all respect for his fellow man. Such a strange connection between our relationship with God and people. If we disrespect God, curse Him, abandon his precepts, tarnish His commandments, make light of His desires and grieve His Holy Spirit, is there anything good that can come from this kind of lifestyle? The answer is a solid no.

    We have seen the likes of Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler first denounce God in their personal lives, which in turn was displayed in the most vile behaviors in their public lives. Joseph Stalin was to be a seminary student but opted for politics instead. There was no room for God or religion in the communism he pushed on Soviet Russia. To this day Russia and surrounding nations still experience the loss caused by Stalin’s regime. The communist leader died on his bed with a fist in the air, defiant, cursing God as he crossed over the abyss of eternity forever doomed. The Italian dictator Mussolini called people who believe in the Bible idiots and believed Jesus and Mary Magdalene were lovers. His Italy faced catastrophic demise as he and his wife were led to the gallows to be executed by a firing squad. He died at hands of his own people. Adolf Hitler was infamous for killing church leaders who disagreed with his thousand-year Reich and even presented Joseph Stalin with a copy of writings by atheist German philosopher Frederich Nietzche who is informally known as the man who coined the term, “God is dead.” We understand Hitler killed himself in a German bunker at the center of Berlin as the Red Russia army approached his doors. These leaders abandoned God long before they abandoned their humanity. All met with horrific and embarrassing conclusions.

   Imagine this widow, perhaps alone, presenting her case before a judge who disregarded the power of God; a man who might have been ruthless in his personal life towards his wife and children, dismissive of his fellow coworkers, or even abusive towards his subjects and servants. 

   It is so expected of Jesus to pin the strong versus the weak in His parables. Here we find a destitute justice seeking widow against a ruthless, godless man who represents the most powerful empire of the time. And the reason Jesus pursues this avenue of storytelling is to reinforce two truths:

   One, that those who have God on their side ultimately win because the Greater Judge is working for their greater good.

   Two, we must not lose heart.

   In this parable the widow becomes so persistent in her endeavor to receive justice that the godless judge has no option but to give it to her. In fact, there is a bit of humor in this parable as the judge concedes to the widow’s continual clamor, “… yet, because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.”

   How precious of a scene, a man of power who fears not God or man is troubled and won over by the persistence of a powerless widow. A woman who has lost husband, possibly her income and her social standing. This judge was beat.

    Jesus then proceeds to conclude his parable in the way he began it, with the need for us to be as persistent in our prayers as this widow was in seeking justice. He in fact tells us we need to pray, always, and not lose heart. For it is true that after one day, one week or even one year of seeking justice in our cause we find ourselves losing heart. But Jesus wants us to know we do not petition before a godless man who respects not God nor his neighbor. No. Glory be to God that we enter into His presence without fear or worry. As the author says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrew 4:16

   Jesus’ final words in this parable are haunting as he asks his disciples a question. “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

   Perhaps that question is left for us, who two thousand years later struggle with current issues before godless judges, courts, social groups and work industries, unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I pray we may find our hope in God and find peace in the fact that we have a Greater Judge who sees us and hears us. I pray we seek Him fervently without losing heart for due time he will lift us up.

“Humble yourself, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

1 Peter 5:6-7