Unlike many parables, Luke wastes no time in telling the reader what is the intent of the story in the first sentence. It is of course to be persistent in prayer. Knowing the end before the parable unfolds may seem to be a limiting factor as to how the reader might interpret the parable. By jumping to the conclusion and ignoring the details, the reader maybe missing out on the full message of the story. A premature judgement may prove to be a bit hasty.
He said, “There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’”
The Parable sets the scene by introducing a conversation between a corrupt and Godless judge and a widow who seeks an adjudication with her adversary. The chance of a fair hearing is nil because the judge cannot render a just decision because he could care less about the truth and has little concern about his fellow man. The stacked deck does not dissuade the widow, who demands the judge do his job and render her justice. At first, the unjust judge rebukes her claim and she responds with the only recourse she has– her persistence.
Fearing bodily harm and a chance that his corruption would be revealed, the judge finally relents, and, against his better judgment, gives a favorable decision to the widow. Jesus tells his follower to take note and suggests if the unjust judge acquiesces to the unrelenting demand of the widow, would God not do the same?
Traditional explanations of the parable have explained the parable as never ceasing to pray. But why, one might ask? Is the persistence of prayer so powerful that God will finally wear down and grant our request? If so, then the God you pray to is not the God you believe in because he has now become a contingent being, like you and me. If he can change his mind midstream, he is not God. God is unchangeable and mere human beings, no matter how persuasive, cannot move God to do one thing or another.
Then why the message of persistence in prayer? Because we initially thought the conclusion of the parable was the first sentence, when in essence is the last. “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” You see, it is all about incorporating God’s justice into our daily lives through prayer. Contrary to modern thought, justice is not a human attribute. Justice is a gift from God and is not revealed through the law, but by the sort of faith shown by Abraham. For faith and prayer are the means by which we become just people.
One is tempted to follow not the justice of God, but one’s own justice. In the modern world devoid of God’s justice and akin to our corrupt judge, justice has been reduced to a justice which only obeys the requirements of some type of contract between two or more parties. For a Christian, the modern-day thought is woefully inadequate. As St. Thomas Aquinas notes there are two integral parts of justice: doing good and refraining from evil. He further explains the potential parts of justice: religion, piety, respect, truthfulness, gratitude, protection of others, liberality, affability and equity. True justice is a religious characteristic and not a mere human one. True justice and God are unbreakable.
Most decent people desire justice, for themselves and others. Apart from our faith in God we cannot even dream of being truly just. By unceasing prayer and our connection to God through it, we share in the justice of God and then make it our own. Human justice grounded in God’s justice is the only true justice.
Thanks to the example of persistent widow are we able to seek such a lofty goal.