Reading: Luke 18:1-8
Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Well, this one’s a doozy! If we read this as strictly allegorical, then we risk claiming God is like the judge in this parable. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to follow a God like that judge—indifferent, verging on uncaring. Fortunately, we don’t have to read this in such black and white terms. A parable, according to the dictionary, is supposed to illustrate or teach some truth. There are a lot of ways to illustrate some truth.
I see parables as a great jumping off point for all my questions: Is the judge God? Am I the widow or is Jesus? If God gives us faith, then won’t God of course find faith when the Son of Man comes? Unless God doesn’t give us faith? How is justice related to prayer? Can justice be simply personal? Who is the widow’s opponent? Is the opponent sin? Why a widow? If I just pray really hard and persistently, will God finally cave and give me what I want? Or do I have to have a just cause? Is there such a thing as not praying hard enough? What happens if I don’t get what I pray for? Hasn’t the Son of Man already come? Is he going to come again?
As you can see, letting questions stream from a parable is sort of like opening Pandora’s box. Suddenly you’re filled with questions and, to be frank, some of them feel yucky to verbalize. But questions are just questions and there’s no right or wrong in wondering. From the flood of questions, I try to take away “some truth.” What is the truth I’m finding here in the context of all I believe about God? That God wants me to pray fervently for justice. That I should consider how much more my loving God will hear my prayers than this judge hears the widow. My God quickly grants justice. Prayer is important.
Be prepared though that finding “some truth” will lead you to even more questions, and if you’re anything like me, that’s exactly how a relationship with God works.
Just God, we pray to you night and day like the widow cried to the judge. Grant us perseverance in our search for justice. Grant us curiosity to wonder all our questions. Reach out with your kernel of truth so that we may delight in your will and ways. Strengthen our faith when we don’t have the answers to all our hard questions.