Last night at prayer meeting we looked at the parable of the persistent widow from Luke 18:1-8. At first glance it’s a strange parable. A widow lady, unable to gain justice from an unjust judge, pesters the man until he relents. It all reminds me of the scene from The Shawshank Redemption in which Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbin) keeps writing weekly letters to the Maine state Senate requesting more books for the prison library. The Senate finally relents giving him the books he has requested thinking this will put an end to Andy’s correspondence. Instead, Andy doubles his efforts and begins sending two letters a week in his quest for better educational opportunities for prison inmates. Justice through annoyance, I guess.
The parable, upon first reading, may seem to indicate that God is like the unjust judge or the reluctant state Senate. We may mistakenly think we must pester God into action. But Jesus makes plain, God is not like the unjust judge. He will give justice to those who request it (maybe not on a time frame we’re comfortable with – but he will not forsake us – he will one day set all things right!). The point of the parable, then, isn’t about the judge’s faithfulness, but the widow’s. Like Andy at Shawshank, she is to be commended for the fact that she never gave up on justice even in the face of tremendous odds. She never conceded that injustice is simply the way the world works. She remained steadfast on the side of what is right even if steadfastness only meant keeping up her protest (which must at times have grown old even for her) against the evil judge. The widow becomes an example of faithfulness to God’s mission of justice in our world.
Jesus concludes the parable with both a promise and a question. He promises that God will indeed bring justice about for the oppressed at Christ’s return, but asks, “Will God find faith on the earth?” That is, will we still be looking for justice when the Almighty finally shows up? Will we still be calling for God to act, for God to save, even if our prayers seem to go unheard for years? Even if the systems of the world continue to promote injustice for the poor and the oppressed? In the face of great tragedies like the one in Haiti, or the particular injustices and catastrophes of our own communities, will we still be on the lookout for Christ’s coming in our world? Long after the headlines of this week’s tragedy have passed, will we still be asking, and knocking, and seeking God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven? Like the widow, will we be faithful to pray and not give up? Lord, I pray it may be so.
The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern – Proverbs 29:7.