The Unjust Judge and Persistent Widow

1Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.' 4" For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care about men, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!' " 6And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:1-8).

Jesus spoke of a judge who had no relationship with God and did not fear that God would judge him for his actions; he did not care about God or men (v. 4). He lacked respect for the people he was appointed to adjudicate. Perhaps the official was a judge in the area where Jesus spoke these words, one appointed by Herod or the Romans, or the man could have been an example of a typical tyrannical judge of Jesus’ day. This judge’s position gave him the liberty to do whatever he wanted to further his own agenda.

The Lord then spoke of a poor helpless widow in a desperate situation with no family to help her. We’re not told how she was cheated, but the judge was undoubtedly on the side of her opponent, for the widow had no resources to pursue her claim. Her only option was to use the one thing at her disposal—persistence. Her constant pleading and begging was her only hope of obtaining her deserved justice. Verse 3 says that she "kept coming." She would not be beaten down by constant refusal and rejection. I picture her coming morning and evening to the courthouse. Every time the magistrate went out to market, she followed him around, persistently arguing her case. Her heart's passion began to make people talk, i.e., wondering to themselves if the judge had taken the side of the other unjustly. I'm sure she was an embarrassment to him as people learned of her plight. Finally, the unjust judge gave in to her, not due to the strength of her cause, but because she kept bothering him. Her patient persistence wore him out!

In verse 5, the Greek word (hypōpiazē) describing the thoughts of the judge is translated as "wear me out, but it literally means "to give a black eye." The widow was beating him up, not physically but figuratively, with her insistent passion and pleading words. The same word is used by Paul the Apostle in describing his habits of personal discipline: “but I pommel (hypōpiazē) my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27). It could be that the unjust judge thought she might give him a black eye! More than likely, though, his reputation was being battered and taking a black eye. It also could be symbolic of his losing sleep over it. He was worn out, and it was easier to consent to her plea.

This judge is a sharp contrast to the Holy God we serve. The application Jesus makes is that if this unjust judge yields to persistent asking, how much more will the Judge of all the earth render justice and quickly!

When Edmund Gravely died at the controls of his small plane while on the way to Statesboro, Georgia, from the Rocky Mount-Wilson Airport in North Carolina, his wife, Janice, kept the plane aloft for two hours. As the aircraft crossed the South Carolina/North Carolina border, she radioed for help: "Help, help, won't someone help me? My pilot is unconscious." Authorities who picked up her distress signal could not reach her by radio during the flight because she kept changing channels. Eventually, Mrs. Gravely made a rough landing and crawled for forty-five minutes to a farmhouse for help. How often do God's people cry out to him for help but switch channels before His message comes through! They turn to other sources for help, looking for human guidance. When you cry out to God for His intervention, don't switch channels![1] Await His answer and keep looking to Him. Keith Thomas

A shortened version of the Parable of the Persistent Widow is found in the series called, The Parables of Jesus.

[1] Edited by Michael Green, 1500 Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Published by Baker Book House, Page 279.