Sermon on the Parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18)
When Luke begins to recount how Jesus told the parable of the persistent widow, he explicitly says why Jesus told it: “that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).
People of Jesus’ day were so longing for God to manifest his power and overcome the corrupt political and societal systems of that day. They wanted God to bring about the fulfillment of all his promises, and for him to somehow intervene in people’s hearts to cause them to want to do good and live righteously. They longed for the day when God would wipe away sin.
In our day, sometimes we get so used to the way things are, so disillusioned with the way things are, that we just accept things too casually. We see so much injustice and perversion and corruption that we become desensitized to it. We lose our deep longing for God’s righteousness and to see authenticity in God’s people. We come to a place where we start to just expect people to be dishonest, to be corrupt. Cynically, we stop expecting anyone to do the right thing. Our hearts get hard, and we stop feeling. Or our hearts despair, and we stop hoping. In either case, we lose heart and stop believing anything can ever change.
Jesus tells this parable in order to counteract the tendency to lose heart. He set up a situation with an unjust judge – he clearly tells us that the judge “neither feared God nor respected man” (18:2). And then he tells us about a widow, who had to be her own advocate – she had no one else to stand up on her behalf. The only One she had on her side was God, and the text explicitly tell us that the judge didn’t care about God. Seems like a hopeless situation.
And yet with her persistence, she finally wears him down. The judge eventually decides to give her justice simply because he was tired of hearing from her. “Because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming” (18:5). The original Greek that is translated “beat me down” in this sentence literally means “give me a black eye.” The picture of this is great – the judge feels like he is being beat up by this little widow simply because of her tenacious persistence!
So then Jesus tells us to now think about God the Father, the perfectly righteous Judge that we have. Our Judge cares about the widow, cares about the poor, cares about justice. Earlier in Luke’s Gospel, he records when Jesus says how tenderly and with such detail God cares for his people:
“Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!… Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”Luke 12:22-24, 27-31
Yet how often do we give up asking, give up seeking? Do not be someone “of little faith” who gives up believing that God will work. Just keep praying, just keep seeking, just keep asking!
Often one problem in our challenges is that we put way too much faith in the things of this world. Money will let us down. Other people will disappoint us. Our circumstances may not ever change the way we want them to. The Apostle Paul explicitly states what we should be fixing our eyes on in order to not get discouraged:
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Stop putting your hope in other people! Stop putting your hope in your circumstances! Put your hope ONLY in Jesus Christ, and continue to pray.
Is there something in your life that you’re discouraged about right now? Finances? Health? Relationships? The kind of faith the Lord is looking for is the kind of faith that says, “I’m going to take all of these problems to only one place – the throne of heaven. I’m going to knock. I’m going to seek. I’m going to ask. And I’m not going to give up. Because I know my good, good God will never stop loving me.”