The Parable of the Persistent Widow
How often have you prayed and prayed about something and God did not respond with what you considered a just and right response? This is a common experience in the life of all Christians. Why? Doesn't Jesus tell us, "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" How do we reconcile our prayer life with God's words? Does he really give us what we ask for?
We can learn from the Parable of the Persistent (Importunate) Widow, or what is sometimes called the Parable of the Unjust Judge, how God gives good gifts to his children.
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?I 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?”
First and foremost, what must consider what justice is. We all have some sense of justice which is what humanity gained when we ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It was there that we first came to know about justice. Up until then, the reality of good and evil was hidden from us and for good reason. But when we ate, our eyes were opened and we knew not only what was good and what was evil, but also that we had done something terribly wrong: we abandoned the God who loves us, made us good and wanted fellowship with us. We left him for our own selfish desires. We try to hide this reality and one way we do it is by skewing our sense of justice.
Today, we are born with this sense of justice, but it's always just a little bit off, because each of us individually and collectively want to justify our sins, so we say: "It's not really stealing. It's not the same as murder. It's not really usury. My anger is justified, because..." We manipulate our perception of good and evil in order to justify ourselves. Though we still understand what is right and wrong, due to our sin, we can't know what is truly just. Each and every one of us is the unjust judge in this parable.
Since we don't understand justice properly we blame God for the evils of the world. The mother who has lost a baby will reply, "What justice is this? I prayed persistently day in and day out and he still died." This reality hits close to home in my life and God has responded to me more than once, "The kingdom of heaven is a better place to be than this sinful world. Your brother and your child is in a better place." His justice is perfect. My sense of justice and my perception of justice is no better than that of the unjust judge.
Likewise, I sometimes wonder why it is just that the kingdom of heaven is delayed. I ask, "Why is the Evil One still allowed to rule here on earth? Didn't Jesus himself say, "It is finished." Jesus answers this question when I read his scripture. He says the good wheat must be allowed to grow all the way until the wheat berries are ripe. We are not there yet. We must have patience.
One may continue to harbor frustration toward God and say, "Why does God pity some and not pity others? Why did Jesus have pity on Jarus and raised his daughter and not my child?" It's certainly not an easy question to ask, but it is a question to ask directly to God. We can ask God anything. He wants us to ask him. He desires relationship with us. He explains this desire for fellowship just after the Parable of the Persistent Widow. Jesus explains, "However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" So often Jesus answers a question with a question. He's connecting faith with our prayer life. Faith emerges from persistent prayer, because persistent prayer develops a two-way relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He wants to love us through a relationship with him. He wants to fellowship with every aspect with us. This relationship is initiated by him and continued by us. The only way to allow him to love us is to know him. Talk to him. He is our loving Father and in time he will explain everything.
How do we get increased faith, so our fellowship with God will improve? Jesus' apostles once demanded of him the same thing saying, "Increase our faith!" In the Parable of the Unworthy Servant his answer is essentially: acknowledge your sins and be grateful. We do this in prayer and our faith is increased. We pray persistently and it becomes habitual.
Some still turn away saying, "I don't want to be in relationship with the God who allowed my child to be killed, allowed me to be raped, or allowed my son to become an addict." Again, we must look at the message of the Persistent Widow. He says, "If you, then, though you are evil..." The bottom line is that until the final day is over, the Evil One rules our world and does all kinds of terrible things through our sinful willing hearts, which is why we should always be repentant. But he has promised that his children will be brought home. But the wheat (his goodness) grows intermixed with the weeds and he will not harvest the wheat until his goodness in us is complete. If he pulls the harvest in too soon, the wheat berries will not be ripe. This is what he teaches in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. Satan spread his evil seeds in the field after God sowed his good seed. But God is patient. We are persistent.
This means that, though terrible things happen here on this earth, God allows his goodness to prevail and be harvested in perfection. Satan's ploy to tempt God to bring his children home before they are ready will not work.
Though darkness surrounds us, we must be persistent in our prayer. Although we are confused about what is good and evil, he will provide us what we need. He will listen to us and fellowship will increase through his love and our prayer.
As our faith increases through fellowship in prayer with him, we will then realize an important unanswered question alluded to in the Parable of the Persistent Widow: "Where is the 'quickly' part of your justice, oh, Lord?" We will understand that only in faith that we find justice fulfilled. It has been rendered, it is being rendered and it will be rendered in full, whether or not we can see it now or not. It is through eyes of faith that we see it done speedily, even administered before we asked. Now that's quick, but it takes faith to see.