Sunday, 18 July 2021

Persistent Widow - Luke 18

Jesus tells the story of a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. A widow in the same town wanted justice, and went to the judge many times to get it sorted. Many times the judge refused.

Yet the woman kept coming. Finally the judge figured that though he can't be bothered with her, nor care about her justice, that he should act if only to shut her up. In this instance Jesus remarks on his own story: 'Look at the unjust judge and his approach. Is God like that?'. He goes on to say that surely God will bring justice to His chosen ones who are calling on Him, and that they will get justice quickly.

Again with this story we can ask what does it tell us about God, and what does it tell us about people? Jesus comments on the story because he has deliberately spun a contrast - a story of the opposite of what God is like (recall we considered opposites when we looked at Jude). People, even in positions of responsibility where they are supposed to care are quite capable of not being bothered, putting their own needs, preferences and world first. But God is not like that - even the widow of lowly position qualifies for justice.

In many ways the widow puts the judge to shame. He can't be bothered, she persists. For him justice is a matter of his convenience, for her it is a creation-ingrained principle to be held to and fought for. Even at the point of helping, the judge doesn't do it because it is the right thing to do, but to stop the disturbance impinging on his life! The woman is not heard in the proper channels, and the judge simply wants her silenced through his acting on the case. Sadly that sums up the attitude of many men.

But Jesus leaves us with final words that cut even deeper. Having indicated the appropriateness of calling on God and holding out for justice, he adds an extra question: 'But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?'. That is a question aimed at believers - the Israelites of his day, and all us who believe now. It swings the focus back to the widow as a proxy for all of us waiting for what God will do. Are we like the widow, persistently calling on God for what is right, or have we simply given up?

Across scripture there at least 20 verses that talk of 'waiting on the Lord' - mostly in the older part of the Bible - but all implying looking/calling/hoping/longing for God's action. Many of the verses are willing us on in this process. Often the wait is frustrating to us, not helped by the fact that we do not know the timescales! In the time of Jesus the 'waiting' had been some 500 years and counting - within which time the religious leaders had largely abandoned true faith in God, replacing it with their own systems. Yet some, like the widow, however impoverished, were holding out for the 'hope of Israel'. It is these that Jesus is looking for.

We don't know how long the current season we are in will last. But the call of this story conveys is clear: do not give up, keep calling on God and hold out for what is right.

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