Parable of the Unjust Judge
The Parable of the Unjust Judge (also known as the Parable of the Importunate Widow or the Parable of the Persistent Widow), is one of the parables of Jesus which appears in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 18:1-8). In it, a judge who lacks compassion is repeatedly approached by a poor widow, seeking justice. Initially rejecting her demands, he eventually honors her request so he will not be worn out by her persistence.
One interpretation of this parable is that it demonstrates the importance of persistence in prayer, never giving up. It is found immediately prior to the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (also on prayer) and is similar to the Parable of the Friend at Night. Other scholars note that the content of the parable makes no reference to prayer and that the introduction of prayer as a theme is generally inspired by the Lucan construction in verses 6–8 and by the fact that Luke placed the parable of the Pharisee and Publican influentially after this one. Whatever approach is taken, it is noteworthy that the judge in the parable does not act on the basis of justice.
Luke reports the parable as follows:
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray for just causes and not give up. He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 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 do not fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she will not eventually wear me out with her coming!'"
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?"— Luke 18:1-8, New International Version
The framing material of the parable demonstrates the need to always pray like that persistent widow, for if even an unjust judge will eventually listen, God is much quicker to do so. The parable of the Friend at Night has a similar meaning.
Joel B. Green sees in this parable an injunction not to lose heart, in the light of the eschatological tone of Luke 17:20-37, and also an echo of Sirach 35: "For he is a God of justice, who knows no favorites. ... The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal, nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds, judges justly and affirms the right."
William Barclay says that the point of the parable is less about persistent prayer, but rather the contrast between God and men in the phrase "how much more." In prayer one is speaking to a Father ready to give.
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Donald Parry and Jay A. Parry suggests that "this parable applies to each of us who has adversaries that are harmful to our spiritual life, whether the adversaries are other mortals, evil beings, or particular sins that continue to plague us. We, like the importunate widow, must pray always for help against these adversaries. As we do, our Heavenly Father will hear our prayers and bring us deliverance." (Parry, Parry, Understanding the Parables of Jesus Christ, 2006) As Christ suggested in this parable the deliverance that is sought for may not be offered until after "the Son of man cometh." (Luke 18:8) Christ will avenge his elect, those in whom have kept the faith until his return at the second coming (Luke 18:7-8).
- Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, Eerdmans, 1997, ISBN 0-8028-2315-7, pp. 636-643.
- Craig L. Blomberg, Interpreting the Parables, InterVarsity Press, 1990, ISBN 0-8308-1271-7, p. 275.
- Sirach 35:12-18, New American Bible.
- Barclay, William. The Parables of Jesus, Westminster John Knox Press, 1999 ISBN 9780664258283