Parable of the Unjust Judge

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Parable of the Unjust Judge by John Everett Millais (1863)

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 only one of the Canonical gospels of the New Testament.

According to the Gospel of Luke 18:1-8, a judge (who is both atheistic and lacking 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.

This parable 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.


Luke reports the parable as follows:

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 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.[1] The parable of the Friend at Night has a similar meaning.[2]

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,[1] and also an echo of Sirach 35:[1] "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.[3]

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.[4]

See also[edit]