The Gospel of Luke

This devotional is written by Graeme English. Graeme English is married to Fiona, with whom he's often found running and cycling very long distances. At work he focuses on enabling people to run businesses that make social and environmental change.

Luke 18:1-8

The Parable of the Persistent Widow

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.'

4 "For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually come and attack me!'"

6 And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 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? 8 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?"

Reflection

It's always helpful when the first verse of the passage you've been asked to write about explains itself in pretty simple terms: we should "always pray and not give up". If we do this, of course God will do much more for us than the mean old judge in the story.

Simple! It sounds pretty straight forward - after all, many Christians aspire to spend more time in prayer becoming more spiritual, ethereal, holy. There's somehow an aura around people who spend time practicing prayer that says "nothing's going to phase me", a confidence and a perspective that sees beyond the day-to-day and sees God in everything.

But that's not the picture we're given of the widow in this passage - the powerful judge (who didn't care what anyone thought of him) is almost afraid of what she might do to get justice.

Lately, there's a trend for telling stories about the perseverance of public figures and entrepreneurs through failure and setbacks. Think of Thomas Edison making 10,000 failed prototypes of a lightbulb before eventually finding the working combination for which he's remembered. Or perhaps Elizabeth Blackwell, who was rejected from 29 different medical schools in 1840s America before managing to convince 150 male students to vote her in to their college. She became the first woman to receive a medical degree in the US and was a pioneer in women's education.

Prayer and perseverance are essential for all of us, to move beyond the injustices we face. But these actions rarely look as neat and charming as we imagine them to be. Let's not be afraid to be more like the widow in the parable - demanding, and maybe a little bit scary. God can handle it.

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