The parable of the widow is a great parable on the power of prayer and courage. It is a parable that encourages followers of Jesus to keep going even when things seem tough. We will look at this parable in its context and apply its meaning and significance for us. Let’s begin.
This parable takes place in Luke 18:1-8. Let’s read the parable in entirety and then we will discuss some highlights and important features to note.
Luke 18 :1-8
“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?”
This parable is one of those two character parables. There is a widow and a judge. The widow wants justice and she repeatedly begs the judge for this justice. The judge has no care of people or of God, but because the widow was annoying him so much, he would grant her justice. Not only was this widow annoying him, but he feared for his life that this woman would eventually attack him if he did not do something. He granted justice, not because he cared for the woman, but because he wanted to protect the only thing he did care about, himself.
Jesus then goes on to compare God to this judge but in a much more positive fashion than the judge was portrayed as. Jesus says that God will bring justice for those who cry out and much faster than the judge did. We do not have to beg God for justice to be served, because in his time justice will be served. We see a picture of this in Isaiah 61:8, “For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense”. If the judge eventually gave justice, God will certainly give justice.
Jesus asks a question to end this parable. He asks the question, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”. Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man so we know that Jesus is speaking of himself here. Will Jesus find faith on the earth when he comes? What does this have to do with the parable? It has everything to do with its context.
The context of this parable lies in the middle of a speech given by Jesus about the coming of the kingdom. This started in Luke 17:20 and this parable is part of that speech. In 18:1, Luke gives us the reason the parable was included, “to show them that they should always pray and not give up”. This reasoning coincides with the events surrounding the coming judgment Jesus just described. In essence, this parable does not have to do with justice and prayer but more so with praying and not giving up as the world changes and we await the fulfillment of the kingdom. In context, the destruction of Jerusalem was not far off, so would Jesus find faith when he came in judgment? Or would he find rejection and disobedience as has been evident through the leaders of Israel? This was the question for them but there is still a question for us.
The meaning of this parable is that God’s ultimate vindication and justice will be served one day as it was on Jerusalem. The significance for us is that we will continue to pray and not give in when the world says otherwise. We can also apply Jesus’ question to us. When Jesus comes back, will he find faithful followers who are waiting for him, or will he find a people that has forgotten and rejected the Messiah?