“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?” – Luke 18:1-8 

Written by Rev. Brandon Durán

Allegories are the “plug and play” of Biblical interpretation.  Decide who corresponds to a character in a story and you can arrive quickly at your moral.  Sometimes Jesus spells out the allegory as in the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13).  In this story, Jesus explains the meaning behind the various seeds.  For example, the seed that wilted in the sun are those who abandoned the faith in the face of adversity.  Most of the time though, no such obvious explanation is given.  There seem to be implied correlations, or at least  there are correlations we quickly make.

  • Parable of the Wedding Feast: the king is God
  • Parable of the Vineyard Workers: the landowner is God
  • Prodigal Son: the father is God

Do you notice a pattern? We tend to immediately assume that the one who has cultural power is meant to be God.  There are certainly times when such an analogy is clearly spot on (e.g. The Prodigal Son).  However, we have to keep in mind what Christ does with power.  Philippians 2 teaches us that for Christ, the second person of the Trinity, power is meant to be poured out in order that others could have life.  The powerful willfully and freely give up their power.  This truth calls into question our immediate assumption that the culturally powerful character in the story is God.  This truth, and parables like “The Unjust Judge” make us think twice about our “plug and play” interpretation.

The culturally powerful character in Luke 18 is clearly the judge.  The judge has the ability to enact justice, to make things right, and to set a foundation for peace.  Surely, this is the God character, right?  Except, Jesus goes to great length to establish that the judge is unjust.  Surely, this is not the God character.  You could say that Jesus is using the unjust judge to establish hyperbole.  If the unjust judge will eventually relent to petitions, then of course God the just judge will so much sooner relent to our petitions, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones.

The parable is about persistence and we quickly create the equation:

  • Jesus wants us to be persistent
    • The widow in the story is persistent
      • We are the widow (and God is the judge)

But there is another way to see it.

  • Jesus wants us to be persistent
    • God is persistent (Jesus says, “be like God” in Matthew 5:48)
      • The widow in the story is persistent
        • God is the widow

God as the widow sounds very much like something Jesus would say.  Jesus upended the religious establishment’s longstanding assumptions about God.  Jesus modeled the God who humbly pours out power in order to bring about justice and peace.  If God is the widow in the story, then who are we?

We are the unjust judge.

We are the ones who have been given the power to enact justice, to make things right, and to seek peace.  We have been made stewards of the earth.  We are the ones who have been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18).  And yet, we are the ones who too often say in our heart, “I don’t fear God or care what people think.”

And it is to us that God comes again and again saying, “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)