Updated on August 22, 2013
God Is Not The Unjust Judge And You Are Not The Widow
In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus gives a short parable about a widow who keeps coming before an unjust judge, badgering him until he finally gives her justice. Then Jesus explains that God is nothing like the unjust judge, and will grant justice speedily to all who call on him. He ends the parable with an interesting question,
“But when I, the Son of Man, return, will I find people who have faith?”
Luke prefaces the story with an introductory line telling folks the parable is about praying, and not giving up. A common explanation for the parable is that Believers should keep praying until they get the answer. But what sometimes gets communicated, or understood, is the notion that you need to act like the widow, and pester God until He gives you what you want. It seems people are more focused on the actions of the widow and the godless judge, rather than God’s promise to grant justice speedily.
Why Do So Many Christians Identify With The Widow In This Parable?
The question is worth considering. Here is a woman without a husband or power, and desperate for someone to avenge her loss. She’s begging a godless judge for help, badgering him until he relents to the pressure. Does that in any way resemble the life of Jesus, who we are to imitate? Does the godless judge sound anything like your Heavenly Father? Does the Christian life, as defined by the New Testament writers, in any way present an image of a defeated, or helpless Believer begging for help? With so much evidence to the contrary, why would anyone want to identify with a poor widow who is groveling for justice? Admire her boldness. Appreciate her patience and persistence. But by the Glorious Grace of God, don’t see yourself in her position!
Even if you are a widow, there are numerous promises in the Bible that God will provide for you. He promises to be a Father to the fatherless, to place the lonely in families, and be a defender of widows (Psalm 68:4-6). He gives justice to widows and protects their property (Deuteronomy 10:17-18, Proverbs 15:25). As wonderful as those promises are under the Old Covenant, the New Covenant promises are so much better. As a Born Again Believer, you are a New Creation, part of the Body of Christ, where there is neither slave or free, male or female, or even widows. You are a child of God through faith in Jesus, and all the promises belong to you (Galatians 3:24-29). Your race, nationality, sex, or even marital status, no longer matters. You live from the inside out. God, who is the righteous judge, is IN you, and when the Creator of the Universe is in the house, NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE, if you believe. (Matthew 19:26, Mark 11:22-25, Luke 1:37, John 14:18-21, Romans 8:9-14, 1 John 3:21-24, 4:4-6)
God Is Not Unjust.
In the past, I have heard this parable taught as justification for bombarding Heaven, and beating down the Pearly Gates, with the same request until you get what you want from God. This is the wrong message to take from this parable. This is a contrast between the UNJUST judge, and God, whose foundation is righteousness and justice (Psalm 89:13-18). Nothing about God could be considered unjust. He is Love. His Love in you removes all fear, including the fear of failure, or even any fear of unanswered prayer. He hears the prayers of the righteous, and always answers. All His promises are yes and amen in Christ, and Jesus never changes. And assuming this parable did apply to the prayers of Believers, it ends with Jesus promising quick justice. So it makes no sense to build a doctrine that teaches people that they must badger God to get results. (Psalm 34:4-7, 34:15-18, 86:4-7, 91:14-16, 145:16-20, Matthew 7:7-11, John 14:13-14, 16:23-27, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 2 Corinthians 1:20-22, Hebrews 13:6-8, James 1:13-18, 1 John 4:7-19)
God’s many promises to answer prayer, and the many verses demonstrating His faithfulness, and the integrity of His Word, are far too numerous to list here. As a child of God, you are assured that God knows what you need before you even ask (Isaiah 65:24, Matthew 6:5-8). He is waiting on you to believe and ask. It is your faith that connects you to everything that already belongs to you in the Kingdom of God. Faith comes from continually hearing the Word, and it works by love. God wants you to receive every promise He has provided, but He cannot force you to take anything. Every promise, including Salvation, is received or taken by faith. That is why it is impossible to please God without faith. (Matthew 6:31-34, Luke 12:29-34, Romans 10:17, 2 Corinthians 9:6-11, Galatians 5:6, Ephesians 1:2-3, 3:14-21, Hebrews 11:6)
God’s Grace is more than enough for any situation. But to remove any doubts about prayer, Jesus makes it clear that, if you believe, you will have whatever you ask for in prayer (Matthew 21:18-22). And in Mark, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours (Mark 11:22-25). And also Luke, ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened (Luke 11:9-13). Finally, John adds a little more depth, if you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples (John 15:1-8). Your Father wants you to bear fruit. And if prayer is treated like a lottery, with impossible odds against you ever receiving, God gets no glory. But if you are confidently entering God’s throne room, getting the answers that you need, God is glorified, and your joy is complete. (John 15:9-12, Hebrews 4:12-16, 11:1-6)
Should you always pray? Absolutely. Should you not faint? Absolutely. Keep praising God and building your faith, or confidence in God’s Word. Let patience keep you strong while expecting God to do what He promises. Don’t succumb to doubt and unbelief. As James warns, a doubtful person should not expect anything (James 1:2-8). And control your words (Psalm 34:10-15, 17:1-6, 139:1-6, Matthew 12:33-37, 15:15-20, James 1:25-27). Nothing undermines prayer and your faith faster than an uncontrolled tongue (James 3:2-12). Know that God’s Word can be trusted. Don’t be like the Sadducees who, did not know the Scriptures, or the power of God (Matthew 22:29, Mark 12:24). Develop a confidence, and a peace, that when you ask anything according to God’s will (which is His Word), God will hear and answer (John 14:12-14, 1 John 3:21-24, 5:13-15).
Be An Imitator Of Jesus.
Christians enjoy God’s rich Blessing, one Gracious Blessing after another. God’s unfailing love and faithfulness has been poured out on you through Jesus (John 1:16-17). Even when you think you are vulnerable, God’s Grace is more than enough for the victory. Because even when you are weak, you are STRONG because God’s Favor is working in you (2 Corinthians 12:8-10). You are God’s child. Everything belongs to you (Galatians 4:3-7).
You should be wearing the whole armor of God, strengthened by God’s mighty power so you can resist the devil and stand firm against his attacks. The armor includes the belt of Truth, the shoes of Peace, the breastplate of Righteousness, the helmet of Salvation, and most importantly, the shield of Faith. This defensive package comes from being firmly grounded in God’s Word. The Word of God is also a very powerful offensive weapon, the Sword of the Spirit. None of this protective equipment works without putting it on, keeping it on, and maintaining it. The sword is useless if you never practice or learn how to use it. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
Those that believe in Jesus enjoy both spiritual and temporal justice now. The prince of this world, the adversary, has been cast down. Jesus has abundantly pardoned you. He is the mediator of a New Covenant, and your High Priest. You are royalty, a joint-heir of Jesus and his anointing. You are an ambassador of Christ, enjoying diplomatic immunity as a representative of the Kingdom of God in the fallen world. You are Blessed, or empowered to prosper, when people mistreat you, because you are in the Kingdom, and God has your back. You can confidently cast all your care on Jesus, because he is the righteous judge that cares for you. Nothing will ever separate you from God’s Love, because Believers are the Body of Christ, with Jesus as the Head. (Psalm 72:1-7, 96:10-13, Isaiah 35:3-7, 42:1-4, Isaiah 55, Matthew 5:1-12, 28:18-20, Luke 10:17-20, John 12:28-33, 16:33, Romans 8:14-17, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, Ephesians 1:18-23, 5:25-30, Colossians 1:11-14, 1:15-20, 2:13-15, 3:16-17, 2 Timothy 4:16-18, Hebrews 12:22-24, 1 Peter 5:7)
Look to Jesus as your example and imitate him. Religious tradition, or even your own experiences, make poor teachers. Jesus walked without fear. His prayers got results. He only spoke God’s Words, and walked in Love. Many times he was confronted with angry mobs that wanted to kill him, and he simply walked away. Often he was tested and falsely accused, but nobody could find a charge against him. The devil sent storms to try and sink him, and even a naked possessed man came at him, but none of those things moved him. Whether it was leprosy, lack, fever, blindness, demonic attacks, or even death, Jesus had the answer. He was victorious in everything he did. He knew his Heavenly Father intimately, and was obedient in everything. That is the ideal, and should be the goal of every Believer. (Ephesians 5:1-2, 3 John 1:11)
How Would You Feel If Your Child Treated You This Way?
You love your child and he loves you. Your child trusts you and knows from experience, that you are a loving parent. He has also observed that you keep your word and never lie.
So one day he comes to you and says, “Give me a bike.”
You love your child, have the means, so you say, “Its yours!”
In the child’s mind, even though he doesn’t physically possess the bike, because of your word and integrity, it already belongs to him. He begins to imagine what color it is, the style, and all the places he will go. He tells his friends about his new bike and dreams about it at night. That bike is so real on the inside, he could almost ride it right now. Every day he thanks you for his bike until he is riding it around the neighborhood. And even then, he still tells you, and his friends, how much he loves you. The relationship grows stronger between you and your child through a shared love and trust of each other.
Now imagine a similar situation where instead of being thankful, and trusting your word, the child comes back to you every day saying, “Where’s my bike?’ “Why don’t I have a bike.” “I need a bike!” “Did you even hear me?” “Please, please give me a bike.” “You don’t love me!”
After a week of badgering, you learn several things about your child. He doesn’t trust you, or your word. He is very impatient. He doesn’t appreciate your love. And he probably is not, and will not be grateful, if/when the bike arrives.
This is the danger of reading the Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge, and going out and doing likewise. If the takeaway from this parable is that you have to beg God, you have proven by your very actions that you don’t trust in His Love, or His Word. Begging is rooted in fear, and that is the opposite of faith. Faith is a confidence, rooted and grounded in an intimate knowledge of God’s Word, which is His will, and Love, who He is. Faith has no fear, and has absolutely no need for begging. As Jesus explained in another place:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! — Matthew 7:7-11 <NIV>
You need to have “how much more” kind of faith in your Heavenly Father. Pray with confidence, trusting that God will do what He promises in His Word. Thank Him for the answer, praise Him for His goodness and love, spend time in fellowship with Him and His Word, but there is absolutely no reason to beg or badger God. If you know God’s will, which is His Word, you can approach God’s throne with confidence. Don’t worry about anything. Make the Kingdom of God your priority and you will lack nothing (Matthew 6:25-30, Luke 12:27-32).
Why Did Jesus Wonder Out Loud If He Would Find Faith When He returns?
At the end of the parable, Jesus asks a strange question about finding faith when he comes back. It almost seems out of place within the context of the parable, unless you consider the preceding chapter. At the end of Luke 17, Jesus provides an explanation of the events surrounding the 2nd Advent, or the return of Jesus to the Earth. The question links back to that discussion.
The Children of Israel will endure a refining, seven years of judgment, for their rejection of Jesus, and the Age of Grace. This period is known as Jacob’s Trouble, Daniel’s 70th Week, or the Tribulation (Deuteronomy 4:25-31, Jeremiah 30:4-9, Daniel 12:1-3, Matthew 24:15-31, Luke 21:12-22). This time will bring them to complete repentance, and fulfill the prophecies concerning God’s people. When Jesus returns, the nations that have persecuted Israel will be judged, along with their spiritual rulers.
Note the similarity of the widow’s cry, to the cry of the Tribulation martyrs in Revelation – “How long before you judge the people for what they have done? When will you avenge us?” (Revelation 6:9-11) And remember, the Church is already in Heaven by Revelation 4, they must be removed from the Earth to allow the antichrist to start his flood of deception, and the Tribulation to commence. (Luke 21:34-36, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8) After the departure of the Church, God’s focus will turn back to His chosen people. They will take the place of the Church in preaching to the Jews, and the Nations (the remaining Gentiles on the Earth). This will be their chance to recognize the one they pierced, their Savior and King (Zechariah 12:10, John 19:35-37, Revelation 1:4-8). Note also that Jesus was addressing a Jewish audience, obviously many of his disciples would later become part of the Church. Now with that in mind, let’s look back at the parable.
Aside from Luke’s introductory words, telling the reader that this parable is about praying and not fainting (or giving up), there is not much more mentioned about prayer. This was a cry for justice. Or as the widow says in the KJV translation, “Avenge me of mine adversary.” Who is the adversary that has been behind all the attacks on God’s people all these years? What does Jesus promise? God will send Justice quickly.
God gave the Children of Israel the Law of Moses, and set them apart for the Blessing, and His personal care. They were His special treasure (Psalm 135:4). He had warned them though, what would happen if they turned away from Him and His Word. Among the many things that would bring on the curse was denying justice to widows (Deuteronomy 27:19).
It is worth noting that the widow was turning to the world for justice, and not God. God had promised to be a Father to the fatherless, and a judge of the widows (Psalm 68:5). God promises glorious justice to his people (Psalm 94). He warns against putting confidence in powerful people, but instead happy are those that trust God, who gives justice to the oppressed (Psalm 146:3-10).
In Isaiah 1, the writer tells of a nation that has become sinful, and has forsaken justice for its people, refusing to help the poor and widows. But there is hope for those that repent. In the end, Jerusalem will be known as the home of Justice and Faith.
And in Isaiah 9:1-7, it was promised that a child would be born, a great light to shine in the darkness. The government will be on his shoulders. He will be a Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, Mighty God, and Everlasting Father. His reign will be forever, marked by fairness and justice. God had sent justice speedily. He was right there in the flesh, speaking this parable to them. But they had no faith in God, or His Word. They had exchanged God’s Word for religion, with its numerous traditions and rules. They did not recognize Love, because they really did not know God. They were expecting the Glorious King of the 2nd Advent, and completely missed the Suffering Savior of the First Advent. As Jesus said, quoting Isaiah, that they would close their eyes, ears, and hearts, and not allow God to heal them. But many prophets had seen it from a distance, and wondered. (Isaiah 6:9-10, Matthew 13:14-17, Acts 28:25-27, 1 Peter 1:8-12)
Far too many people among the Children of Israel, and especially among the religious leaders, did not have faith in Jesus. They had the Son of God in their presence, healing, teaching, supplying every need, performing miracles, and fulfilling Messianic prophecies, and yet they would not believe that he was the promised Messiah.
Jesus’ last two weeks were filled with strong words for the religious leaders, several parables exposing their wrong motives, and explanations about the coming judgment. In Matthew for instance, the entire 23rd chapter is devoted to a harsh rebuke of them, calling them blind guides, hypocrites, and accusing them of devouring widow’s houses and making long prayers for show (Matthew 23:13-15, see also Mark 12:38-40, Luke 20:45-47). The latter chapters of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are filled with parables like the Vineyard Owner, the Wedding Banquet, and others that were strong rebukes of the religious leaders’ behavior towards the people, and their refusal to believe in Jesus. And still, Jesus loves them so much, crying for his people because of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, and their unwillingness to receive him (Matthew 23:37-39, Luke 19:41-44).
While God’s attention has turned briefly away from Israel, He still loves them and will fulfill every Promise and keep every Covenant. (Genesis 15, Genesis 17:1-8, Deuteronomy 4:25-31, Psalm 105:8-11, Daniel 12:1-4 – and many, many others)
Know Justice, Know Peace – New Creation Realities
When people speak of justice, they are referring to fairness, rewards for good, and punishment for bad behavior. Under the Law of Sin and Death, judgment often came swiftly. Sometimes it was delayed for mercy’s sake, as when it applied to groups or nations, or because of intercession. But judgment was certain to come. The Law was to set the Children of Israel apart, so they would be a beacon of hope in a very dark world. But with over 2700 commands in the Law of Moses*, and hundreds of man-made traditions added by the religious leaders, it became a burden for the people. The Law was to last until Jesus fulfilled it. (Matthew 5:17-18, Luke 16:16-17, 24:44-49)
Where there is a cry for justice, there must be a law. Christ freed Believers from the Law of Sin and Death. You live under Grace. You know the Truth, and it has made you free. The Law says that as many as have sinned in the Law, shall be judged by the Law. And if you offend in one point, you are guilty of all. But Grace says that there is NOW NO condemnation (judgment) for those in Christ Jesus. The Law comes with a curse for failing to do everything in the Book of the Law. Grace declares those Blessed whose sins are forgiven. The Law was given to Israel exclusively, and was meant to lead people to Jesus, it was a tutor until the Messiah arrived. Grace is a free gift, it cannot be earned, so nobody can boast. (John 8:31-32, Romans 7:4-8, 8:1-4, 9:30-33, 10:1-4, 12:2, Galatians 2:19-21, 3:10-11, 3:24-29, Ephesians 2:8-9, James 2:10)
You are justified (made righteous, or in right standing) through faith, and have Peace with God through Jesus. Justification was never possible by observing the Law. The Old Covenant was set aside, and a New Covenant was instituted with much better promises, including a sinless, eternal mediator, and an end to animal sacrifices that merely covered sin. The Blood of Jesus placed on the Heavenly Mercy Seat sealed the New Covenant forever. You have the perfect High Priest who meets every need. Since you have been justified by the precious Blood of Jesus, how much more are you saved from God’s wrath through him. You are redeemed from the curse, and free to enjoy God’s Love and Blessing in your life. (Romans 3:21-28, 5:1-2, 5:9-11, 2 Corinthians 5:19-21, Hebrews 7:22-28, 9:11-15)
And even if someone harms you in some way, steals from you, sues you, or in some way you experience injustice, God will make it right. As a Believer, you no longer have to worry about justice, or revenge. Let God be God. His Grace is sufficient. Obey the Law of Love and be at peace. Conquer evil by doing good. Vengeance belongs to God (Romans 12:17-21). He will make everything work out to your benefit, and His glory, if you trust Him.
God Is Not The Unjust Judge And You Are Not The Widow
Christians are called Believers because they actively place their faith in Jesus Christ (the Word). Not just a mental agreement with God’s Word, but an absolute confidence in God and His Word in your spirit. This can only come from spending time in prayer and in the Word. Faith comes from the inside out. First you believe in your spirit, then you renew your mind and body to get them in agreement with your spirit. As described above, and throughout Scripture, the Christian is loaded for bear. You have the Creator of the Universe dwelling inside you. You have the armor of God and the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word. You have the Name of Jesus – a name above all names. You have abundant access to the Favor, Wisdom, Love, Joy, and Peace of God. You are not some poor destitute widow begging for justice. And neither is God an unjust judge that needs to be knocked around to get Him to listen. He is your Heavenly Father, who IS LOVE. Pray confidently and boldly, expecting God to do what He says He will.
The widow did what she had to do under the circumstances to get justice. But you are absolutely not the widow, and not, “under the circumstances.” You have world overcoming faith in a God that is definitely NOT an unjust judge.
It is wonderful how much revelation can come from just 8 verses in the Bible. Like an onion, you remove a layer, only to reveal another. The same goes for God’s Word. There is an inexhaustible amount of revelation in every verse. God’s Word is Spirit, Life, Light, and Truth. It is unlike any other book ever written. God’s Word is as true and relevant now, as it was 2,000 years ago, and as it will be at the return of Jesus at the end of the Tribulation.
The world is entering some exciting times. More than ever it is necessary to stay in the Word, pray often, listen to the Holy Spirit, and never give up. Jesus is coming. Will you be ready?
If Jesus comes for his Church today, will he find faith in YOU?
* In the Old Testament there are the Ten Commandments given Moses, and over 2700 specific commands listed. These laws can be divided into categories such as – Priesthood (628), Health (436), Tabernacle (329), Obedience (306), Vows (113), Conquest (107), Sex (96), Justice (60), Business (14) etc. The sheer magnitude of the commands, should lead most people to the logical conclusion that mankind needs a Savior.