Parable of the Unjust Judge
Once a friend of mine was selling books door to door one summer in order to make some money. Every once and a while he would run into some hostility. While knocking at one particular door a middle aged man snapped the door open and hollered at him, “What do you think you are doing at my door? I have no need of your books…” The man was mean and hateful words flew out of his mouth. And just as quickly as he came, the man slammed the door and was gone. Not to be discouraged, my friend the book salesman walked around to the side door of the man’s house and knocked on the door. When the man snapped open the door, he was so shocked to see the young salesman standing there he did not say a word. My friend merely smiled and said, “good day sir, I sure hope you are a whole lot nicer than the last man I spoke to…” At that point the man smiled and burst into laughter. It turned about to be the best sale he made all day, in fact, all week.
Persistence won the day. And many a salesman have learned the value of not giving up too easily. The same should be said of Christians who do not give up on prayer after one time.
Only in a very few of Jesus’ parables does He give the reason for teaching the parable. The purpose is “that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (18:1). Too often a Christian prays as if he were a naughty little boy who runs up and knocks on the neighbor’s door and than runs away before the neighbor has a chance to answer.
Prayer is to be done “always.” This is also commanded of Jesus’ disciples in Ephesians 6:18 and 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Keep in mind that Jesus is not encouraging vain repetition of prayer as practiced by the Pharisees. There was an old a rabbinic maxim: “Everyone that multiplies prayer is heard.” Christ forbade the mechanical repetition of a formula as if it were a magical charm to get God’s attention or to use prayer to get man’s attention (Mt. 6:7,8).
Motives to Pray Always
God Is a Righteous Judge
Many of the judges of the first century were paid magistrates appointed either by Herod or by the Romans. Often they were known to pervert justice for a dish of meat. The judge in the story “did not fear God nor regard man.” In other words, he dispensed justice as if there was no God watching him and had no compassion for the rights and well being of his fellow man. Such judges often acted contrary to the Law which strictly forbade the wresting of judgment, showing respect of persons or taking bribes (Dt. 16:8-10).
The judge ignored the widow’s plea. A widow in the first century was the very picture of helplessness. Judges were bound to show particular attention to widows (Is. 1:17; Jer. 22:3). Yet the judge in this parable was not moved. Perhaps he was delaying the matter, expecting a bribe. Widows often were destitute of any money or power to bribe or force a judge to listen.
The contrast between God and this unjust judge is clear. Everything God is, the judge is not. Whereas God is always listening and his court is open 24/7, the unjust judge only opened his ears when it was to his advantage. God cannot be bought off, threatened or haggled with for justice or even a hearing. God delights in answering prayer. He is not reluctant to help as was the judge.
Men Are Helpless like the Widow
The comparison between mankind in their helpless state and that of this poor widow can be seen. The early church concerned itself much about the welfare of widows (Ac. 6:1; 9:41; Js. 1:27; I Tim. 5:3). Pure religion includes caring for widows in their affliction (Js. 1:27). Even as children of God, their enemies are abundant and powerful. Christians are always dependent upon God for His help. As children of God, His sons and daughters are not self-sufficient. Instead they are dependent upon the Heavenly Father for every need.
Persistent Prayer Produces Positive Results
In the New King James Version the widow’s plea consists of just seven words, “get justice for me from my adversary.” She did not have money for a fancy, educated lawyer with a shrewd tongue to plead her case. Her only weapon was persistence. The judge was going to give into her request because she “weary me” meaning “to wear out.” Paul uses this same word to describe a boxer who gives his opponent a series of punches resulting in a blackened pair of eyes (1 Cor. 9:27). Justice was to be hers not because of her fancy plea or the judge’s kind heart, but because he did not have the patience to put up with the constant nagging of a widow. Keep in mind that Jesus is not saying that God only responds to nagging and pestering. In fact, God is ready and willing to hear the sincere cries of His children. The parable’s point is that if a corrupt self-centered judge can be moved by the persistent pleas of a helpless widow, how much more will a loving, caring God answer the prayers of the saints who continue in prayer.
God Will Avenge the Elect
The word “adversary” comes from the Greek term antidikos meaning “an opponent in a law suit.” Christians have many adversaries who persecute them “for righteousness sake” (Mt. 5:10). God knows our enemies all too well. After all, our enemies are the enemies of God. God will in due time avenge our enemies. As God heard the cries from the Israelites as suffering slaves in Egypt during the long period of the bitter bondage, so He will hear the petitions of His saints today.
Vengeance belongs to God, not man (Rom. 12:19). The word used here for “avenge” is not in the sense of retaliation, but of vindication or justice. God will avenge His own in His own time. In the Revelation when the fifth seal was opened John saw “souls” beneath the alter – those who had given up their lives for Christ, and they are asking for vengeance. God delays His punishment, because He is longsuffering and wishes to save as many as possible (2 Pet. 3:9). When it is the proper time God will move quickly to avenge the saints. Until then the saints must keep on praying.
Reasons Why Many Do Not Pray Always
Many Will Lose Heart or Slacken
The real problem is not with God in not answering prayer. The danger is that the saints will give up praying far too soon, because they are too easily discouraged. The basic question is not whether God will react to persistent prayer, but whether there will be faithful men, who have persisted in prayer. Keep praying and keep trusting God to answer in His time.
During trials and tribulations many professed disciples might faint and turn back. Christians must have faith that God will one day avenge them “speedily”.
For a time the judge was deaf to the widow’s petition; God often seems to man to be slack concerning His promises. As the disciples rebuked sleeping Jesus in the boat on the storm tossed sea: “carest thou not that we perish?” Once the disciples pleaded with Jesus to come to Bethany and save his sick friend, Lazarus. But for reasons unknown to them, Jesus delayed (John 11). He finally showed up after Lazarus had been dead and in the grave four days. In the end, He raised his friend from the dead. Why the delay? He responded in His time so that they could see the miracle of the resurrection and believe that He is the resurrection and the life.
He was wondering whether they had faith in Him. Perhaps when He comes again He will find saints with faith having demonstrated it by continuance in prayer.
God has promised to answer the prayers of His faithful children. Just because God may say “no” to their petitions does not mean He has not answered. In fact, “no” is just as much an answer as is “yes.” Remember when David committed adultery with Bathsheba and the child born was to die as a consequence of their sins. In spite of David’s pleading, his little child died (2 Sam. 12:15-24) When God answered “no,” David got up from prayer and went on with life accepting God’s “no.” Three times Paul pleaded with God to remove his “thorn in the flesh.” Though it was not taken away, he gloried in God (2 Cor. 12:7-9).
Perhaps, as children of God a lesson in thanksgiving is learned by accepting God’s “no.” There have been many times when Christians have prayed for one thing only to learn later that God knew best when He answered: “no.” Like Jesus let all Christians pray with obedient, humble resignation: “not my will, but thy will be done”.
Christians should pray for their needs; pray habitually; and never lose confidence in God to give the right answer at the right time. God has assured us that He hears and answers prayer, and this should induce us to continue our petitions.
– Daniel R. Vess