Don’t Quit Crying Out for Justice: Jesus and the Persistent Widow
How does God really see our repeated requests?
In the past two years, my mother and mother-in-law both became widows; understandably, I’ve been drawn to scriptures about widows ever since. The Old and New Testament house plenty of those verses because single women were especially vulnerable to exploitation and poverty. In the patriarchal culture Jesus was born into, property usually passed from a father to a son, not from a husband to his wife. If a wife lost her spouse, often that death left her not only grief-stricken but destitute.
In his ministry, relationships, and stories, Jesus often elevated women--which was unusual at least and scandalous at most. In fact, the story of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8 is a specific example of the respect Jesus brought to women.
In this parable, the widow asked a judge over and over to grant her justice, to no avail. According to the laws of the time, the judge was required by law to give her a hearing but refused because (as Luke says in verse 2) he was hard-hearted. Basically, the judge was a jerk—corrupt, unbending, and uncaring. However, he eventually got tired of listening, and gave in to the widow’s persistent pleas.
Jesus tells his disciples that God is the opposite of the judge—just, compassionate, and fair. He encourages his disciples to continue to make petitions, even when answers to their prayers are not evident or immediate. In verses 7-8, Jesus relates: “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?”
I sometimes saw the Creator of the universe as a frustrated parent.
I love this story, because somewhere along the line, I bought into the lie that God might view me as a pest if I pleaded too much or too often. In all honesty, I sometimes saw the Creator of the universe as a frustrated parent (like me, when my two sons were small and bugged me for toys or candy in the grocery store).
Thankfully, God isn’t like us--or the unjust judge. He doesn’t grow weary of our prayers. Just listen to Isaiah 64:4 (NKJV): “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, Nor has the eye seen any God besides You, who acts for the one who waits for Him.”
Also, Matthew 7:7-8 (NLT) says, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Furthermore, at the end of the parable, Jesus says that He longs to find faith on the earth. If He was going to discourage believers from praying too long and hard about something, that would have been the time. Instead, He related the story to urge his disciples to “pray and not give up” (v. 1).
What can the parable teach us? First, we should not become weary of praying and lose heart. If we are praying according to God’s will, He hears us and will answer, in His time and way.
Second, we should seek what God seeks—like justice for those who have long been denied it--with determination and persistence. We can pray fervently and consistently for hearts and policies to change and for evil and injustice to be dismantled.
Finally, let’s take action for those who need justice when He tells us to. We should vote, donate, volunteer, educate ourselves, and stand up for what’s right whenever we have a chance. Let’s be the ones who demonstrate unceasing, persistent faith in a faithless world.
The Better Samaritan blog is produced by the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College, which offers a M.A. in Humanitarian & Disaster Leadership and a Trauma Certificate. To learn more and apply, visit our website.
Dena Dyer is a professional author, speaker, and book coach, as well as the author or co-author of ten books and hundreds of articles. In her day job, she serves as Executive Assistant to Jamie Aten at Wheaton’s Humanitarian Disaster Institute. Ministry roles she’s held include worship leader, youth minister, non-profit director, and teacher. Her book (co-written with Tina Samples), Wounded Women of the Bible: Finding Hope When Life Hurts, was named the Golden Scroll Non-Fiction Book of the Year in 2014 and was a finalist in Serious Writer’s 2020 “Book of the Decade” Contest.