The Parable of the Widow and the Judge

painting depicting saint lucy pleading before a judge

Prayer and faith are tied closely together, and that is at the heart of a parable we have in Luke 18 and starting in verse 1:

He also spoke a parable to them that they must always pray, and not give up, saying, “A certain judge was in a city, who didn’t fear God, and didn’t respect man. A widow was in that city, and she came often to him, saying, ‘Defend me from my adversary!’

“He wouldn’t for a while, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I don’t fear God, nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will defend her, or else she will wear me out by her continual coming.'”

The Lord said, “Listen to what the unrighteous judge says. Won’t God avenge his elect, who are crying out to him day and night, and yet he exercises patience with them?”

Matthew 6 records Jesus telling us to not be anxious about the future but to rather be prayerful. We also find prayers of thanksgiving in the New Testament as well as prayers of supplication and forgiveness. This prayer in Luke, however, is little different. Here, the widow is directly calling for intervention. Jesus uses this plea to teach that God’s intervention sometimes take time, and God’s time should not discourage our prayer.

The Patient Prayer

Psalm 130:5 – 7:

I wait for Yahweh. My soul waits. I hope in his word. My soul longs for the Lord more than watchmen long for the morning; More than watchmen for the morning. Israel, hope in Yahweh, For with Yahweh there is lovingkindness. With him is abundant redemption.

God’s people often wait on the Lord. Take Hannah in I Samuel chapters 1 and 2 for example. She prayed over and again for a child, but it did not happen right away. Instead, it happened when God was ready, and her child would be one of the great leaders of God’s people. Take Daniel as well, who continued in prayer, even when it was prohibited by law. Despite all circumstances, he continued to pray — even when it looked like it might cost him his life.

The Accepting Prayer

The other side of this is that our prayers for intervention sometimes don’t get the answer we want. In II Corinthians 12:7 – 9, Paul asks for a “thorn of the flesh” to be removed. Paul prayed three times over this, but God says His grace is sufficient. Paul’s prayer did not go unanswered, but the answer was not what he wanted.

So why do we continue in prayer if we know we might have to wait or that we might not get the answer we want? It’s because our prayer life is not transactional; rather it’s relational. We grow closer to God every time we pray. Accepting God’s answers teaches us humility and grace. An active prayer life, especially we have to be patient in prayer, makes us more like Christ, whom we are supposed to imitate.

lesson by Herb Smelser

A Spirit of Peace and Patience

girl sitting in the sunset

We’ve been studying Galatians 5:22-23 where Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit. What we sometimes miss in this is that Paul describes all of these attributes as a single fruit. They work together to make one unified product. These are qualities of our Lord and qualities that should also be present in each of us if we’ve truly allowed His spirit to live in us and guide our lives. We’ve looked at being joyful and loving as well as living self-sacrificially. Building off of those, let’s talk about two qualities I’m sure all of us could use work on: peace and patience.

Peace and Patience in Our Savior

We serve a Savior whose entire ministry was characterized by peace and patience. From His fist lesson atop the mount in Galilee to His crucifixion, Christ taught and lived peace and patience. Jesus lived peacefully with those around Him. He demonstrated inner peace against all trials, and He showed extreme patience throughout His work with others.

When Jesus’ critics would try to antagonize Him or provide Him, Jesus answered softly. Take the opening of Matthew 9 for example. Twice in that chapter, the scribes and Pharisees they to provoke Jesus, and each time He answers them with quiet confidence and authority. He does not answer with harsh words, nor is He quick to anger. Even at the cross, Jesus endures with peaceful patience.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

– I Peter 2:21 – 23

This is the Spirit of peace and patience we inherit in Galatians 5. It is a peaceful way of life that leads to patience in all circumstances, and we should treat His teachings about peace and patience with the same seriousness that we would His teachings on morality or obedience.

Living Peace

Romans 12:14 – 21 calls on us to be overcome with good. To do this, Paul instructs us to avoid repaying hurt for hurt, to live in harmony with others, to be humble, and even to be generous to those who might seek to harm us in some way. It is a type of conduct that seems to go against common sense, but this is the kind of peace we should be living. In verse 18, Paul says we should be doing all we can to live peaceably with those around us.

In His sermon on the mount, Jesus blesses those He calls peacemakers in verse 5, and He expands on this in verses 38 – 48. He tells us that, if any should want to take something from us, we should give them that and more. He tells us to love and pray for those who treat us harshly. He tell us to never refuse those who would beg or borrow. In all things and at all times, we should be sharing peace with others.

This is possible because of the peace we have within ourselves. Philippians 4:5 asks us to be a reasonable people, not giving into anxiety, but rather being filled with a peace that passes understanding. Romans 15:13 tells us we should be filled with all joy and peace in God so that we may overflow with hope. If we have that kind of all-encompassing peace, then we will live our lives peaceably and as peacemakers.

Living Patience

Patience and peace go hand-in-hand. If we are filled with peace, then that will produce patience, and practicing patience will bring us greater peace. To let patience completely fill us, there are three areas we need to work on our patience:

  1. Patience with Others. In Matthew 18:22, when Jesus tells Peter to forgive a brother seventy times seven times, he’s teaching Peter and us about patience with others. People will let us down and disappoint us. They will frustrate us, but we have to exercise patience if we hope to have a positive spiritual influence on them. Whether you are growing frustrated with a public figure, another Christian, a slow cashier, or your spouse, practice patience.
  2. Patience with Ourselves. Perhaps more difficult than remaining patient with others, we also have to be patient with ourselves. I don’t know about you, but when I start trying to improve myself, sometimes I get really annoyed when I slip up. It may even cause me to give up, but we can’t let that happen in our spiritual lives. Think of how many times Peter could have simply given up when he failed, but he didn’t. Neither should we.
  3. Patience with God. You know what Job, Abraham, Paul, and Elijah all have in common? They all had to be patient with God. Psalm 27:14 simply tells us to take courage and to wait on the Lord. Sometimes we want to know why God doesn’t take care of something for us right now, but we should be patient with He is with us, as Peter describes in II Peter 3:9. We have to be able to wait.

This patience is also translated as long-suffering. To suffer long means the waiting is not always pleasant. Jesus suffered long on the cross. God suffers long with our sins. So should we be able to suffer long with the faults of others, our own shortcomings, and God’s timeline.

What Does This Look Like?

Peace is more than the absence of conflict. It is the ability to be contented without conflict. Likewise, patience is more than an ability to wait. It is being contented while waiting. What does this look like in everyday life? What can I practice to increase a spirit of peace and patience within myself?

  • Practice patience and peace when driving. When you are in heavy traffic, when someone cuts you off, or when the lights just aren’t cooperating, practice remaining calm and at peace with the situation.
  • Practice patience and peace at home. If you’re like me, it’s easier to be patient with a stranger than with those closest to you.
  • Practice avoiding unnecessary arguments. That someone doesn’t agree with you on some secular issue is not a reason for you to push your viewpoint.
  • Practice non-retaliation. Just as Jesus and Paul never flung stones or insults back to those who would ridicule and diminish Him, so should we be avoiding belittling or insulting those who might look down upon our beliefs.
  • Practice paying it forward. Anticipate when you will need patience. Look for situations where you can build bridges, strengthen relationships, and help peace.

This also means we may have to consider influences we allow into our lives. We might need to turn off television or radio personalities that encourage a confrontational or hostile world-view. It might mean we have to let go of interests — even sports or politics — if we see these things negatively affecting our ability to be peaceful and patient. In Matthew 5:29, Jesus tells us to be willing to go so far as cast away and eye or a hand if it continues to make us stumble. How much easier is it to just turn off the TV or radio? If we are going to be peaceful and patient people, then we have to focus on influences that promote, rather than malign, those qualities.

Patient and Peaceful As a Rule

Much can be said about the couple of times in Jesus’ ministry when He did seem to lose His patience. In Matthew 21:12, Jesus drove out those who had turned the temple into a place of commerce and greed. Then, in Matthew 23, Jesus says some very strong words to the scribes and Pharisees, but you know why these stick out so strongly? It’s because these times were exceptions to Jesus’ behavior rather than the rule.

Yes, Jesus demonstrates that there is a time and place for stronger words and actions, but those times are rare. His life was otherwise defined by patient peacefulness. Our should be too. It can be tough, and Galatians 6:9 exhorts us to have endurance, to not grow weary in doing good. This includes living by peace and remaining long-suffering with others, ourselves, and our God.

Ecclesiastes 7:8 simply tells us the end is better than the beginning, and a patient spirit is better than an anxious one. This life is just the beginning. We peacefully wait for something better when all of this ends.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

– Hebrews 12:1 – 2

We serve a Prince of Peace. We can patiently and peacefully endure the things of this life. Sometimes, like our Savior, we may even have to suffer long through the trials before us, but we can overcome. Let’s do all we can to be patient with God, ourselves, and others, to live peaceably with everyone around us, and to be filled with the Spirit of peace — peace that passes all understanding and that gives us hope that the end will, in fact, be better than the beginning.

lesson by Robert Smelser