Jesus is the master story teller. In each of His parables He gathers up what has come before (the revelation of the Old Testament), and He casts it forward into the revealing of His present and coming kingdom. These teachings challenge the hearers to assess their spiritual priorities, to avoid strained and stereotypical interpretations, and to be alert to the extremes of allegorizing [assigning meaning to every detail] and domestication [dumbing down the meaning for cultural comfort].

Interpreting the parable of the widow and the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8) demands the above considerations. She is seeking vengeance upon one who has defrauded her in some way (many translations have watered down the idea of vengeance by calling it “justice”). The judge eventually relents after much pressure from the woman and grants what she desires. Now they are both complicit in that which God forbids…vengeance.

Our tendency is to root for the widow because we assume that she is poor and desperate. Widows do have a special place in the heart of God, but a little thought and imagination will show that they may not necessarily be in desperate conditions. In scripture we read of widows who are savvy managers, making responsible choices for their sustenance as they advance God’s plan. The widow in this story has access to the judge and with that access she makes her desires for retribution known with relentless persistence. The judge describes her approach as endless, troublesome, and comparable to the constant buffeting that comes from a boxer. And with all of her cleverness and persistence, she seeks vengeance.

The judge may be a member of the Sanhedrin, the lesser Sanhedrin, or a Roman magistrate. He is described as having no reverence for God or respect for people. He may simply be one who did not subscribe to Judaism and one who showed no partiality to the cases before him. Yet, he finally succumbs and gives the widow what she seeks…vengeance.

This story has several ramifications. Luke introduces the parable with a statement by Jesus where He encourages people to pray and not to grow weary or faint. The widow is an example of persistence. Jesus may also be using a lesser-to-greater method of storytelling when comparing the judge. If a corrupt judge will eventually hear us, how much more will the heavenly Father hear us?! With the Father, we pray, not to wear Him down, but that we may also have faith to accept and acclimate to His person and plans. Are we doggedly persistent only when we want self-gratifying results, or are we also as resolved to seeking faith-strengthening guidance and protection? Hidden in plain sight is the concept of reconciliation. If justice is needed, He will provide; vengeance should not be allowed to rule. God is ultimately the One to vindicate and administer real justice.

This story was told shortly after an intense apocalyptic discourse. The assumption may be made that there are Messianic and future hints in the parable as Jesus concludes “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?!” Perhaps the implication is that we are to pray with persistence for perseverance in persecution and to strengthen the resolve of our fidelity and profession.